Sutro Tower: An Iconic Eyesore


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The Sutro Tower in San Francisco, California, stands 997 feet high, and is often considered to be an “eye-sore.” In the 1960s when ABC was looking to provide good television reception in the area, broadcasters decided to tear down the 558-foot tower already located on Mount Sutro, and rebuild. KQED News reported, “Designs were drawn up, and ABC started showing off a tower that looked like a sleek golden Seattle Space Needle. It even included a restaurant at the top.” When the idea was first proposed neighbors were against the structure with concerns of safety, property values, and the city skyline. KQED News explained, “In 1966, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved the site at Mount Sutro, passing the decision on to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The supervisors voted against building the tower 6 to 4, but two more votes were needed to overturn the Planning Commission’s approval. The decision was final; a tower would be built on Mount Sutro.” Now the original design was much more aesthetically pleasing, but leading up to construction, the architecture firm redid the design, making the tower more skeletal looking. “All the engineers since then want to shoot him. It made it a more difficult structure to maintain, and it is a more difficult structure to keep perfectly upright and in a great condition,” says Eric Dausman, general manager of Sutro Tower. (KQED News) Original plans showed the tower being painted a golden hue, but aviation regulations stipulated the structure be painted alternating stripes of red and white. Sutro Tower beamed out its first transmission on July 4, 1973, but there were complications. The antennas moved in strong winds, so girders and cables were added to keep it in place, but when the wind rushed through the wires, it sounded like a harp. However, the cables have since been redesigned and aren’t as loud. KQED News reported, “Dausman says he understands people who consider the tower an eyesore. If it were up to him, the tower wouldn’t even be here.” However, the iconic eyesore has become loved by residents. “You can find the icon in boutiques and even tattooed onto people’s bodies. Newcomers use the tower’s prominence to navigate the city while other San Franciscans profess to love the structure that many tourists find ugly and strange,” KQED News explained.

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