The City of Atlanta, just weeks after approving the permanent installation of rainbow crosswalks at a high-profile Midtown intersection, changed course and is now ordering the crosswalks scrubbed from the streets shortly after Pride.
The abrupt change took the gay organizers of the Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks project by surprise.
"This is a frustrating turn of events for all of us," Robert Sepulveda Jr., the projects' founder and president, says in a press release. "I wish the city could have told us this issue over a year ago when the first proposal was sent to them and not a few weeks before the installation date."
City officials pulled the switcheroo on Tuesday, according to an email Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza sent to Sepulveda:
Thank you for your patience
The legislation to allow you to place the artwork crossing at tenth and piedmont will be in effect from about Oct 3 thru Oct 16 at which time it must be removed
We have multiple requests for artwork on city streets and need to work on a more permanent policy to manage in terms of public safety in the future at which time dpw will be happy to work with you on a permanent facility for this location
The project gained city approval in August, an OK that allowed for the permanent installation of the crosswalks at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue. Sepulveda's idea quickly gained traction and popular support helping to raise more than $44,000 – twice the $20,000 goal – in private funds through a Go Fund Me campaign to pay for the installation and future maintenance. The crosswalks are scheduled to be installed ahead of the Atlanta Pride celebration, which begins on Oct. 9.
Sepulveda says the project will continue to push for the city to keep its word – and the crosswalks as a permanent installation.
"The rainbow colors of the crosswalks may have to be removed when Pride is over, but the clear message we are fighting for can't be erased that easily. These crosswalks no matter what obstacles are faced are more than just crosswalks, they are symbols of acceptance, unity and tolerance," he says.
On Thursday, Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks is hosting a reception for its patrons and sponsors.
UPDATE | A spokesperson for Mendoza directed questions about the project to Mayor Kasim Reed's office. We've reached out to the mayor's office, as well as to City Council member Alex Wan, whose district includes the intersection. We will update the story if we hear back.
UPDATE II | A city spokesperson released a statement Thursday afternoon, pointing out that the rainbow crosswalks still need final approval from the City Council. The statement doesn't address whether the initial approval for the project considered it temporary or, as organizers stated, a permanent installation.
The Rainbow Crosswalks artwork displays a message that is essential to the City of Atlanta. Atlanta embraces its diversity, and is proud to be the home of a large, vibrant LGBTQ community of residents and workers.
The City of Atlanta owns a collection of artwork that reflects the City’s values, and has a set process for considering and accepting art into the collection. The final step of the process is legislative approval. The process of accepting the Rainbow Crosswalks artwork into the City’s collection is complete, except for passage of the required legislation. A resolution granting the approval is scheduled for a vote at the September 21, 2015 meeting of the Atlanta City Council.
Unlike most artwork in the City’s collection, public safety is a significant factor in determining when to display the Rainbow Crosswalks. Atlanta’s Department of Public Works evaluates safety issues pertaining to pedestrians and drivers on the City’s roads, and applies rules established by the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Based on the current MUTCD standards, the City’s first installation of the Crosswalk artwork will be a temporary display between approximately October 3rd through October 16th, 2015.