Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Political Notebook: Pride Committee, SF city agencies preparefor Pride


Muni buses may sport "Happy Pride" on destination signs in June, similar to this rendition. (Photo illustration: Matthew S. Bajko, Kurt Thomas)
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It is only seven weeks until San Francisco kicks off its annual Pride celebration. The yearly salute to all things LGBT will officially take place Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24 this year.

Now in its 42nd year, Pride is marching along with a stronger fiscal picture and stable leadership after a string of financial and oversight issues hit the organization following the 2010 event. A year ago the Pride board rehired Brendan Behan, a former employee, to take over on an interim basis, and as of January 1, he was permanently named executive director.

"Things are going incredibly well. I am just so happy this year we are at the place we are at," Behan told the Bay Area Reporter this week, adding that it is a welcome change not to have people question Pride's viability. "I take it as a compliment that this year we are taken as a given. Last year everyone kept asking is Pride happening."

Organizing for what is believed to be the largest LGBT outdoor event on the West Coast has been without any major hiccups this year, said Behan. With staff in place, Pride is back to a normal schedule in terms of planning.

In just one example, by the time Behan met with then-interim Mayor Ed Lee's administration last spring to schedule the annual rainbow flag raising at City Hall to kickoff Pride week, he was already booked that Monday night. The ceremony didn't take place until the Wednesday night prior to Pride weekend.

Behan was able to approach Lee's staff early on this year to ensure that the event occurs on schedule. It will take place at 5 p.m. Monday, June 18.

"We just confirmed today that we will have it the day we usually have it," Behan told the B.A.R. Tuesday afternoon.

Now in its fifth decade, the city's Pride observance follows a set routine. At the start of June the rainbow flags are installed along Market Street, then later at City Hall.

Friday night the weekend of Pride is the Trans March, and volunteers begin installing the giant Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks. Saturday brings the Dyke March and Pink Saturday street party in the Castro. Then comes the hours-long parade and Civic Center festival finale Sunday.

Other than the odd occurrence, the way San Francisco celebrates the LGBT community is fairly formulaic.

That got the Political Notebook to thinking about ways the city could jazz up this year's festivities. After making some inquiries, a few changes may greet Pride revelers come June.

One possibility is seeing the city's fleet of Muni buses sport "Happy Pride" messages on the electronic destination signs on the front of buses that alert riders to which route the vehicle is running. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees the city's public transit, has added "Go Giants" messages to the bus route displays on the baseball team's game days since April.

The Political Notebook asked MTA spokesman Paul Rose about having a similar message around Pride, but so far has not received a response. Yet when the idea was recently mentioned to gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, he said he would look into the possibility.

Within hours Wiener, who is vice chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, told the B.A.R. in a text message, "Muni says it should be able to put happy pride on the buses."

Another idea some departed Pride officials had back during former Mayor Willie Brown's administration in the late 1990s was to have City Hall lit up at night in pink. Their request, along with a proposal to sheath the building in pink fabric one year, was denied.

"We asked, but were told (at that time) that the exterior appearance was not changed under any circumstances," recalled Teddy Witherington, a former Pride executive director.

New lighting technology now makes it possible for the city to easily change out the colors in the lights surrounding the building's historic rotunda. They've been red for Valentine's Day, green to highlight the return of the musical Wicked, and orange to celebrate the Giant's 2010 World Series victory.

Special holiday lighting has decked out the building during the Christmas season, and in January it bore the red and gold colors of the 49ers to celebrate the team's bid to be NFC champions.

It already has been bathed in a pink glow, back in January 2008, to support a breast cancer awareness campaign.

Asked if City Hall would once again bare pink, or sport the colors of the rainbow flag, during Pride this year, mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said Lee would entertain such a proposal.

"Pride is a spectacular citywide event and if the organizers request that City Hall be lit up, the city would surely consider this," emailed Falvey. "The city receives several requests every year to light City Hall in recognition of various organizations or campaigns. In order to maintain the magnificence of City Hall and to highlight the importance of any special lighting, the city attempts to limit the number of times City Hall is lit up during the year."

Patrick Carney, who oversees the installation of the pink triangle each year, told the B.A.R. he would welcome seeing City Hall aglow in LGBT-affiliated colors.

"That would be great to see it done up in the rainbow colors similar to how the Diesel building is lighted in the Castro," said Carney, a local architect who worked on the seismic overhaul of City Hall following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

When the building re-opened in 1999 adjusting the lights was more complicated then, said Carney.

"These days it is easier, plus they probably have every color under the rainbow at City Hall for the lights. I would think they could do rainbow colors," he said. "I would settle even for pink."

After speaking with the B.A.R. this week, Behan said he would make a formal request about the lighting.

"That wasn't in my notes of things to check about, but I love the idea," said Behan.

He said he welcomes seeing city departments find ways to highlight Pride.

"I think anytime a city agency like Muni or others are able to talk to the community about their support for Pride, whether it is a 'Happy Pride' statement on a Muni bus or something similar, it adds to the vibrancy of Pride month. It helps the community celebrate."

One agency that is stepping up its visibility around Pride this year is the city's Recreation and Parks Department. Last year the agency debuted an altered logo that had a rainbow added to it.

This year that logo will adorn the freebies rec and park staffers hand out during Pride weekend, said spokeswoman Connie Chan .


Butterflies won't obstruct pink triangle

One change that likely won't happen is seeing the pink triangle displayed atop Twin Peaks for longer than its usual two days. Last year a monthlong red ribbon installation on the hillside to mark the 30th year of the AIDS epidemic raised the possibility of seeing a similar extended stay for the gay pride symbol.

Since 1996 Carney has rallied volunteers to help him put up and then take down over Pride weekend the panels for the upside down triangle, which is associated with Nazi persecution of homosexuals.

"I think there would be push back if we did it longer," Carney told the B.A.R. this week.

In addition to concerns about damage to native plants due to the triangle's tarps, another factor limits the symbols' duration. Three years ago the endangered Mission Blue butterfly was reintroduced to the area, causing some environmentalists to question what impact the pink triangle could have on their habitat.

Carney and Wiener met with the butterfly backers last July to discuss their concerns. The consensus, said Carney, was that because of the short timespan the pink triangle appears it doesn't hurt the Mission Blues.

"They were very happy we are there for not very long. The pink triangle doesn't seem to cause any harm to the butterfly they are trying to establish," said Carney.

He is in the process of getting the needed permits for this year's installation and he has requested the same short timeframe.

"Even though we would like more visibility, of course we don't want to cause any undue environmental harm or get people riled up and against it," he said. "The reason we are doing it, is it is an educational tool. We don't want to generate our own controversy."

This week rec and park officials from San Francisco and San Mateo, along with conservationists, began releasing more Mission Blues on the southern peak of Twin Peaks. By the end of May 40 males and 20 females caught from San Bruno Mountain will be released.

"The success of this project is encouraging, and we look forward to continue our effort of restoring wild habitat in the middle of our urban metropolis," stated Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park general manager.

Asked by the B.A.R. what the increased numbers of endangered butterflies could mean for future displays of the pink triangle, Ginsburg and Mark Buell, president of the Rec and Park Commission, both were adamant that their presence would have no impact.

"I have no interest in discontinuing that tradition whatsoever," said Buell.

"Nor do I," added Ginsburg.


Pride sponsorships increase

In terms of Pride's finances this year, Behan said it has already exceeded its sponsorship level from 2011 and has welcomed a bevy of new corporate donors. Last year corporate cash commitments totaled $526,250, and Behan thinks he will hit $600,000 this year.

Those coming on board with Pride for 2012 include Verizon, DirecTV, and Cirque du Soleil. The Canadian circus troupe may enter a float in the parade.

"We are trying to figure out their parade involvement," said Behan.

Another new sponsor is the W San Francisco. The South of Market hotel is hosting a fundraiser for Pride from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, June 7. Tickets cost $50 or $80 for couples.

The event is part of a renewed commitment by Pride board members to pitch in with fundraising. Behan expects it will raise $20,000, which will be designated toward Pride's outreach, programming, and education efforts outside of the month of June.

"It is part of the board's initiative to do more work on fundraising, which came out of the City Controller's report," said Behan, referring to the findings of a 2010 city audit of the agency.

For more info on SF Pride, visit


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column looks at where candidates for a SF Dem Party panel stand on ranked-choice voting.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail

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