Towering Reaction

The Independent, April 28, 1998
(quoted with permission)

People who live in the shadow of the Sutro Tower weren't the only ones who seriously questioned the legal basis for City Attorney Louise Renne's controversial decision that blocked the Board of Supervisors from hearing an appeal of a Planning Department decision.

On April 16, Renne opined that the board had no jurisdiction in the matter and thus could not hear an appeal of the Planning Department's decision to allow Sutro Tower Inc. - a consortium of media interests, including KGO, KRON, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others - to hang an additional 12 tons of digital television equipment on the aging metal frame.

Renne said she based her decision on an interpretation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which clearly states that the supervisors are not the proper body to hear the appeal.

That rationale prompted state senator Quentin Kopp to fire off a letter to Renne, in which he stated that her interpretation was "incorrect and legally suspect." Kopp sponsored the 1993 amendment to CEQA that Renne cited in her ruling.

The legislative intent, Kopp wrote, was to specifically provide for an appeal in cases such as this.

Supervisor Leland Yee also began asking questions. On April 20, he asked the Planning Department to explain why the issuance of three separate building permits for the tower - in 1988, 1996 and 1997 - did not trigger a re-evaluation of the project's conditional-use permit, which would have allowed the board to hear an appeal.

The whole sequence of events is growing increasingly convoluted, and it is definitely not over. It will play out at City Hall during the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Back to Press Coverage page