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Hillcrest Pride Flag

by Michael Brennan .
Friday Jul 13, 2012

It was early in March 2011 that I first received a phone call about the pride flag project in Hillcrest. The Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) contacted Nathan Ouren a local architect, to see if he knew of anyone who could provide drawings for the landmark flag project. He suggested that it would be a project best suited for a landscape architect, suggested me and I agreed to assist. A community project of this nature may present itself only once in a lifetime and I wanted to be involved. The hope of all concerned, was to have the flag up in time for Pride 2012. Seemingly a long way off, but public projects can be notoriously slow.

I prepared artistic renderings of the flag, its location, what the surrounding area would look like and this became the face of the project as it went through its various hurdles. The Beautification Committee gave its approval and the San Diego Pride organization agreed to its maintenance. The HBA Board of Directors then agreed to allocate their staff time, resources and fundraising efforts to the project.
The first fundraising event held was what would become the Annual High Heel Race, held in June of 2011. The result of the race proceeds, combined with local donations, gave us enough money to get the project off the ground. Preliminary meetings were held with city officials, including Councilmember Todd Gloria, at which time we discussed the best path through San Diego City's Development Services Department. It was evident that we would be subject to what is known as the dreaded "process"-meaning we would have to go before both Planning Commission and City Council for approval.

I will never forget the first public meeting in which the project was presented. It was the October 2011 Uptown Planners meeting, at which time the project was relatively well received. In spite of some rather "colorful" vocal opinion, by February 2012 the Uptown Planners voted to endorse the project. This gave us momentum toward City Staff support, for the necessary site development permit. At this point a major concession was necessary regarding the flag itself; it had to be reduced in size from our requested 20 by 30 feet (the same size as San Francisco's Castro flag) to 12 by 18 feet. A let down to be sure, but conversely, we managed to maintain the overall height of 65 feet for the flag's display pole.

By March of this year, site development plans were cleared for presentation to the Planning Commission. We were eager to have their endorsement, as they are the appointed body that makes recommendations to the City Council on planning matters. The assumption was made that there would be resistance at this point and at the Planning Commission meeting in mid April there was indeed a sizable amount-the resolution failed to receive a decisive vote. The project was then dealt another blow when presented again in late April 2012, at which point the commission officially recommended the City Council deny approval of the project.

The only way forward, was to present the project directly to the City Council and after many, many meetings, E-mails and phone calls it appeared that a majority of members were on board. A presentation at City Hall was made on May 15 and after some debate on plan specifics, Councilmember Todd Gloria made a motion to approve the project and the Council voted unanimously (save for Lorie Zapf who was absent) in favor. There were cheers from the many supporters in the audience and even some tears. This was the moment we had all been working so hard for and-for me personally-one of the highlights of my career thus far.

Over the past month, permit work has continued and with luck on our side, we will have permits in hand and shovels in the ground by the time this article goes to print. We plan to celebrate our community on Friday, July 20 and raise the flag for the first time at the Stonewall Rally to kick off Pride weekend, with the Pride of Hillcrest Street Party held beneath the proud symbol.

If you would like to support the project by donating, please contact Ben Nicholls of the Hillcrest Business Association at 619.299.3330 or go to and click on the Hillcrest Pride Flag link.

Michael Brennan is a San Diego Landscape Architect and owner at Urban Green, for more information on him and his projects, visit

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