Will the transgender flag be repainted on the street or a sidewalk in West Hollywood? The city’s Transportation Commission thinks it should and is taking its plan to the city’s Transgender Advisory Board for input.
During the Transportation Commission’s monthly meeting, held Wednesday on Zoom, newly elected commission chair Alexander Bazley proposed the idea of replacing the transgender flag on the street somewhere in the city.
Bazley explained that the transgender flag, painted by guerilla activists in the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards just prior to the All Black Lives Matter protest march on June 14, was an “incredible sight” with march participants responding positively to it. The city later removed the flag by power washing the intersection, a move that brought ire from transgender activists.
“I do think they would be really a nice landmark for the city and go a long to showing our support for trans community members and make sure they know they do belong here and we do respect them and appreciate their contribution to our community,” explained Bazley.
The other commissioners liked Bazley’s idea, with Commissioner Dan Wentzel saying, “There are a few other trans flag sidewalks around the world and we should have our own. West Hollywood should be leading in this area.”
Commissioner Chris Bowen volunteered to present the idea to the Transgender Advisory Board (TAB) for input. Bonnie Smith, the TAB staff liaison, said she would put the item on the agenda for TAB’s August meeting, scheduled for Aug. 5. Smith said TAB members would “welcome the discussion.”
Whether the pink, blue and white transgender flag will be painted on the street or the sidewalk or on crosswalks has yet to be determined. TAB will offer its suggestions, but ultimately it will be the City Council’s decision if the flag should be replaced and if so, where and in what form.
Although going through the proper city channels to get a permanent place for the trans flag approved will take some time, Bowen hoped it could be done by November. Transgender Awareness Week is in November and the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance is held on Nov. 20.
“We need to do everything we can to rectify the situation as quickly as possible,” said Bowen. “The way that [the transgender flag] was erased kind of violently, [it’s important] that we get it out there and rectify the situation as quickly as possible.”
In the late night/early morning hours of June 13/14, just hours before the All Black Lives Matter protest march was held, activists painted the transgender flag in the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards, adjacent to the rainbow crosswalks at that intersection. That intersection was where the massive march was scheduled to conclude.
Similarly, a different group of activists painted “All Black Lives Matter” on the street of Hollywood Boulevard at Highland Avenue, which is where the march started. That intersection is in Hollywood and governed by the Los Angeles City Council.
While the transgender flag painting was done without getting any official permission from the City of West Hollywood, Mayor Lindsey Horvath was present observing it being painted. Sheriff’s deputies were aware this painting was underway since the Sheriff’s station is located at that same intersection. However, Horvath’s presence likely suggested tacit approval of the flag being painted there and apparently resulted in Sheriff’s deputies not stopping the painting.
Several city officials were among those painting the flag in the intersection, including Planning Commissioner John Erickson (who is a candidate for City Council in the November election) and TAB member Alexis Sanchez. Erickson posted photos of them painting the intersection on Facebook.
Other city officials apparently present were Women’s Advisory Board members Karen Eyres and Angela de Silva, Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board member Zekiah Wright and Public Facilities Commission member Noemi Torres, who is also a candidate in the November City Council election.
While the transgender flag was there for the All Black Lives Matter protest march on June 14 and remained there for several more days, it was ultimately removed by power washing the intersection in the early morning hours of June 19.
State law dictates only directional information can be painted in an intersection. Likewise having a flag painted in the intersection posed a potential public safety problem according to Bob Cheung, the city’s senior transportation planner.
The painting of the flag without the city’s permission was criticized by City Council members John Duran and Lauren Meister. Although City Council members (especially Councilmember Duran) received the wrath of several transgender activists, angry that the flag was removed on the eve of Transgender Pride, the order to remove the flag was made by City Manager Paul Arevalo.
During a recent City Council meeting Arevalo mentioned that insurance liability issues also factored into his decision to have it removed, implying that the city could be liable if there was a traffic accident in that intersection while the trans flag was painted there.