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Are rainbow crosswalks coming to Hillcrest?

SAN DIEGO -- Momentum is building for the possible installation of rainbow crosswalks in Hillcrest, and some community members will soon begin organizing to make it happen.

Since the City of West Hollywood installed a set of rainbow crosswalks in that city in last summer, activists in cities around the globe have wanted their own rainbow crosswalks. A set was painted on Oxford Street in Sydney, Australia in honor of the city's famed LGBT Mardi Gras celebration earlier this year, but it was removed shortly after because city officials deemed it a "traffic hazard."

The situation in Sydney launched a "DIY (do it yourself) Rainbow Crosswalks" movement that includes a popular Facebook page that includes photos of people around the world creating their own "rainbow crosswalks" out of chalk.

Martin Duvander, a Los Angeles-based artist who is credited with coming up with the concept for West Hollywood's crosswalks, told SDGLN last year that the approval of the project there was a very powerful statement.

"A gentleman at the City Council meeting told me that this intersection is a symbol of gay/lesbian rights, it was there where many demonstrations had gathered. So to be smack in the middle of it is an honor," Duvander said.

While West Hollywood's rainbow crosswalks along Santa Monica Boulevard were initially only to be installed for LGBT Pride Month in 2012, the city later decided to make them permanent, and recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the project.

Locally, several community members have kicked around the idea of installing rainbow crosswalks in Hillcrest, but many did not know how to begin.

Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA), started a discussion in a Facebook group the other day, noting that his organization is interested in leading the charge on this project. The HBA is the group that was responsible for the installation of the Hillcrest Pride Flag, and other neighborhood improvements.

Nicholls plans to write a proposal to get the project started, based on feedback he has received in the Facebook discussion, which included dozens of suggestions on where the rainbow crosswalks should be located in Hillcrest.

While a number of locations were suggested, Nicholls suggested a spot that does not have a traffic light because heavier traffic will cause additional wear on the paint - although some community members said they think there are ways to maintain the crosswalks' paint.

Locations suggested include Harvey Milk and Normal Street; Fifth and University avenues; Normal Street at University; Third and Robinson; and Third and University.

Brett Serwalt, owner of Obelisk Mercantile, said he would love to see lots of rainbow crosswalks throughout the neighborhood.

"Like a dog marking territory, I vote for one at every entry point into Hillcrest," wrote Serwalt.

Bruce Gaia-Love said he wants to see the crossings painted on a high visibility intersection.

"There has to be a way to coat it for protection, be able to repaint it on occasion, or something," Gaia-Love wrote. "I hate when great ideas and visions get shoved to side streets out of sight."

Nicholls says he will present his proposal to the HBA's Beautification Committee at an upcoming meeting, and get additional feedback from the group. He hopes to submit the idea to the HBA board of directors at the November meeting, and if approved, submit the idea to the City of San Diego to approve the project.

The project timing could vary depending on decisions made by the HBA board, the City of San Diego, and other permitting agencies. Regardless, Nicholls and his group are committed to making the project happen and look forward to hearing from the community.

"It would be beautiful," said new Hillcrest resident Bryan Garcia. "I just moved here and it already is incredible to be able to see the giant rainbow flag every day. It would make me so proud to be able to walk across the street on a rainbow path. It's like saying 'everyone is welcome here.'"

To voice your opinion on the rainbow sidewalks for Hillcrest, contact Nicholls or the HBA by clicking HERE.