LONG BEACH — As Long Beach readies for the annual gay pride celebration this week, City Councilman Robert Garcia has announced a plan to name a local park after gay rights advocate Harvey Milk.
Not everyone, however, agrees that a Long Beach park should be named for a man who made his mark in San Francisco.
"Why not honor a Long Beach person who worked so very hard to get the Gay Pride Festival and Parade in Long Beach," Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who, like Garcia, is gay, posted on her blog Friday. "Judith Doyle and two others were the founders and had to fight the City of Long Beach every step of the way to get the parade."
Garcia had asked Schipske to co-sponsor the legislation for the future park at 3rd Street and The Promenade downtown, but she declined.
Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal has since added her name to the proposal, which the council on Tuesday will consider sending to its Housing and Neighborhoods Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission for review.
Garcia responded to Schipske's criticism that the naming would be a first for a city that prides itself on its diversity and strong lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"Of the 120-plus parks in the city of Long Beach, there's not one named after an LGBT civil rights leader," Garcia said.
He added that the park will include a recognition of local gay leaders as well, perhaps by putting their names on some sort of brick or tile plaza.
Schipske said she had other name ideas, but they were rejected.
"I would prefer that we name the area 'Unity Plaza' or 'Human Rights Plaza' so that it could be more inclusive of all those who have fought for civil and human rights," Schipske says in her blog, www.gerrieschipske.com.
Garcia noted that Long Beach has named other parks for specific state or national civil rights leaders, such as Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr.
"We've got a lot of parks named after both local and national leaders," Garcia said. "If (Schipske) wants to name one of her (5 th District) parks after a local community leader, I would support that 100 percent."
The naming question has created buzz on Garcia's Facebook page as well since he posted news of his proposal Wednesday.
More than 70 people had commented on it by Friday, with the vast majority appearing to support the idea. More than 120 people had "liked" Garcia's post.
Still, there were some detractors.
"Hey Robert, Does Harvey Milk have any Long Beach connection," one person wrote. "If not then I would not support the naming of a park after him here at this time. There are plenty of Long Beach folks who have yet to recieve (sic) any respect."
Another commenter responded: "He does have a Long Beach connection in that he paved the way for 85,000 of Long Beach's resident(s) to enjoy this city openly and proudly."
Milk became one of the first openly gay elected politicians in U.S. history when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was shot and killed the following year by Dan White, a conservative former city supervisor.
The park naming announcement was timed with Long Beach Pride, as well as Milk's birthday, which is May 22, Garcia said. Yet he said the name wasn't decided lightly.
Garcia said that it has been discussed for six months and was chosen with help from the North Pine Neighborhood Alliance and Promenade Area Residents Association, as well as the gay community.
On Monday, Garcia and other local leaders -- including representatives from the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Center -- will officially announce the park naming proposal. Representatives from the Center declined to comment Friday about the name but said they will give their views Monday.
The park is part of the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency's North Promenade Project, which is the final stage of renovating the commercial, office and residential plaza that spans from Ocean Boulevard to 3 rd Street.
A committee of local gay leaders will be formed to decide which members of the Long Beach gay community to honor in the park, and a committee of local residents will decide the park's design, Garcia said.
Assuming the council moves the proposal forward, it will get a thorough public vetting, he added.
"There will be plenty of opportunities for people to give input," Garcia said.