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San Francisco orders airport to post new signs honoring Harvey Milk

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“It’s frustrating that I have to legislate such details”

The bust of Harvey Milk at SF City Hall. Photo by Dan Schreiber

It’s been nearly six years since former San Francisco Supervisor David Campos first proposed naming San Francisco International Airport (SFO) after slain lawmaker and civil rights activist Harvey Milk—and City Hall honchos are still arguing about it.

On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee passed an ordinance ordering SFO to spend more than $1 million on new signs on the terminal bearing Milk’s name, even specifying how large the letters must be relative to other words on the name signs.

The order lays out the design in exact detail:

The signage identifying the terminal for drivers, on the exterior of the terminal generally facing the roadway and the domestic parking garage, shall state “Harvey Milk Terminal” in a sign with lettering in which capital letters are at least four feet high.

Below “Harvey Milk Terminal, “ shall state “Terminal I” in a sign with lettering that is approximately seventy-five percent of the height of the lettering of the “Harvey Milk Terminal” sign.

Additionally, wherever signage identifying “Terminal 1” appears on the interior or exterior of the terminal or Airport. the words “Harvey Milk” shall appear in equal or greater height.

In 2018, SF lawmakers voted unanimously to name Terminal One—not the entire airport—after Milk.

However, since then Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who sponsored the initiative, alleges that the airport has not lived up to the agreement.

“The airport immediately stated that they’d comply with the law, and yet in the last year they have not made moves to change the design of their signs accordingly,” said Ronen, speaking to the committee on Wednesday.

“Their plan is to keep referring to this terminal on all signs inside as merely Terminal One, “ said Ronen, adding, “This is not in line with what the board passed.”

The new ordinance is meant to force the matter. Ronen said that she finds it “frustrating that I have to legislate such details.”

Despite Ronen’s allegations, an SFO spokesperson told Curbed SF in February that the airport was “working to ensure the exterior design of Terminal One fully reflects the Board of Supervisors’ efforts and intentions.”

After Wednesday, those intentions look like they’re about to get a lot more specific; the three-person committee passed the order unanimously, pushing it ahead to a vote by the full board.

According to the city’s Budget and Legislative Analyst Office, the signage will add an extra $1.3 million onto the $2.4 billion price tag of the Terminal One renovation, which won’t be completed until 2022.