Harvey Milk Plaza Redesign Moving Forward, With Community's Input

Weren't able to make it to one of the recent Harvey Milk Plaza redesign meetings? That’s okay.

We caught up with Jennifer Jones to get a sense of what came out of each meeting. Jones, who is the executive director at the American Institute of Architects’ San Francisco chapter, helped to facilitate the meetings.

As we previously reported, the city is redesigning the plaza around the Castro Muni station in order to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's agreed to take Harvey Milk Plaza’s historical significance into consideration during the planning phases of the project, with construction set to take place in 2020. 

To help capture the vision of the space’s “significance” to the community, a group called Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza hosted two community meetings on the last two Wednesdays of January. Roughly 40 people attended the first meeting on January 18th, and approximately 55 showed up for the meeting last week.

Photo: Shane Downing/Hoodline

According to Jones, neighbors repeatedly brought up that they wanted a space that better reflected Harvey Milk’s contributions to the city, to the community, and to the civil rights struggle.

“Right now, it’s a series of photos attached to a fence,” Jones told us. “It seems as though it was more of an afterthought, rather than something that is meant to educate and inspire.”

Each meeting had three break-out groups, focusing on how to make the space more accessible, how to better utilize it, and how to make it more of a memorial.

Some of their ideas included recreating the plaza as an outdoor amphitheater, and reworking the ground space to be better utilized.

“The grassy areas and gardens are gated off,” said Jones. "That limits the opportunity for people to gather, hold vigils, and protest.”

Attendees also brought up the issue of safety and security, "which needs to be at the top of the list for when the designers are recreating this space,” Jones said. “We’re going to be looking for how this issue of safety and security has been tackled elsewhere when we’re looking at the designs coming in.”

Lighting features will likely be an important part of the process, and “there are other opportunities that would make the plaza more of a circulation space and not a convenient place for people to camp out,” she added.

Photo: Shane Downing/Hoodline

Jones said she was pleased with the meetings' turnout. “It helps to have an engaged group of people who want to be involved so early in the process."

Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza has to send out the call for design applications soon (as part of the forthcoming international design competition), but there will be a few more opportunities for neighbors to give their input into the plaza's eventual concept.

Over the next couple of months, Jones said that her team will be out in Harvey Milk Plaza to interview people as they move through the space.

“This is a huge opportunity for the community to inform the architects who will be recreating this space,” Jones said. "If you want to contribute your expertise or share your ideas, please let us know."

Want to receive updates from the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, or share your ideas? Here's more information.

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