Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021
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Letters to the editor

Responding to Milk plaza article

I am the executive director of the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, the organization that has been working since 2016 to see the community's vision for honoring Milk at the intersection of Castro and Market streets is realized. I want to respond to something that appeared in your recent article titled "SF arts panel backs latest Harvey Milk Plaza design" [September 23]. In the article you wrote: "... the plaza has been found to have historical significance worthy of preservation ..."

Yes, the historic resource evaluation, or HRE, did find that the plaza is individually eligible for listing in the California Register, however, this is only due to its association with historic gatherings and events that occurred at the intersection — namely, the Candlelight Vigil on the evening of the assassinations of supervisor Milk and mayor George Moscone and the White Night riots that followed the trial verdict for ex-supervisor Dan White. So, its significance was determined to be narrowly programmatic, and not rooted in its actual architecture.

In fact, the HRE very specifically finds that the architecture itself is not of historic significance. To this point, the report reads unequivocally: "The plaza is also not significant under Criterion 3 for its architecture as it does not embody the distinctive characteristics of a type or method of construction. Although the plaza was designed by Reid and Tarics, it is not considered the best example of their work."

It is important to note that the HRE declares that there are three "defining features" of the plaza. So long as these three features are retained in any redesign (as they carefully have been in the new design proposal created by SWA, an international landscape, architecture, planning, and urban design firm), then the plaza is, in the eyes of the report, considered to be unchanged:

- Location at the southwest corner of Market and Castro streets;

- Large plaza at the street level that serves as a main gathering space;

- Location of serpentine planter wall that separates the station from Market Street.

As you know, there has been a decades-long conversation in our community about reimagining the plaza so that it represents and celebrates Milk's enduring significance not only to the citizens of this neighborhood, but also to the international LGBTQ+ community. Nobody has proposed tearing down something that is "historically significant" or "worthy of preservation," nor would we advocate for doing so.

Many thanks for allowing me this opportunity to provide clarification around this issue.

Brian Springfield, Executive Director

The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza

San Francisco

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