A two-block street in Hillcrest will be renamed in honor of slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk, following a unanimous vote Tuesday by the San Diego City Council.
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City officials believe Blaine Avenue, which contains a handful of houses and apartment complexes, will become the first Harvey Milk Street in the country when new signs are unveiled on May 22, which would have been his 82nd birthday.
Blaine Avenue currently stretches two blocks between Centre Street and Cleveland Avenue. On one end of the street is The Center, which supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. On the other end is the University Christian Church.
Both establishments and everyone in between supported the change to honor Milk.
"He was an outstanding person and I think that's the thing to celebrate, not that he was gay or straight," said University Christian Church pastor Tim Tiffany. "Many of our members are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, so we think this represents a real step in the right direction."
While Milk mainly is associated with San Francisco, where he was a county supervisor, he was stationed in San Diego when he was in the Navy.
"Harvey first fell in love with California when stationed in San Diego as a U.S. Navy diving instructor," said Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents Hillcrest and is one of the council's two openly gay members. "As we all know, he later relocated to California from New York and helped to advance the (gay) civil rights movement."
One woman argued the road was too small and hidden to be appropriate for honoring Milk, but Gloria and others noted that Blaine Avenue leads to the LGBT Center and serves as the starting point for the annual Pride Parade.
Milk was one of the first openly gay politicians to hold public office when elected to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco in 1977. He pushed through a gay rights law before he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were shot to death in late November 1978 by former Supervisor Dan White.
The only opposition to the street renaming was expressed by James Hartline, who said Milk was connected to the Rev. Jim Jones, the leader of a San Francisco-based cult that was later involved in the slaying of a congressman and mass suicides of its followers in Guyana.
Hartline also argued that Milk committed statutory rape with a teenage boy when he was 33.
"If this is what you want to name a street after this individual the voters are watching," said Hartline.
Despite the lone opposition, the council unanimously approved the name change.
"I think what we're really working toward the fact that Hillcrest as a community has a reputation for being inclusive, diverse, and of course has been the home to San Diego's LGBT community for decades," said Gloria.
The city's costs from the name change will be covered by donations, according to Gloria. He said members of Milk's family are expected to attend the unveiling.
The street name change comes a week before the council is set to tackle another controversial addition to Hillcrest: a giant Pride flag. The Hillcrest Business Association wants to pay to install the flag at the top of a 60-foot pole at the corner of Normal Street and University Avenue, which is just down the street from the future Harvey Milk Street.
"I think that flag is a wonderful reminder to people in this community of how far they've come and yet how far they need to go yet," said Tiffany.
The flag's design was rejected last week by the San Diego Planning Commission, but the city council still gets final say.
"This one has had more implications the flag has when it comes to environmental review, design and some of those kinds of things," said Gloria.
The decision on the flag will be made next Tuesday.
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