City Council Approves Hillcrest Flag ProjectBreaking News Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
by Will Rodriguez-Kennedy
Tuesday, the San Diego City Council approved a 65’ Rainbow Flag monument to be built on the median of Normal St. and University Ave.
The announcement follows one week after the Same City Council approved the renaming of Blaine Avenue to Harvey Milk street, marks two major victories for the LGBT community is San Diego.
Speaking in opposition were James Hartline an anti-LGBT activist, Steven Greenwald a lesser known mayoral candidate and Jack Sampier a pastor of the Assembly of God Calvary Temple.
“Private businesses on private property can fly whatever flag they want or advertise the way they want on their private property.” Hartline said. “This issue at hand is the middle of a major public transit intersection on public, government land and a median that is paid for by the taxpayers. It is a huge leap of unconstitutional prowl on the part of the city to take that public land and give it away. Particularly without any open bid process and give it to a private and give that land to a private political group to build a particular political message, a message which has no basis for government endorsement or government promotion”
“I did not object to the street name change.” said Pastor Jack Sampier referencing Blaine avenue’s renaming to Harvey Milk Street. “It’s a street I have no problem with that but a flag of the size that we’re talking about here represents more than a place designation. It represents power, authority, dominion, governments and governance such as that. It is one thing to place a flag over a building which you have ownership but to place a flag of this nature over a community signifies ownership.”
“The flag represents tolerance and diversity which are both values that are very important to Hillcrest.” said Nicholas Meade, president of the Hillcrest Business Association.
“One of the concerns that have at the planning commission and have come up today was that this sets some sort of precedence on public land. It is our position that there is already a precedent for cultural monuments on public land and San Diegans celebrate these monuments.” Said Benjamin Nichols, Executive Director of the Hillcrest Business Association highlighting cultural monuments such as the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the International village in Balboa park.
Also speaking in favor were Christopher Ward of the Uptown Planners; Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride and various community activists and leaders.
Courtney Ray of Urban Mo’s and Sean Cute business owner and secretary for the Hillcrest Business Association describe themselves as straight allies. Cute gave an emotional testimony of his support for the project. “This flag right here, it represents everybody.” Said Cute as he held a rainbow flag. “It’s an iconic symbol right now of the diversity of our neighborhood as well as the civil rights movement in our country right now. “
“This is an excellent opportunity to show everyone who lives in San Diego and who visits San Diego that we are a loving and tolerant people.” Said Council President Young in his remarks.
Councilmember Todd Gloria, who is openly gay and represents District 3, where the flag will be placed confirmed with the city attorney’s office the legality of the action and with Benjamin Nichols the fact that no there was no taxpayer liability before making the motion to support the measure, seconded by Council Member Carl DeMaio, another openly gay council member and leading candidate to succeed termed out San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Before voting, Council Member Sherri Lightner asked Benjamin Nichols when the project would be done. When he responded “assuming” she interrupted. “No assuming, come on, when is it going to be done?”
Benjamin Nichols informed the council that construction would start on June 18th with the intent of being done for this year’s San Diego Pride celebration. “I look forward to seeing it.” Lightner said. “It better be done.” The audience erupted in applause.
“She serious!” Said Council President Young.
The motion passed unanimously with 7 council members in favor and Council Member Lorie Zapf in opposition. Council Member Zapf was unable to attend due to a family medical situation.
While approved unanimously by the City Council the project had faced significant opposition on its way to the council dais. At a Feb. 17 Uptown Planners meeting the project narrowly passed in an 8-6 vote.
On Apr. 26 the San Diego Planning Commission, an advisory body to the City Council voted 4 to 2 to send a recommendation of disapproval of the project.
With the final decision now made by the City Council construction will begin on Jun 18th and the raising of the flag will occur at the San Diego LGBT Pride Spirit of Stonewall Rally on Friday, July 20.
The project is still in need of private donors, and an event, the Amazing High Heels Race to be held on Jun. 19 will help towards the costs of the project. San Diego LGBT Pride has committed to the maintenance of the flag year round.
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