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No rainbow crosswalks in San Diego, but it's not out of the question

A mock up plan of rainbow crosswalks at University and Fifth Avenues in Hillcrest.
Photo credit:
San Diego LGBT Visitor's Center - 2015 mockup

Across the country, busy neighborhoods in Atlanta, Houston, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, West Hollywood, and Washington, D.C are celebrating LGBT Pride by adding permanent rainbow crosswalks to their city streets. San Diego isn’t on that list which has some people wondering why. 

"Many residents have been advocating for painted crosswalks in our communities," Councilmember Chris Ward told San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. "I have been working with city staff to pursue these types of opportunities."

In 2012, then-Assemblyman Todd Gloria coined the phrase “Sexy Streets” in anticipation of infrastructure improvements to District 3. Finally, In April Hillcrest underwent a major street re-surfacing with an addition of bike lanes and parking spaces. 

Pictures of the pristine pavement made their way to social media and instantly people suggested that rainbow sidewalks could be painted to celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood.

The San Diego LGBT Visitor’s Center was on board with the proposal, they posted some numbers that were taken four years ago about a prospective project which imagined the crossings at Fifth Avenue and University. The total cost back then was estimated at a pricey  $45,000 to $65,000.

"We suspect that cost would be higher today," they wrote. "The material used is a high-grade traffic resistant material that would then have to be tinted to the correct colors."

Even though Councilmember Ward is also intrigued with the idea, he says there's bureaucracy and safety issues involved, "Unfortunately, the City is aware of pushback at the federal level for this particle type of installation," he said in a statement. "There are concerns that painted crosswalks may distract drivers and impede efforts to eliminate traffic fatalities." 

But despite those obstacles, Ward says that doesn't mean the colorful passageways are out of the question entirely.

"I’ll be working to find solutions to this problem and will actively engage residents in that process," he said. "It’s critical that a placemaking project is chosen that builds on the character and identity of our communities in District Three."

San Diego is no stranger to honoring its LGBT community. In 2012, it was the first city in the nation to name a street after gay activist and politician Harvey Milk. Numerous grassroots efforts from City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez have resulted in a postage stamp and a Navy vessel named after Milk who was assassinated in 1978. 

"It is time San Diego joins other major cities who have such rainbow sidewalks," said Murray-Ramirez. "I salute the outstanding people behind this wonderful project."