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SAN DIEGO – After months of planning, fundraising and hard work, a rainbow flag will finally fly permanently over Hillcrest.
Friday at 6:30 pm, the Hillcrest Pride Flag will be raised for the first time during a special ceremony that will kick off “America’s Pride” weekend in San Diego. Community members who attend San Diego Pride’s annual Spirit of Stonewall Rally, which will be held on Harvey Milk and Normal streets in Hillcrest, will be able to witness the flag’s first official raising at the end of the program.
Many in San Diego’s LGBT community are looking forward to seeing this become a permanent landmark, a symbol of how far the struggle for equality has advanced.
“No matter how old you get or how long you have been around, Pride in your own community is always very special,” said Joseph Sims, a supporter of the rainbow flag project. “We’ve come a long way and it’s so exciting to finally know that our flag will fly over Hillcrest every day of the year!”
While the flag project eventually received the full support of the San Diego City Council, the process to get the flagpole approved was met with a few challenges.
The Hillcrest Business Association (HBA), which spearheaded the project, had the responsibility of navigating through the City of San Diego’s permitting process, which included presentations to community groups and the city’s Planning Commission.
One of the first community groups that reviewed the project was the Uptown Planners, who initially looked at plans for the Hillcrest Pride Flag in October. At the time, the group had numerous questions about the proposal and tabled the vote on its recommendation.
Pride flag organizers were invited to return to the Uptown Planners on Feb. 7, which narrowly approved the project, 8-6, after nearly an hour of discussion.
The Hillcrest Town Council also endorsed the Hillcrest Pride Flag project, 13-4 with two abstentions, a week after the Uptown Planners vote.
When the project reached the city’s Planning Commission, the final step in the process before heading to the full City Council, things didn’t look so bright. After much debate by the commission, the process was stalled because any action taken by the group must get at least four votes on either side to move forward.
With two commissioners absent from the April 12 meeting, there was a 3-2 vote, which led the commission to reschedule the item for a later date.
On April 26, community members showed up in full force to the Planning Commission’s meeting only to watch that group vote 4-2 to not recommend the project to the City Council.
Although it was a setback to the momentum that had been built along the way, spirits were high as flag proponents left City Hall, knowing that the City Council, who would be making the final decision on the project, was filled with supporters of the proposal.
This optimism turned out to be correct because on May 15, the San Diego City Council voted 7-0 to approve the project, with City Councilmember Lori Zapf absent.
The news of the City Council’s approval got international press, and project organizers spent the evening following the meeting celebrating.
The Amazing High Heel Race, a fundraiser created last year, has been held twice and raised thousands of dollars for the project, which was added to large donations made by community leaders such as Chris Shaw, proprietor of the family of Mo’s Universe restaurants; Cecelia Moreno, owner of Crest Café; Johnathan Hale, CEO and publisher of Hale Media, which publishes SDGLN and SDPIX; and Nicholas Moede, owner of Rich’s Nightclub.
The flag project has been entirely funded by private donations, and no taxpayer funds will be used for the construction or upkeep of the pole, organizers say.
Along with the funds for the project being raised privately, numerous community volunteers spent countless hours working on the Hillcrest Pride Flag, notably Michael Brennan of Urban Green, who created the renderings and designed the flag pole and the area at the base surrounding it.
Brennan, who serves on the board of HBA, donated his time and services to the organization to make this project a reality. Other community leaders, activists, HBA board members and staff also worked hard to garner community support, and rally behind the project.
With plans in place for the project to be installed in time for this weekend’s San Diego LGBT Pride festivities, the construction timeline was very tight, following the May 15 City Council approval.
Core testing and preparation of the area began on June 8 with drilling taking place about a month later. The pole was installed days later, with crowds of community members and project supporters looking on.
The pole and surrounding base are complete and ready for the 12 foot x 18 foot flag to be raised Friday night.
Sims, who participated in the Amazing High Heel Race, says he has happy to have been a part of the project’s fundraising efforts over the last two years, and can’t wait to see the flag fly high.
“I will be present, tomorrow, when ‘she’ goes up over Hillcrest for the first time. It’s going to be a very special moment! Congrats to everyone and have a safe and enjoyable PRIDE!”
The Hillcrest Pride Flag will be raised immediately following Friday’s Spirit of Stonewall Rally, around 6:30 pm. Following the flag raising, the first Pride of Hillcrest Block Party will be held on Normal Street and University Avenue.
For more information, click HERE.
To read our past coverage of the Hillcrest Pride Flag project, click HERE.