Sutro Tower viewed from Grandview Park in San Francisco
|Location||San Francisco, California|
|Address||1 La Avanzada Drive
|Elevation||254.2 m (834 ft)|
|Owner||Sutro Tower, Inc.|
|Height||297.8 m (977 ft)|
|Structural system||Truss tower|
Sutro Tower is a 297.8 m (977 ft) three-pronged antenna tower near Clarendon Heights in San Francisco, California. Rising from a hill between Twin Peaks and Mount Sutro, it is a prominent part of the city skyline and a landmark for city residents and visitors.
Before the construction of Sutro Tower, television reception in San Francisco was spotty because the many hills of the city would block the line-of-sight television signal. The great height of the new tower helped to resolve that problem. Transmitters had been scattered throughout the Bay Area, including at San Bruno Mountain, Mt. Allison, Monument Peak, and Mt. Diablo. By having all the main Bay Area television station transmitters in one location, reception was improved by allowing a receiving antenna pointed in a single direction to receive all those stations rather than a subset.
Local residents opposed the tower even before it was completed, including criticism of the aesthetic effect the tower would have on the rest of San Francisco. San Francisco writer Herb Caen once wrote, "I keep waiting for it to stalk down the hill and attack the Golden Gate Bridge." Acknowledging both displeasure and affection for its undeniable prominence on the city's skyline, it is sometimes referred to light-heartedly as the Sutro Monster or Space Claw. Due to its shape and its appearance soon after the construction of the Transamerica Pyramid, it was also nicknamed "the box the Pyramid came in."
When first built, the long legs of the tower were illuminated at night with long tubes of white light that looked like long fluorescent tubes. However, public outcry resulted in the lights being removed soon after they were turned on.
Construction commenced in 1971 by Kline Tower of Columbia, South Carolina, and the tower was completed in 1973, with the first transmissions on July 4, 1973. Approximately 3,750 m3 (132,000 cu ft) of concrete were used to make the foundation of the 3.7 million pound (1,700 ton) tower. Earthquake proofing includes ballasting two thirds of the weight of the structure below ground, resulting in a center of gravity at sixteen feet below ground level. It is used to transmit the signals of eleven television stations and four FM radio stations and for various other communications services.
The tower is owned by Sutro Tower Inc., which in turn is owned by a consortium of the four major television broadcasters in San Francisco at the time of its construction: KTVU (owned by Cox Enterprises); KRON-TV (owned by the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the tower's completion, now owned by Media General); KPIX (a former Westinghouse Broadcasting property, now owned by CBS); and KGO-TV (an ABC-owned station). Sutro Tower also leases space to other Bay Area radio and television stations, including PBS outlet KQED; independent station KOFY-TV; and KBCW, a sister station to KPIX.
Three other major Bay Area TV stations are unable to be located at Sutro Tower—the NBC-owned duopoly of KNTV and KSTS; and KTVU's duopoly partner KICU-TV. KNTV, which assumed the area's NBC affiliation from KRON-TV in 2002, relocated its transmitter from Loma Prieta Peak to San Bruno Mountain, five miles south of Sutro Tower; KSTS and KICU-TV transmit from east of Fremont. Those locations allow these stations to maintain primary coverage over San Jose and the South Bay—San Jose is the city of license for all three stations.
Named after Adolph Sutro, a businessman and former mayor of San Francisco who had a mansion located about 100 feet away from where the tower is now located, it is built on one of the highest peaks in the city. The tower stands 297.8 m (977 ft) above ground and 552 m (1,811 ft) above sea level. It is the tallest structure in the city, surpassing the 258.4 m (848 ft) Transamerica Pyramid by more than 39 m (128 ft). The old site of the Sutro Mansion, and thus the land on which the tower stands, is owned by Adolph Sutro's descendants.
The original design of the tower called for white lights longitudinally rising along its three legs to the top. When the tower first opened, these lights were lit. However local resistance and aesthetic considerations led the operators to turn off the lights and they have never been used since.
Views and access
The facility is accessible only by authorized vehicles. The area near the site offers beautiful panoramic viewpoints of San Francisco. There is a platform near the top of the tower, 232 m (761 ft) above ground and 486.2 m (1,595 ft) above sea level. Only authorized maintenance workers can access the tower via a small two-person elevator that runs inside the west tower enclosed leg. There is no public access within the Sutro Tower property lines.
On a clear day, the tower can be seen from the East Bay peak of Mount Diablo and is sometimes the only part of San Francisco seen above the coastal fog when it is blown inland, typically on summer mornings and evenings.
Despite the initial revulsion of some residents, Sutro Tower is now recognized by many as a Bay Area icon, it appears in local art, television shows, and movies as one of the architectural symbols of the city. The tower is featured in video games, business logos and on clothing and even tattoos. A local entertainment guide, SFStation.com, uses it as a logo, as do the collaborative art game SFZero and the Expose SF art competition.
In popular culture
The video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, set in a fictionalized San Francisco, contains a radio tower that bears a striking resemblance to Sutro Tower. Versions of the tower are also seen in Midway's 1997 game San Francisco Rush and Need for Speed Underground 2.
The MMORPG Defiance includes Sutro Tower as the location of the mission Turret Turnabout.
TV stations that transmit from Sutro Tower include the following:
|Callsign||Virtual Channel||Physical Channel||Affiliation|
- Sutro Tower at Emporis
- Sutro Tower at SkyscraperPage
- Sutro Tower at Structurae
- Herb Caen. "Sutro Tower Press Coverage". Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- http://therethere.com/blog/2011/sutro-tower. Retrieved 30 April 2013. Missing or empty
- http://zoomine.tumblr.com/post/45697508098/space-claw-sutro-tower-is-a-297-8-m-977-ft. Retrieved 30 April 2013. Missing or empty
- "Flickr: Photos of The Space Claw".
- Barnett, Stephen R. (May 1973). "The Colossus of Mt. Sutro". San Francisco 15 (5). Retrieved 3 September 2010.
- Cotter, Mark P. (January 2012). "SUTRO! The High Ground". CreateSpace.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sutro Tower.|
- Official Site of Sutro Tower, Inc
- Listing 1001289 in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Antenna Structure Registration database
- Flickr: Photos tagged with "sutrotower"
- Sutro Tower and Mount Sutro at sutrotower.org
- Antennae diagrams indicating which stations broadcast from Sutro
- User page with information about Sutro Tower
- Sutro Tower Community Perspectives
- RCA Broadcast Magazine from 1973 detailing engineering