West Hollywood’s City Council unanimously approved creating a crosswalk painted in the colors of the transgender flag on Monday night and also updating the rainbow crosswalks to add the colors brown and black to symbolize greater inclusivity.
To show its support for the transgender rights movement, the city will select a crosswalk along Santa Monica Boulevard to be painted the pink, blue and white colors of the transgender flag. A specific crosswalk has not been determined yet, but city staffers will make recommendations, based upon input from the Public Facilities Commission, the Transgender Advisory Board and several other boards.
The rainbow crosswalks at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards will have their thermoplastic paving markings reapplied, this time adding the colors of the “inclusive rainbow flag.”
In addition to the red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple of the traditional rainbow flag, the inclusive rainbow flag adds the colors brown and black.
First introduced in 2017 as part of Philadelphia’s pride observance, the black and brown colors symbolize LGBTQ people of color who have often felt excluded from the LGBTQ community which they see as being oriented toward white people.
The crosswalk item was part of the Council’s consent calendar, so it was approved without discussion. However, several councilmembers did weigh in on the matter during their councilmember comments.
“As a gay white male of a certain age in this city,” said Councilmember John D’Amico, “I do strongly support this effort to bring new life and new awareness to all the kinds of ways in which we want to make sure people are represented and have a place in our community whether its spoken or painted or written.”
Meanwhile, Councilmember Sepi Shyne noted the symbolic value of adding the black and brown colors, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The reality is, during this pandemic, the mortality rate for black and brown lives is absolutely higher than every other person and it is incumbent upon us as the progressive city that we are to do everything that we can to recognize black and brown lives,” said Shyne.
Councilmember John Erickson, who introduced the crosswalk item, showed the walls of his City Hall office are now painted the eight colors of the inclusive rainbow flag.
During the public comment period, several people phoned in opposed to adding the black and brown colors. One said the rainbow flag is already all inclusive, so the new colors were not necessary. Another person said the city had more important matters to concern itself with given the coronavirus pandemic and the economic hardships residents and businesses are suffering.
Several others phoned in supportive of adding the black and brown colors.
Resident Marquita Thomas phoned in with a message from her friend Amber Hikes, who created the inclusive rainbow flag. Hikes called the inclusive rainbow flag a “simple symbol to stand in solidarity.”
“The symbols we use, the representations we highlight, matters. It matters to people who have not always seen themselves in West Hollywood and it matters people who would prefer to keep it that way,” read Hikes’ statement.
“Your city and your leaders have for decades been role modeling that its possible that we embrace equity, demand justice and celebrate all of us,” Hikes’ statement continued. “Updating your flag proclaims with everything that black lives more than matter. You’re saying that queer black and brown representation is who we are, that black and brown trans lives are precious and ought to be celebrated, that centering the leadership and voices of those who are impacted is the only way we will arrive at collective liberation.”
The cost to replace the thermoplastic pavement markings of the rainbow crosswalks is estimated to be $85,000. When an intersection is selected for the thermoplastic pavement markings in the colors of the transgender flag, it would likely have a similar cost.
Although many cities now have rainbow colored crosswalks, West Hollywood was the first to adopt them on a permanent basis. Originally intended to be temporary as part of the June 2012 pride celebration, the initial rainbow crosswalks were merely paint on the pavement, done at a cost of $13,000.
However, the rainbow crosswalks quickly proved so popular with both residents and tourists, the city opted to make them permanent. The colored thermoplastic pavement markings were installed in the crosswalks in Oct. 2012 at a cost of $67,000.
Although West Hollywood was the first city to add rainbow crosswalks, it will NOT be the first to add transgender flag colored crosswalks. The city of Almere in the Netherlands added them in 2019, as did Toronto and Chicago.
In June 2020 on the night before the All Black Lives Matter march from Hollywood to West Hollywood, a group of activists that included Erickson (before he was elected to City Council) painted the transgender flag in the middle of the intersection at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards.
That painting was done without prior approval from the city, although Mayor Lindsey Horvath was present to witness it happening and apparently arranged for sheriff’s cars to block the intersection and divert traffic while it was being painted. The city removed that paint a few days later because state law forbids anything other than directional markings be painted in an intersection.