SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – If you’ve been to the Castro District you may have noticed the Muni stop dedicated to Harvey Milk. What you may not know is that there’s an effort underway to reimagine the Harvey Milk Plaza Muni stop to be a center of the city’s vibrant LGBTQ community.
For many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people, the Castro has long represented what only seemed to be a dream in some parts of the country.
Brian Springfield, the executive director of Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, told KRONT that “I grew up in Texas. I remember when I first heard about the Castro, and it seemed unreal that there was a place that I could live as a gay person and be myself and walk down the street with the person that I love.”
The year was 1977: Milk had just been elected city supervisor after years of advocating for his community, particularly in the Castro which was fast attracting LGBTQ people from across the country, and thus becoming the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
Stephen Torres, the co-chair of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District board, said that “I came to San Francisco and part of that was because of Harvey Milk, I wanted to be part of that movement.”
That movement: a legacy, memorialized in part here in Harvey Milk Plaza.
“What we know as Harvey Milk Plaza was actually built to be the station entrance to the new Castro Muni station, but it’s really struggled since then to represent someone as important as Harvey was to the community then and has gone on to become to the worldwide LGBT+ community,” Springfield said.
Harvey Milk Plaza is right in the middle of the Castro District and for many people visiting the neighborhood for the first time this is the first thing they see, which is why it’s so important for the plaza to make a great first impression.
Back in 2017, hearing calls for the plaza to stand out and better tell the story of Milk, Springfield became part of what is now the effort to completely transform this space at the corner of Market and Castro streets.
“What’s there now is these terraces and what we’re proposing is that they become occupiable park space, so instead of having that green space that’s fenced off it’s going to be space that people can actually go in and there’s going to be this central circular area that’s dedicated to hope,” Springfield said.
Ground breaking is expected within the next few years, but right now you can go to the plaza and see for yourself the vision in a virtual walk through on Harveymilkplaza.org.
“In different panels of the new plaza you’re going to see representation of that diversity of people of color, of the trans community, of queer women, of lesbians, of all the folks that make the greater LGBT+ community,” Torres said.
As of now Harvey Milk Plaza is on its way to becoming a funded city project, but anyone can make a tax-deductible donation at Harveymilkplaza.org, along with checking out the virtual walk through while you are there.