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Rainbow Honor Walk Takes Step Toward Becoming Neighborhood Reality

This plaque, designed by project spearheader Isak Lindenauer, is one vision
of how the proposed walk will look.

By J. Dean Woodbury

From a jaunty yellow brick road, replete with a gigantic pair of ruby slippers, to a rainbow-striped Hollywood Walk of Fame-styled trail, there have been several proposals over the years advocating a way to both honor famous LGBT figures, and bring tourist dollars into the Castro. One such vision is on the verge of becoming a reality.

The “Establishment of the Rainbow Honor Walk” was one of the items on the agenda at the City Operations & Neighborhood Services (CONS) meeting that took place at City Hall on March 8. Isak Lindenauer, co-chair of the resolution and a 30-plus-year resident and business owner in the Castro, was among the first to speak about the resolution’s purpose, which is the design, creation and installation of the tentatively named “Rainbow Honor Walk” in the Castro. Lindenauer, who proposed the idea over a year ago, feels that the time is right for proceeding with the plan, although it is “still in the formative and generative stage.”

The function of the Rainbow Honor Walk would be to highlight and honor those who have positively impacted the community. Christina Velasco, principal at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, supports the idea. “I certainly am behind this effort as an opportunity to teach our children, at K-5, what it means to walk the walk of a civil rights leader like Harvey Milk, where this plaque would maybe start,” she said.

The Walk would be centered throughout the Castro, extending down Market to Octavia. The concept is not a wholly original idea, as it had been proposed by David Perry, a principal with David Perry & Associates. That, however, was 15 years ago. Since then, Lindenauer and Perry have been working together to realize this historic project. The resolution ultimately received the unanimous support of the land-use committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Lindenauer credits close friend and neighbor Allan Baird, who has long been a staunch ally of the gay community, with his decision to move forward with the idea for the project. “Without his support and guidance, I don’t know if this would have crystallized the way it has; he was instrumental in pointing me in the right direction, of advising me who I should talk with to get the ball rolling.”
One of those people was District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who introduced and sponsored the resolution. “I couldn’t be happier knowing that he is wanting to sponsor this, I don’t think we could do this without his leadership,” Lindenauer said.

There remains much to do. Initial outlines for the design of each plaque were based on the stars in the easily recognizable Hollywood Walk of Fame, with other renderings including triangles or rectangles, or adorned in rainbow colors. The newly developing steering committee overseeing this project, whose members are yet to be announced, will anticipate public input towards the finished template.

“I hope that we will have a number of community meetings, headed by the steering committee, to gather input, to determine who will appear on the plaques, and also what the plaques will look like, and even their placement.” Lindenauer said, indicating that creativity was really the only limiting factor in determining what the installation would look like. “Who says the names have to go on the sidewalk? They could even go up on walls.”

As for who shall be honored on the plaques, there is a vast pool of potential candidates from which to draw, from Audrey Lourde and Ellen DeGeneres to Barney Frank and Randy Shilts. Allan Baird, the union leader who was a driving force behind the Coors beer boycotts in 1974, shared his insight.
“A friend of mine, a gay man, he told me he really feels that straight people should be included on the plaques, too, such as Elizabeth Taylor or George Moscone, people who have done just as much for gay civil rights,” Baird said. “That’s his thinking.”

Financial support for the project would fall under the aegis of the Castro Business District (CBD), which would assist in fundraising efforts by gathering from private sources as well as bank donations.

“This is something for which we are not asking the city for any money. This is something for which we see private fundraising taking care of,” Perry said.

Regarding logistics and installation, the steering committee will be looking to myriad city organizations for guidance, including the Arts Commission and the Dept. of Public Works (DPW), not only for inspiration, but also to make sure that the final product will be user-friendly and ADA compliant. Nick Elsner, of the DPW, has been involved with several other commemorative plaque projects throughout the city, including the Barbary Coast Trail and the Bay Area Music Awards.
“What I have experienced personally from just making all the plaques is that it’s a really exciting venture just to get your own perspective on the history of San Francisco, so I look forward to working on this.”

Estimates of when the first and final plaques will be laid are speculative, as is the impact that the Rainbow Honor Walk will have on a local or national scale. To Baird, who has seen his share of history in the making, it is obvious: “This is going to be a big thing-so big. It’s going to be something that is known worldwide!” And it will have all started here.

For those interested in participating in this project, please contact Isak Lindenauer or David Perry at for more information.