'When We Rise' Shoot Causes Damage To Castro's Rainbow Crosswalks

The rainbow crosswalks at 18th and Castro, installed two years ago as part of the Castro Street Improvement Project, sustained some serious damage this week—and Hollywood is to blame. 

Last weekend, the production team of ABC's When We Rise covered up the crosswalks for filming, to ensure historical accuracy for the '70s and '80s-set miniseries about the city's pioneering LGBT activists. They used a black material to camouflage the crosswalks, but when it was removed after filming, large portions of the material remained adhered to the rainbow stripes. 

When We Rise's production crew covering up the crosswalks last weekend.

The production crew made several additional attempts to clean the damaged crosswalks, but they haven't been successful. 

"They initially pressure-washed the crosswalks with cold water, as directed, so as not to damage them," said Susannah Robbins, executive director of the SF Film Commission. "They then went again and had their street cleaners clean them with approved solvents (non-corrosive street cleaner). However, neither of these methods sufficiently cleaned the crosswalks."


The northern Castro Street crosswalk (above) and eastern crosswalk (below), after multiple cleaning attempts.

The problem is especially evident on the northern Castro Street crosswalk, which, despite cleaning attempts, still has a lot of the black material stuck to the stripes. The eastern crosswalk on 18th also shows some signs of damage. 

The western crosswalk on 18th, between Harvey's and Walgreen's, and the southern crosswalk on Castro, between Bank of America and Harvey's, are in better shape, with the vibrant colors of the rainbow reemerging.

The western 18th Street crosswalk (above) and southern Castro Street crosswalk (below) are in better shape.

Should the crosswalks not be fixable, officials say the production will be held accountable for the cost of cleanup and refurbishment. "The city agencies overseeing the film crew are committed to ensuring the crosswalks are restored, and if need be, replaced by the film crew," said Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro CBD. "Email communication between all parties indicates that they are committed to restoring them."

Robbins concurred: "The production intends to restore the two crosswalks to as good or better condition as when they found them."

Aiello, who has been out of town on family business this past week, said she'll decide what to do about the crosswalks early next week. We will keep you updated as we learn more.

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