By Chris Stone and Ken Stone
State Sen. Toni Atkins quoted RuPaul. Assemblyman Todd Gloria spoke of a safe space. Councilman Chris Ward said the day signaled a blow against hate.
At least five gay or lesbian officials — including Nicole Murray-Ramirez, the honorary mayor of Hillcrest — were among hundreds Saturday celebrating a crosswalk in that LGBT-friendly community.
But the newly painted multicolored walk across Normal Street at University Avenue was anything but pedestrian, said Atkins, who like Gloria once represented the community as District 3 council members.
“Head to toe, let your whole body talk,” Atkins said, echoing famed TV drag queen RuPaul. “It’s a nonbinary crosswalk. But you don’t have to look just both ways — you look every way and move forward in the right direction for you.”
The privately funded $15,000 project, which overcame red tape at City Hall, is the first of San Diego’s new Creative Crosswalks Pilot Program, which lets neighborhoods make their own roadway marks honoring history or unique community. Colors between white markings would be allowed at intersections that meet certain criteria.
San Diego officials checked with other cities that already have rainbow crosswalks, including Long Beach, West Hollywood and Sacramento, and found there have been no instances of injuries or increased traffic issues near them, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported nearly a year ago.
Gloria told the gathering: “I think of what Hillcrest means to so many of us. Hillcrest is our safe space. This is where we come to feel like ourselves and to be who we are fully and authentically in a safe place.”
Current D3 Councilman Ward called it a joyous day to be able to finally have a rainbow crosswalk here, “like so many other communities across America.”
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The walk also incorporates brown and black stripes — for persons of color — and transgender pink and blue, Ward told Times of San Diego — “to make sure they are also very visibly expressed as part of this opportunity.”
“San Diego is about standing together and lifting everybody up,” he added. “As important as a time this is, when we have hate crimes on the rise, we want to double down and make sure that we make our mark … express ourselves in the way that (reflects) one San Diego.”
Ward said the walk was over a decade in the making.
“Todd [Gloria] and Toni [Atkins] both really tried,” he said. “We had a lot of engineering hurdles and work to do with city staff.”
But a “breakthrough” with city staff in the last 18 months was able to “get them to yes, and we’re here today.”
Mayor Kevin Faulconer called the day an important one in San Diego history.
“We get together to celebrate our strength … diversity … fighting for equality and to honor those who continue to give back to our communities,” he said. “We are a city because of all of you that continually strive to welcome, to accept and to embrace one another.”
City Council President Georgette Gómez said the crosswalk elevates “the existence of the LGBT community,” and hoped such landmarks spread throughout the city’s nine council districts.
“We all know that Hillcrest is our LGBT community that has been struggling — so to reflect that struggle in the streets it brings not only the history but the efforts that have been done throughout the years to recognize our community,” she said.
Gloria noted that San Diego (in 2012) was the first city in the nation to name a street for the assassinated gay activist Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor.
Today’s unveiling of the City’s first creative crosswalk brought out hundreds of leaders, members of our LGBT community and allies in true Hillcrest style: a #CatwalkontheCrosswalk. Thanks to @ChrisWardD3 and all who made it possible. pic.twitter.com/xlZPbTTcfO
— Kevin Faulconer (@Kevin_Faulconer) January 12, 2020
“We then established our Pride flagpole, and now with this rainbow crosswalk we are really putting a stamp on this community that will always communicate that this is the home of San Diego’s LGBTQ community,” he said.
But he had one challenge for San Diego, he said.
“Our next step must be to designate Hillcrest as a historic LGBT thematic district,” Gloria said, “so that once and for all, forever and ever, our home will always be in Hillcrest.”
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