Frequently asked questions
Who is FHMP?
The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, or FHMP, is a group of volunteers that formed to create a memorial to honor Harvey Milk that will inspire people for generations to come. The group was established in late 2016 after SFMTA announced they were planning to install a new elevator to serve Castro Street MUNI station, to be located in Harvey Milk Plaza; an important public place for the LGBT community.
Who is working on the FHMP Project?
Currently, the FHMP Project team includes FHMP, Perkins Eastman (the lead architecture firm, with a number of specialist subconsultants), and representatives from relevant government agencies. In addition, close coordination between SFMTA Castro Accessibility Improvements Project and the FHMP aims to facilitate efficiencies between the two related projects.
ABOUT FUNDING FOR THE PROJECT
Where is the funding coming from for the FHMP Project?
In 2012, a donation of $500,000 was made by an individual donor, Larry Cushman, who stipulated the funds be used for improvements to Harvey Milk Plaza. The gift has funded an international design ideas competition (Phase 0), as well as the development of concept designs (Phase 1), working with the design firm identified in the competition. A robust capital fundraising campaign will generate financial support to cover all aspects of the plaza construction that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the City of San Francisco.
Wouldn’t this funding be better spent on homelessness, crime or other social issues?
The City and County of San Francisco are working to address the serious social issues that are being faced by our treasured city. This project to reimagine Harvey Milk Plaza is a capital improvement project, independent and isolated from any funds allocated publicly or privately for social welfare projects.
ABOUT THE SFMTA ACCESSIBILITY IMPROVEMENTS PROJECT
Why not put the required SFMTA elevator at Jane Warner Plaza or other location that doesn’t disrupt the existing Harvey Milk Plaza?
The location of the elevator was established by the SFMTA after careful study of the best options. FHMP has no influence on the location of the elevator. Previously, SFMTA has noted that at a minimum, the elevator will be required to stop at 3 levels: Street, Ticketing Concourse and Platform. This criteria narrows the possible placement of the elevator. Any questions or feedback about the elevator placement should be directed to SFMTA, contact information available here. FHMP hopes to work with the community to develop a design response to complement the parameters established by SFMTA with their planned elevator location.
What is the proposed timeline for the SFMTA Accessibility Improvements Project and FHMP Project? Do the two projects share the same design and implementation timeline?
SFMTA has targeted initiating construction of the Castro Station Accessibility Improvements Project in 2019, to be completed by the end of 2020. It is the desire of FHMP to align with SFMTA timeline as much as possible to minimize disruption and maximize cost efficiencies across both projects. The FHMP Project is currently in Phase 1, (the concept design phase). Subsequent FHMP phases and construction timeline are yet to be determined.
What is BART’s relationship to the project and site?
BART owns the property. As part of their commitment to providing an efficient transit experience, FHMP has invited a representative of BART who has been working with the City for the past several years on modernization and upgrades of existing stations.
ABOUT THE FHMP PROJECT
Why does there need to be a memorial to Harvey Milk?
The existing station was designed in the early 1970s as a transit station. Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in 1978 while the construction of the station was still underway. In 1985, five years after the station opened for service the site was named Harvey Milk Plaza. Since the space was never designed with the consideration of recognizing the slain supervisor, uncoordinated efforts to honor Harvey Milk have been incorporated at the site over the years: bronze lettering was added to the overhead walkway and a bronze plaque was installed on a column on the concourse level in 1985. Later, some panels with images were installed on the fence on the concourse level. the large Rainbow Flag, designed by GIlbert Baker, was installed with a flagpole in 1997 to recognize the 20th anniversary of Harvey’s election to office. These efforts were well intentioned, though not cohesive. To this day, the site lacks a memorial component commensurate with the contribution and legacy of Harvey Milk. FHMP is working to see that Harvey’s legacy is represented in the design and experience of visiting the plaza.
Will the Harvey Milk Plaza Project compromise the efficiency of the Castro Muni Station?
The Castro Street Station was originally designed as a transit facility; but since then it has become the heart of a community that gathers to honor Harvey, celebrate and demonstrate. The goals of the FHMP project is to improve access for all to the Castro Street MUNI station, accommodate its function as a meeting point for the community, and provide a memorial to Harvey Milk. As ridership at Castro Muni Station is expected to increase as the city grows, FHMP is working with both SFMTA & BART (the owner of the land on which the station sits) to meet goals related to ridership projections for the year 2040. It is important that the transit hub plan adapt for the anticipated growth, so that the station works well for commuters today AND in the future.
Why does this need to happen now?
The planned SFMTA Accessibility Improvements Project will involve demolition and reconstruction of large portions of the transit station and plaza site, at all levels. FHMP sees this as an opportunity to bring the Castro community together to imagine a transit station plaza that integrates with the other demands on the space: a memorial and gathering place. FHMP advocates for making all these changes at the same time, so that there is one construction project instead of several. Consolidating the efforts will result in less commuter disruption and will lower the costs associated with implementing a design the community develops together.
What are the changes the community has requested?
Community-led conversations about the future of Harvey Milk Plaza have been ongoing for decades. Here is a recap of some past ideas for the site:
1995: SF Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to create a major civic space to honor him [Harvey Milk]. ... "The non-profit neighborhood organization Castro Area Planning and Action (CAPA), the Art Commission, and DPW have co-led the development of a long-term plan for a new memorial and a multi-purpose civic gathering space and transit hub around the intersection of Market, Castro and 17th Streets. In addition to memorializing Supervisor Milk, this project is intended to improve pedestrian, bicycle and disabled access, the efficiency and usage of public transportation, and traffic circulation at this intersection."
1996: CAPA, a neighborhood organization devoted to developing long-range plans for the upper Market area through extensive community involvement and consensus-building, produced a brief about Planning for the Future of the Castro.
1997: CAPA, a neighborhood organization devoted to developing long-range plans for the upper Market area through extensive community involvement and consensus-building, produced a brief about Castro Street and Harvey Milk Plaza.
1997: Gordon Brent Ingram put together a presentation for CAPA (Castro Area Planning + Action) titled “Remaking Queer Public Space in The Castro”, which highlights a redesigned Harvey Milk Plaza.
2000: SPUR co-sponsored a design competition “to generate ideas on how to convert the existing plaza into an exciting civic landmark that honors the history and contributions of Supervisor Harvey Milk.”
2007: SF Planning Department hosted an “Upper Market Community Workshop Series” which included Harvey Milk Plaza redesign opportunities.
Collectively, these ongoing efforts represent the community’s desire to see an integrated design that balances the many needs of the site. This same sentiment was reaffirmed, once again, at the January 2017 meetings led by FHMP and AIASF.
How has the community been involved in the FHMP conceptual process so far?
In January 2017, FHMP launched a community engagement effort with the first two community meetings in order to gather community input about the future of Harvey Milk Plaza. The community voiced overwhelming interest in making modifications to the existing Plaza to enhance the transit experience, appropriately honor Harvey Milk, and accommodate community gatherings that occur at the site.
As a result of this desire to reimagine Harvey Milk Plaza, FHMP launched a design competition in May 2017 to solicit concepts for the plaza and to identify the best design team with which partner moving forward. The feedback from the January 2017 community meetings was incorporated into the RFQ that was circulated internationally. The competition garnered international attention and interest, and 33 applicants submitted entries to the competition.
From these 33 entrants, 3 finalists were selected by a jury consisting of nationally recognized architects as well as civic leaders. The 3 finalists were posted online for public review and comment. The jury then made the recommendation that the Perkins Eastman team be awarded, which was announced by FHMP in October 2017. The community engagement process for Phase 1 (Conceptual Design) commenced in January 2018 with Perkins Eastman serving as architects. For more information on the process moving forward, click here.
Is preserving the existing plaza, as it currently is, an option?
The SFMTA Accessibility Improvements Project will provide legally required ADA-access to the inbound station platform, and will involve reconfiguration of portions of the existing plaza on both outdoor levels. This includes a new elevator, sidewalk widening, regrading of pathways to the new elevator, and lighting. Eventually, all escalators in the MUNI system will need to be covered with an overhead canopy to protect them from weather and significantly reduce maintenance demands and breakdowns. Thus, some degree of physical and spatial change at Harvey Milk Plaza is unavoidable, regardless of the outcome of the FHMP process.
At the same time, FHMP and the community recognize the significance the existing plaza has to many people, though its design struggles to meet the demands of commuters, a befitting memorial to Harvey, and a community gathering place. FHMP and Perkins Eastman are interested in collaborating with any individual or team who worked on the original station design.
Is it possible to advocate for doing nothing at the existing plaza?
As pointed out above, some degree of physical and spatial change at Harvey Milk Plaza is unavoidable, regardless of the outcome of the FHMP process. Also, there have been community-led conversations ongoing for decades (detailed above), during which the community has long expressed a desire to see an integrated redesign that balances the many needs at the site.
Are the wide stairs leading to the Castro Muni Station located at Castro & Market Streets changing?
FHMP would like to see the existing stairs replaced with those that are easier for users to navigate. Although the stairs met building codes in the 1970s, the current design does not meet current standards. The potential location and alignment of future stairs are part of the community design process FHMP has organized.
ABOUT THE 2017 DESIGN IDEAS COMPETITION
What is the ‘amphitheater’ design I see online?
Renderings produced by the three finalist teams in the 2017 ideas competition were made public in May 2017 as part of a public poll to gauge which concept was most impactful. The design produced by the Perkins Eastman-led team received the most positive results (see poll results here). The winning Perkins Eastman conceptual design submission included an amphitheater feature that also served as a canopy over the entrance to the MUNI station. The Perkins Eastman team is now engaged in a community engagement process to work alongside the community to develop a new design proposal.
Wasn’t there already a competition to redesign the plaza?
The original decision to conduct an international design competition was made, in part, to generate global awareness for a project to recognize Harvey Milk in a place of significance to the LGBT community. Also, the design competition format created an opportunity for anyone and everyone to participate and contribute. FHMP believed a design competition was a more inclusive and democratic way of awarding the commission–and very appropriate to a project intended to honor Harvey Milk.
In the redesign, are the stairs moving to Collingwood?
No, there is no plan to relocate the stairs to Collingwood. The potential location and alignment of future stairs are part of the community design process FHMP has organized.
ABOUT GETTING INVOLVED
What can I do to have my voice heard?
There are two ways for you to be involved:
Participate in person:
Four Community Meetings are planned allowing you to meet the architects and participate in collaborative work sessions to generate ideas. Those meetings were held on:
January 27, 2018, 3:00-4:30pm
March 3, 2018, 3:00-4:30pm
April 7, 2018, 3:00-4:30pm
May 15, 2018, 6:00-8:00pm
After each community meeting, materials from that meeting will be posted online. Each will include an opportunity for you to provide feedback on the topics discussed at the meeting. Use the links below to see materials from the meetings:
To receive updates when new materials are posted online, go here.
What if I didn’t make it to the first community meeting. Will the subsequent meetings be worth my time?
YES, absolutely! While each Community Meeting will build upon the previous input, each one will contain familiar and NEW content for those who have and have not been to one or more previous meeting. Plan to attend as many as possible to maximize your opportunity to provide content and participate!
When is the next Community Meeting?
FHMP held 2 community meetings in January 2017 and four community meetings in 2018 as outlined below. At this time, no additional community meetings have been scheduled. Join our email list to stay informed for ongoing updates.
January 27, 2018, 3:00-4:30pm
March 3, 2018, 3:00-4:30pm
April 7, 2018, 3:00-4:30pm
May 15, 2018, 6:00-8:00pm
Note that SFMTA has plans for separate community outreach regarding the Castro Station Accessibility Improvements Project.
How can I support the effort to reimagine Harvey Milk Plaza?
Sign up on our website to STAY INFORMED. Invite your friends, neighbors, and merchants to join the conversation. Talk to them about why this project is important to you. Share your enthusiasm by posting comments on our social media pages--we’d love to hear from you there! And, whenever you are inspired to do so, you can donate to our fundraising campaign. Every contribution will help the effort to honor Harvey Milk!
How do I stay informed?
The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza website is the primary source of information about the project. Click the blue “STAY INFORMED” button located at the top of the each page to add your email address to our email update list. In addition, FHMP is active on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Nextdoor.
How can I join The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza?
Reach out to us via the VOLUNTEER WITH US portion of our website stipulating your interest. In addition, we encourage anyone interested to please add your email to our distribution list to STAY INFORMED of community outreach and engagement opportunities! Together, we will #honorharveymilk!