SFO Should Not Be Named for Anyone

The last thing San Francisco needs this November is an expensive, divisive and inappropriate Charter amendment to rename the city’s airport. But that’s exactly what is going to happen unless the Board of Supervisors backs away from a well-intentioned but ill-conceived plan being pushed by Supervisor David Campos to rename San Francisco International Airport (SFO) after civil rights pioneer Harvey Milk. This proposal will do more harm than good and should be stopped in its tracks before it’s too late.

San Francisco International Airport is one of the busiest in the nation and its acronym – SFO – is recognized by millions of travelers and convention planners around the globe. It is a world gateway to Asia and the Pacific Rim and the major gateway into our city. Thanks to continued city investment, SFO recently beat its own record, with 44.5 million passengers passing through its gates last year. Altering the name of the airport in any way will only reduce and dilute the spotlight that “San Francisco International Airport” enjoys on the world stage.

The material costs associated with renaming the airport are exorbitant. While Supervisor Campos first suggested the name change would cost somewhere between $50,000 and $250,000, the San Francisco Chronicle has estimated the price tag to be at least $4 million. And this estimate only includes immediate expenses such as highway signs, airport signage and maps. The costs of rebranding and marketing a newly named airport will be significantly more.

Supervisor Campos says his motivation is not only to honor Milk, but to move forward the civil-rights agenda. But placing this measure on the ballot is risky, as voters will be asked to prioritize and invest in many other important issues like housing and transportation. Even the Bay Area Reporter, the region’s LGBT newspaper, calls the proposal “an unwise move” and “a flight of fancy by one supervisor who seems to be putting his political career ahead of the best interest of the LGBT community – and the city.”

It is not uncommon to name transportation facilities after important civic leaders. For example, the new cruise terminal will be named for former San Francisco Port Commissioner and labor leader Jimmy Herman, but the Port itself will not be renamed. Like the Golden Gate Bridge and other signature city landmarks, SFO should not be named after anyone.

Harvey Milk, like so many others in our city’s long and unique history, is deserving of recognition. But SFO is not suitable for this symbolic gesture. The Chamber urges Supervisor Campos to consider a more appropriate alternative or facility to further his agenda. We encourage the rest of the Board to pull their support so that voters will not have to face this expensive and misguided measure.