The Harvey B. Milk Terminal Exterior Signage Study." (Courtesy SFO)

Supes push to make signs honoring Harvey Milk more prominent at SFO

An ongoing dispute over the naming of San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 1 after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk has led to legislation mandating the letter size and placement.

When the airport debuted options for signage naming the terminal after Milk in January, “Terminal 1” was featured more prominently than Milk’s name.

For those who have supported the Milk naming, it was another example of the resistance they’ve faced since former Supervisor David Campos first proposed in 2013 to name the entire airport after Milk. The decision to name only Terminal 1 after the former supervisor was a compromise.

With the design process not going smoothly, Supervisor Hillary Ronen last month introduced legislation to mandate design elements. She called the initial design “insulting.”

While the airport is developing other options, Ronen said a mandate was necessary given how things have gone.

“Every step of this process has been really difficult,” Ronen said.

The board’s Rules Committee, comprised of Ronen and Supervisor Gordon Mar, voted Monday to amend the legislation and send it to the full board for a vote next week.

Under the legislation, “Harvey Milk Terminal” will have to appear in capital letters at least four feet high and below “Terminal 1” in letters about 75 percent of the height of the Milk sign.

And no Terminal 1 sign could stand alone without the Milk name.

“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,” the legislation states.

Ivar Satero, director of the San Francisco International Airport, presented naming designs to the committee and asked that the legislation not advance, citing concerns about setting a precedent. Terminal 1 is currently under construction and will open in phases, beginning in July.

But not only Ronen and other supporters not satisfied by the designs, they expressed skepticism that the signage would get installed satisfactorily without a mandate.

In one option presented, Harvey Milk’s name is prominently displayed in 4 foot letters at the entrance of the terminal above a Terminal 1 sign with letters of three feet heights; there is also a “Terminal 1” sign on the far end of the building standing alone, which Satero said was expressly for wayfinding.

But supporters of the Milk airport-naming opposed wayfinding Terminal 1 signs without including Milk’s name

Satero said that wayfinding signs only referencing Terminal 1 are meant to avoid confusing travelers.

“We felt we were trying to be thoughtful of this as well in the way we presented the Harvey Milk Terminal,” Satero said.

Ronen rejected the idea that adding Milk’s name to wayfinding signs would create passenger confusion.

“Wayfinding is important, obviously, in airports, but I believe that it’s importance here has been exaggerated in my opinion,” Ronen said.

Campos, speaking at the hearing, was more direct.

“The idea that travelers need that to find their way around, I’m sorry that just doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Campos said.

He added that the Airport Commission has resisted the naming idea since the beginning,

Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1977, becoming the first openly gay elected official in San Francisco and California. He was gunned down at City Hall in 1978 along with Mayor George Moscone by former Supervisor Dan White.

While the effort to name the terminal after Milk may have hit some turbulence, Ronen predicted in the end, “this is going to be a monumental point of pride for our city.”

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