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Castro Street Could See Rainbow Crosswalk

by Matthew S. Bajko
Tuesday Aug 20, 2013

The city's gay neighborhood could see a permanent rainbow in it one day.

There is a chance that the multi-colored sight could come in the form of a crosswalk painted on the street at one of the Castro district's busy intersections.

Last week the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District board voted to allocate $28,000 to fund decorative crosswalks at three intersections in the gayborhood. While the design for them has yet to be determined, it is conceivable at least one could be painted rainbow colors.

"Not sure if all will go for the rainbow idea ... we need input," Andrea Aiello, the CBD's executive director, told the Bay Area Reporter when asked about the possibility.

Rainbow crosswalks, some temporary chalk installations others permanent fixtures, have been popping up in gay neighborhoods around the world, from Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada to Seattle and West Hollywood.

Such an idea had been proposed for San Francisco's gayborhood during the community planning workshops held earlier this year for the Castro Streetscape Improvement Project. Due to budget limitations, though, planning staffers had dropped including specialty crosswalks in their final proposal for the $4 million sidewalk-widening project.

With its own budget to fund neighborhood improvements, the Castro CBD decided to take on the crosswalks. It will pay for the installation of the enhanced street striping at four crosswalks that run east to west across Castro Street.

The locations are at the intersection of Castro and Market streets from the Muni station entrance to the Twin Peaks Tavern; two at Castro and 18th streets, one from the Walgreens store across to the K Pop eatery and from Harvey's restaurant across to the Bank of America building; and on the north side of 19th and Castro streets, going from the Buffalo Whole Food and Grain Company corner grocery store across to the Thai House restaurant.

"The Castro Street Design Team will develop a few proposals for possible designs. At least one of the proposals will be some type of rainbow crosswalk," explained Aiello, adding that any design and colors chosen must be approved by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. "The final decision/design selection will include community input. The CBD will work with the design team in managing this process."

It is estimated three of the crosswalks will each cost $4,000. The extra-wide crosswalk that runs from Harvey Milk Plaza across Castro Street to Jane Warner Plaza is estimated to cost $13,000. The leftover funds are meant to cover the design process.

According to the CBD, all four special crosswalks would be installed by October next year and should last five years. The CBD would then gauge community interest for repainting them, and if there is, would develop a plan to do so, said Aiello.

The CBD board also voted last week to spend up to $38,700 for down wash lighting on 24 poles along the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street. The money will pay for two LED lights on each pole, plus the CBD will cover the cost of the electricity, which the city estimates would be about $10 per month.

They could be programmed to be varying colors, noted Aiello, such as rainbow, all pink, or all red.

"The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District is charged with making improvements to the neighborhood, including beautification, above and beyond the city's baseline level of services," wrote Aiello in an emailed response to questions. "These improvements fall outside of the city's budget. In funding these beautification efforts we are meeting this charge."

There is still a chance the cost for the crosswalks will be included in the final project proposal that gets put out for bid in September. The SFMTA board is set to vote on the project at its meeting next week, Tuesday, August 20.

"Needless to say, we are very pleased to hear that the Castro CBD will be partnering with the city on this project. The goal of the Castro Streetscape Improvement Project has always been to redesign and reconstruct Castro Street as a complete street and these elements will help us to do just that," stated John Dennis, the project manager with the city's Department of Public Works. "The celebratory lights and decorative crosswalks, along with the Rainbow Honor Walk plaques, each add place-making elements that celebrate the street's unique character and will undoubtedly serve to make our project more of a success."

The Rainbow Honor Walk is a privately funded project to honor LGBT people who have made important societal contributions. The plaques for the first group of 20 inductees will be installed next year as part of the sidewalk changes.

The overall goal of the streetscape improvements is to make the Castro more pedestrian friendly and visually appealing. In addition to wider sidewalks, there will be new street trees planted, a bulb-out where the late Supervisor Harvey Milk had his camera store and campaign headquarters, and upgrades to Jane Warner Plaza.

The SFMTA board is expected to approve the project when it meets next week. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. in Room 400 at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco.

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