By Chris Ward, Fernando Lopez and Chloe Janda
Decorative crosswalks have been used throughout California and the country to explore the unique cultural and historical identity of communities. Over the last six years there have been long-standing, community-driven efforts to install a rainbow crosswalk in Hillcrest and deliver a visual demonstration of the LGBTQIA+ movement’s legacy of inclusivity, influence, and activism here in San Diego. With the introduction of San Diego’s new Creative Crosswalks Pilot Program, every neighborhood now has the opportunity to celebrate their uniqueness by utilizing crosswalks as an expression of community pride, sense of place and neighborhood history.
Rainbow crosswalks have become an empowering artistic avenue for LGBTQIA+ peoples in recent years for their ability to combine creativity and celebrate unique cultural and historical identities within communities. Rainbow crosswalks have been installed — in both temporary and permanent capacities — in West Hollywood, San Francisco, Seattle, New Jersey, Arizona and even Paris, France. Now, it’s San Diego’s turn.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the New York City Stonewall Riots. The Hillcrest community and surrounding areas are eager to celebrate, and installation of rainbow crosswalks has quickly risen to the top of locals’ hearts and minds. The most commonly suggested area to paint is the intersection of University Avenue and Normal Street because it is where the annual San Diego Pride Festival entrance is and is a widely known area within the community.
Over the last six years, there’s been a long-standing, community-driven effort to install a rainbow crosswalk in Hillcrest, but momentum for the project has been stagnant. In 2012, then-Councilmember Todd Gloria lobbied for and successfully implemented infrastructure improvements in District 3, including street resurfacing and adding bikes lanes and parking spaces. When the photos gained attention on social media, it kickstarted the conversation about adding rainbow sidewalks. Since the infrastructure changes had already been made and approved, rainbow paint, unfortunately, wasn’t a quick and easy addition due to permits and regulations.
Since then, we have been working together to find a solution that meets federal standards and is feasible both economically and practically. In January, the city of San Diego presented a pilot program at City Council that would address concerns from the Federal Highway Administration and allow the use of solid hues on crosswalks. With this program, every district and neighborhood of San Diego would be able to celebrate unique aspects of their communities by utilizing crosswalks as an expression of community pride, sense of place and neighborhood history. It isn’t all about rainbows — it’s about celebrating uniqueness and acknowledging communities.
Thanks to the pilot program, council offices will be able to sponsor applicants who wish to color their crosswalks — upon approval — but these parties will have to commit to funding the project’s installation and maintenance.
The Hillcrest Rainbow Crosswalk is close to becoming a reality and completed in time for San Diego Pride 2019 in July; the next step is to fundraise for installation and guarantee that this community project will last for generations. We have a goal of raising $25,000 to cover the costs of installation, but to meet that goal we need support from not just the Hillcrest community but from all San Diego County residents who believe in this project and the meaning behind it. We humbly ask for donations for the goal of contributing to San Diego’s LGBTQIA+ legacy, creating a visual marker that will forever celebrate inclusivity and diversity. Donations can be made at sdpride.org/rainbow.
It is time for San Diego to rally together and support one another. We hope you will join us.
—Chris Ward is a member of the San Diego City Council, representing the Third Council District. Fernando Lopez is Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Chloe Janda is the volunteer Public Relations Manager of San Diego Pride.