SFO commissioners wary about renaming hub after Harvey Milk

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerSupervisor David Campos has proposed asking city voters to decide whether to rename SFO after gay-rights icon Supervisor Harvey Milk

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerSupervisor David Campos has proposed asking city voters to decide whether to rename SFO after gay-rights icon Supervisor Harvey Milk

The governing body of San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday questioned a proposal to rename the hub after slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Introduced Tuesday by Supervisor David Campos, a charter amendment to rename SFO the Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport could go before voters in November. Campos needs the support of five other supervisors to put the measure on the ballot, and his resolution has four co-sponsors.

In the morning before Campos introduced the measure, members of the Airport Commission, which sets policies for the hub, expressed frustration and doubts about the idea.

Commission President Larry Mazzola said he has learned from past proposals to rename the hub after former Mayor Joseph Alioto that the change is too confusing for travelers and prone to political controversies.

“Airports, to me, should be untouchable when it comes to naming them after anybody,” Mazzola said. “I knew Harvey Milk. He was a great leader, and there have been plenty of other great leaders to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and I don’t think any of them should bear the name of the airport. There should be other ways to honor them.”Commissioner Linda Crayton said any proposal to rename the airport should come with a lengthy review process — possibly one that takes years.

“There are so many that have given and provided to the airport,” Crayton said. “When you start naming something of significance like SFO after someone, it takes on a whole other history in and of itself, and I think we need to be careful of opening up this new terrain.”

Richard Guggenhime, a fellow commissioner, suggested naming an air traffic control tower after Milk as an alternative.

Following a discussion at the meeting, the commission agreed to convene a public hearing on the name change at a later date.

Campos said it was important for the commission to discuss the initiative and be involved in the process, but it’s best for local residents to decide the matter.

“It’s appropriate that something like this ultimately be decided not in the halls of city government, but by the voters,” he said.

Campos said about 80 other airports across the country are named after public figures, although San Francisco would be the first to honor an openly gay individual.

Along with Mayor George Moscone, Milk was shot and killed at City Hall by Supervisor Dan White in 1978. White served five years for manslaughter before being released in 1984. He died by suicide in 1985.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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