Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday March 30, 2022
Share this Post:
Letters to the editor

Milk plaza can fit with proposed site plan

In the Guest Opinion ["Milk plaza plan has broad support," March 24] author Alex Lemberg asserts that I, along with another, are solely responsible for creating a false impression that demolition and replacement of Harvey Milk Plaza are not universally loved. "Neither of these people live in San Francisco, both have ulterior motives, and neither they nor anyone else has presented a viable alternative plan to the one presented by [Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza]," he writes. Although I do not reside in San Francisco, I practiced architecture in the city for over 30 years and was responsible for the design of five Muni Metro stations, three of which were awarded design honor awards. Three years ago, when it became clear the FHMP intended to replace the busy transit plaza serving the Castro Muni station, I realized there was no voice in defense of preservation. As a result, a Facebook group, Advocates for Harvey Milk Plaza, was created and has over 500 followers.

Two polls of the Castro neighborhood on Nextdoor revealed that over 50% favored improving the plaza and Milk memorial over demolition and replacement. This was also the result of a 2018 San Francisco Bay Times poll.

The editorial board of Architectural Digest featured a 2018 cover story on the redesign effort for the plaza titled, "Leave Well Enough Alone!;" the San Francisco Chronicle's urban design critic, John King, wrote an October 2018 review of the FHMP plans titled, "Harvey Milk Plaza makeover not the right change for Castro," in which he walked the site and declared it "charming;" a Stanford professor emeritus of architectural history and long-term Castro resident presented a defense of the present plaza to the San Francisco Arts Commission's Civic Design Review Committee. Many residents of the Castro and Duboce Triangle also appeared before that committee during the past three years to voice their opposition to demolishing and replacing the plaza. So it is a fiction that resistance to the FHMP redesign plans is solely due to "two people with ulterior motives"! (What those might be is not spelled out.)

Lemberg claims we have not presented a "viable alternative plan."

A website for the Advocates of Harvey Milk Plaza features a video that demonstrates that the existing plaza could fit comfortably within the proposed site plan while retaining all of its conceptual features: the memorial grove, the elevator beacon, and the public speaker podium at the corner of Castro and Market streets. Many opportunities to improve the plaza and memorial are also presented. An environmental impact study would obviously question the wisdom of unnecessarily sending tons of concrete and steel to landfill and subject transit patrons and neighbors to years of demolition and construction that disable the Castro station's main entrance. Ultimately, it may be up to philanthropists to decide if raising $30 million or more for this project is appropriate at a time the Castro is reeling from a pandemic, financial hardship, and social ills.

Howard Grant

Oakland, California

Campos for Assembly

Recent news of longtime activist Cleve Jones' displacement from the Castro ["Longtime activist Cleve Jones to leave Castro after tense landlord dispute," online, March 24], the state of California's continued failure to collect comprehensive LGBTQ+ health data during a pandemic, ["Despite advances, problems persist in collecting LGBTQ health data," March 17] and a Gallup poll that found 21% of Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ compared to just 2.6% of baby boomers [LGBTQ Agenda: Gallup poll shows uptick in people identifying as LGBT," online, March 10] compels me to rally support for David Campos as the candidate of choice for Assembly District 17. Such events shine light on the need for LGBTQ+ representation and strong candidates that will advocate for our community. We need a candidate like Campos who will fight for affordable housing so members of marginalized communities can live where they feel safe being their authentic selves. A candidate with the experience of a lawyer interested in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and a former deputy county administrator who oversaw Santa Clara County's Office of LGBTQ Affairs that can apply these assets to dismantle institutional heterosexism within government, and see to it that government employees are trained that yes, here in California we count LGBTQ+ individuals as full human beings and that yes, government plans, policies, and reports reference the LGBTQ+ community and SOGI data.

Someone such as Campos will raise awareness of discrimination and disparate outcomes so that government employees can assess and address the needs of LGBTQ+ residents, taxpayers, and clients that they serve.

Heterosexism attempts to rob LGBTQ+ individuals of their dignity and humanity by effectively making them invisible and, throughout history, government has been weaponized as a tool to erase our community. Judging by the stark contrast in the generational comparison between Gen Z adults (21%) and baby boomers (2.6%) that identify as LGBTQ, heterosexism and heterosexual cisgender privilege was nearly successful at making the LGBTQ+ community "disappeared." Such a gap in percentages reflects the toll systemic marginalization took on older generations and the abject failure of government to count, assess, and address the LGBTQ+ community's needs. Campos is a bold candidate who dares to live the dream and as a member of the Assembly can show the world what a California for All truly means. Make your voice heard and vote as if your life depends upon it.

Paul Langley

San Francisco

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.