Sutro Tower Special Bulletin

Twin Peaks Improvement Association, Fall, 1997
(quoted with permission)

Did You Know?...
  • Sutro Tower, Inc. owners and operators of Sutro Tower, have petitioned the Planning Department for permission to add a 22,000-pound, 125-foot antennae panel to their existing structure to broadcast digital television (DTV) signals (also know as High-Definition TV, or HDTV).
  • There is an environmentally superior site suitable for DTV available on San Bruno Mountain. Also, the owners there welcome the new antennae!
  • Although previous technology mandated the current site and tall tower, DTV technology does not require Sutro Tower. It is being added because the owners (KRON, KPIX, KGO, and KTVU)) have suppressed news of the expansion, and have powerful lobbyists to manipulate the City.
  • Without new antennae, Sutro Tower will be obsolete in 10 years and can be torn down. If we miss this opportunity, the Tower will be upgraded and will annoy and endanger us for the foreseeable future.
  • No other tower in the country exists in the middle of a fully built residential neighborhood. Many homes, two reservoirs, a hospital, and a school are within its fall zone.
  • Steel towers have collapsed in recent earthquakes, including Armenia, Loma Prieta, Northridge, and Kobe.
  • Additional radiofrequency radiation will emit from the Tower during the 10-year transition period when both antennae systems are transmitting.

EIR Update

On March 15, 1997, the Planning Department determined that the addition of a 125-foot-long beam on Sutro Tower would "have a significant effect on the environment and an Environmental Impact Report is required." On July 9, a Draft EIR relating to the DTV project was issued and mailed to various agencies, companies, and a few "interested parties" in the neighborhood.

On July 24, 1997, the Planning Department held a Public Hearing regarding the Sutro Tower expansion. Representatives of the Twin Peaks Improvement Association and the Twin Peaks Council asked for an extension to the "comment period" for the Draft EIR, so our neighborhood would have time to respond. We won an extension of the written comment period from August 11 to September 10, 1997.

On September 3, 1997, a joint public Informational Meeting was held by the Twin Peaks Improvement Association and the Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association at St. John's Armenian Church Hall. Our attorney, Reed W. Super, hired jointly by TPIA and MTHOA, participated at the meeting, as did Tower Manager, Gene Zastrow. The response was extraordinary. More than 200 people attended; more than 330 surveys and letters, and more than 500 petition signatures were sent to the Environmental Impact Report Officer handling the Sutro Tower expansion for the Planning Department.

Neighbors were at last able to put the City on notice regarding the Tower's impact on the neighborhood, including electronic interference, the noise, the sandblasting, and the concern about 10 more stations adding electromagnetic radiation in the area. Of particular note was a letter from the former Chairman of the California State Seismic Safety Commission questioning the seismic stability of the Tower in a major quake.

Given the Tower's age, state of corrosion, and use of the 1969 Building Code, we have asked the Planning Department for a peer-reviewed dynamic analysis of the structure's integrity. We also have requested a failure analysis, which would consider issues caused by the Tower falling, such as loss of emergency communications, fire, damage to houses, road closures, and damage to the reservoirs that would endanger the City's water supply and cause extensive flooding.

Our attorney wrote a letter report documenting the many shortcomings of the Draft EIR. Also onfile is a lengthy legal brief from the owners of the tower on San Bruno Mountain, which could provide digital TV to the same area Sutro Tower would (according to the Draft EIR), but from an environmentally superior location (according to the California Environmental Quality Act Guideliens) in the middle of 2000 acres of open space!

All these questions and concerns are currentlybeing reviewed by City Planning. According to their EIR Officer, they will respond to those of you who sent in comment forms and letters in a "general response," rather than by individual letters.

It may be more than a monthbefore all the results are presented at an open meeting of the Planning Department. At that time, it willbe determined whether the Draft EIR willbe accepted, or Sutro Tower will be required to rewrite and circulate a new Environmental Impact Report.

Other Issues

Seismic Upgrade - On June 19, 1997, the owners of Sutro Tower requested that the Planning Department grant them permission to "seismically upgrade" Sutro Tower. This upgrade was to be independent of, and have no bearing on, the DTV antennae. The application for a "seismic upgrade" was approved.

We requested the Board of Appeals to review and take jurisdiction over the "seismic upgrade" to Sutro Tower, as we contend it is part of the DTV project and should not have been approved separately. Tower management knew the Tower had to be strengthened for the DTV antennae, and had been planning this project for some time. They were able to complete more than 50 percent of the work by the time of our appeal. We withdrew our appeal, feeling there aws no pointi n spending time and money on a project that City Hall had allowed to progress so far before we could be heard.

Conditional Use Permit - We have asked the Zoning Administrator to revisit his decision that a new conditional use permit is not needed for the attachment of DTV antennae to Sutro Tower. On October 28, the Zoning Administrator advised us that, in his opinion, no amendments to the conditional use permit issued for the Tower in 1966 were necessary; his original decision stood.

Media Blackout - None of the Tower controversy has been reported by the mainstream press or local broadcasters, who have a vested interest in Sutro Tower. In fact, Dr. Dean Edell used his platform on KGO radio to ask listeners to call the City in support of the Tower, and gave out phone numbers on the air. The City Voice recently published several thoughtful articles; we have copies if you mised them and would like to see them. The San Francisco Bay Guardian published an article and an editorial on October 29, 1997.

What can you do?

Call, write or FAX the Mayor's Office, the Supervisors' offices and the Planning Department! We need political pressure to urge the City to take digital TV to the alternative site on San Bruno Mountain - at least , to require dynamic analysis and an environmental screening of the area surrounding Sutro Tower.

Planning Department
554-5144 554-5405
554-6661 554-5942
554-7601 554-4981
554-5335 554-7901
554-4880 554-7752
Clerk's Office

Sutro Tower Action Committee needs donations, payable to "Twin Peaks Improvement Association"

Twin Peaks Improvement Association, PO Box 31002, San Francisco CA 94131

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