We don't know if Sutro Tower is safe

The Richmond ReView, September, 1999

By Supervisor Leland Yee

For several years residents who live near Sutro Tower have claimed that much of the work performed on the structure has not been properly permitted.

Since the questioning began, Sutro Tower's management has denied this and our city departments did not rebut the denials. Furthermore, city departments accused the neighbors of being overly sensational when they expressed concerns about the safety of the tower.

Neighbors were further rebuffed by the City when the SF Board of Supervisors, in a vote which defied logic, ruled that Sutro Tower did not have to perform a seismic safety study before hanging a 12-ton antenna on the structure. Instead, the board ruled that the antenna could be hung, and determine after the fact if it was safe or not.

At the last Board of Supervisors' Public Utilities and Deregulation Committee meeting, city staff revealed that neighbors were correct in their assertion that more than 100 antennas and an underground fuel tank had been placed at the site without permits from the city. The hearing revealed that there was equipment on the tower that the city didn't even know about. Over the years, antennas and additional structures have spread like a cancer, creating a massive structure out of what was once a skeletal tower.

It is the city's responsibility to ensure that Sutro Tower is a safe structure. How can the city determine if the structure is safe without knowing what is on the tower?

As late as the July public Utilities and Deregulation Committee meeting, much of the information the city presented as its own independent assessment was actually prepared by Sutro Tower, Inc. and its well-paid lobbyists and attorneys. The city has been grossly negligent in its duty to look out for its residents.

Now Sutro Tower, Inc. is quietly trying to right all the wrongs of the past by filing building permits for work that has already been completed. The Public Utilities and Deregulation Committee will hold another update regarding the City's lack of oversight and the reckless abandon with which Sutro Tower, Inc. has been behaving.

As long as city departments are not willing to provide the necessary oversight, members on the committee will take over this responsibility. This ongoing saga has shown that through hard work, neighbors can prevail. Sadly however, they've had to take so much of their own time to compensate for the City's failure.

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