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Farrell Supports Milk SFO Terminal Naming

by Matthew S. Bajko

A rendering of what signage might look like at the new Terminal 1 at SFO
A rendering of what signage might look like at the new Terminal 1 at SFO  (Source:B.A.R. illustration/Rendering courtesy San Francisco International Airport)

San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell supports naming Terminal 1 at the city's airport after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

In 2013 gay former supervisor David Campos scrapped his idea to rename San Francisco International Airport after Milk due to a lack of support. Instead, he and the late mayor Ed Lee compromised on naming one of the airport's four terminals in honor of Milk.

It was 40 years ago that Milk was sworn in as a city supervisor, becoming the first out LGBT individual to hold elective office in both San Francisco and California. Tragically, Milk and then-mayor George Moscone were assassinated inside City Hall by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White the morning of November 27, 1978.

After years of delays by Lee in naming his appointees to an advisory panel tasked with selecting which terminal should bear Milk's name, it voted in June for Terminal 1. With the facility undergoing a $2.4 billion remodel that will be unveiled in stages through 2024, panel members reasoned the years of media coverage for the project would help publicize it being named the Harvey Milk Terminal.

In a statement to the B.A.R. this week, Farrell's office said he "fully supports" the renaming proposal "to honor Harvey Milk, just as he did while serving as supervisor."

Formerly the District 2 supervisor, Farrell is serving as mayor until the winner of the special June 5 mayoral election is determined. It was called following Lee's sudden death December 12 due to a heart attack.

The Board of Supervisors' budget and finance committee is set to hold a hearing Thursday, March 22, on renaming Terminal 1 for Milk. The full board is expected to vote on it April 3.

District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, a former aide to Campos who eight months ago introduced the legislation for the Milk terminal naming, told the B.A.R. the mayor's announcement of support for it "is good news."

It is the second time Farrell has announced his backing of legislation sponsored by Ronen that involved LGBT issues prior to its passage by the board. He also came out early in support of Ronen's legislation requiring single-room-occupancy hotels to have gender-neutral bathrooms, which he signed into law last week.

"It is great news to hear that the mayor is on board. I can't wait to get this done," said Ronen, who told the B.A.R. Tuesday she is confident the legislation will pass.

District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, the board's lone gay member and co-sponsor of the legislation, told the B.A.R. that he always assumed Farrell would support the proposal.

"I never got any hint of opposition to it from Mayor Farrell," said Sheehy, who will also be seeking board approval to make the airport's address 1 Harvey Milk Way.

The mayor's unequivocal backing came after he sounded less resolute during an interview February 15 with the B.A.R. At the time Farrell had said he was "totally open to the idea of naming a terminal after Milk but needed to have a comprehensive discussion to talk about if it should be Terminal 1 or another terminal."

Farrell had said he wanted to meet first with members of the airport commission - its president contends areas of SFO should only be named for people with a direct connection to the airport - and members of the board to discuss if it would be better to name all four of the airport terminals at once rather than piecemeal.

"I am not saying yes or no to anything, but Harvey Milk must be a part of the discussion," said Farrell.

But in the statement sent to the B.A.R. Monday, Farrell clarified that he was ready to move forward with naming the terminal after Milk. His signing of the legislation is expected to come prior to this year's commemoration of Harvey Milk Day. A state day of special significance, it is observed in California every May 22, Milk's birthday.

At the same time, Farrell believes a conversation should be had on naming SFO's three other terminals.

"And if there is public support to consider other renamings for notable San Franciscans like the late Mayor Ed Lee or Senator (Dianne) Feinstein then the mayor would want the airport commission to re-engage its committee process," Farrell's office told the B.A.R.

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