Mount Sutro:  An Electronic Periodical   Day of Week  Date Month Year
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  Icon: Non-Ionizing Radiation Warning Symbol Sutro Tower
Wednesday, 26 September 2001, 0047

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Sutro Tower as seen from Twin Peaks, Christmas Tree Point Road, San Francisco, California, 26 May 2009

Sutro Tower and Mount Sutro
Welcome to the most comprehensive guide to Sutro Tower and Mount Sutro on the internet. I hope you will find this resource interesting and informative. You are invited to contribute your comments, stories, news, photographs, updates, corrections and links, or send private correspondence.

Thank you for visiting!  — David July All your Sutro Tower are belong to us.

This page was updated on Sunday, 20 April 2014
David July and are not affiliated with Sutro Tower, Inc.

Original Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk --- Sutro Tower, San Francisco, California, 27 October 2005Sutro Tower is a 977 foot (298 metre) self-supporting steel structure in San Francisco, California built to provide radio, television and high-definition television broadcasts as well as additional communication services despite the hilly topography of the bay area.

The physical address of the tower is 1 La Avanzada Street, San Francisco, California 94131-1124. The former address 250 Palo Alto Avenue, San Francisco, California 94114-2123 is still occasionally listed on official city and county documents. Sutro Tower stands at about 37.755278° (37°45'19.0") North latitude and 122.45277° (122°27'10.0") West longitude (view map) placing it just southeast of the Mount Sutro peak on an adjacent and connected hill that may be considered Clarendon Heights. The 5.6-acre fenced private property (Assessors Block 2724, Lot 3) includes the tower, 31,000 square-foot (2,880 square metre) transmission building, garage and storage building, guard station, diesel-powered emergency generators, two underground diesel storage tanks in concrete vaults for leak containment, ancillary antennas, assorted equipment and a paved, striped parking lot for twenty-three (23) automobiles.

Sutro Tower is owned and operated by Sutro Tower, Inc., an independent corporation founded in 1968 by the owners of bay area stations KTVU 2 (Cox Enterprises), KRON 4 (then Chronicle Publishing now Young Broadcasting), KPIX 5 (then Westinghouse Broadcasting now CBS Corporation) and KGO-TV 7 (then American Broadcasting Company now Disney/ABC). The owners hold equal shares in the corporation, which owns the tower and leases antenna space to broadcasters and other telecommunications clients. Pricing is reportedly adjusted for community stations like KQED 9 (Northern California Public Broadcasting) and KMTP 32 (Minority Television Project).

The General Manager of Sutro Tower is Eric Dausman, joining the staff (STI) on 06 April 2009 as Vice President and successor to Eugene S. Zastrow. Following a six-month transition period during the DTV Conversion Project, Zastrow retired in October 2009 after working at the tower since 1992. Before moving to San Francisco, Dausman spent eighteen years at KGW-TV, Portland, Oregon as Director of Technology.

Breaking ground in 1971 and completed in 1972, Sutro Tower was designed by Albert C. Martin & Associates of Los Angeles, California and fabricated/erected by Kline Towers, a subsidiary of Kline Iron and Steel of Columbia, South Carolina. The conditional use permit granted for the tower's construction occurred in San Francisco Planning Commission Resolution 5967. The first transmissions from the tower commenced 04 July 1973. The same year, journalist Belva Davis and photographer Dave Ambriz shot a story about the new tower for KPIX that included a trip to and footage from the top.

Sutro Tower's base is 834 feet (254 metres) above mean sea level and the total height of the tower above mean sea level is 1,811 feet (552 metres), with an antenna height above average terrain of 732 feet (223 metres). With the terrain below it, the three-pronged tower is the highest structure in the Bay Area.

Original Photo Credit: San Francisco Public Library --- Sutro Tower under construction (Left to Right) AAC-1275 1972; AAC-1281 April 1972; AAC-1278 15 August 1972

The Sutro Tower site is the original location of the Sutro Mansion built in the 1930's by aviator and adventurer Adolph Gilbert Sutro (1891–1981), grandson of the former Mayor. The three-story La Avanzada villa would serve as home to Sutro and his mother until their relocation to land near Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. In 1948, he sold the house and surrounding land for $125,000 USD to the American Broadcasting Company for use as their new television station transmitter site.

On 05 May 1949, fifty employees at the Sutro Mansion studios produced the first show premiering KGO-TV via the new 580 foot (177 metre) broadcast tower (see a picture of this tower, looking up from the center, dated February 1960). About two years later, KPIX and several FM radio stations began renting space on the tower starting a trend that would shape the future of the site through the present. Although KGO-TV moved into new studios at 277 Golden Gate Avenue in 1953, the mansion continued to serve as the equipment and tower facility. By 1956, the broadcasters decided in order to cover more of the area terrain a new, taller antenna tower was required.

After the candidate site on Mount San Bruno was determined to be too close to the airport to support a tall tower, the Sutro Mansion site was selected. After years of hearings and litigation, Sutro Tower, Inc. was incorporated on 03 May 1968 and the $4 million Sutro Tower project got underway. Citing trespassing vandals and fire hazards as cause, the city included a directive in the final agreement that the mansion be removed during the project.

In 1978–1979, a foundation outline was still visible from the tower above, but ground foliage eventually obscured it. Some of the few remaining artifacts from the Sutro Mansion broadcast days include (clockwise as pictured below, 22 May 2009) photographs of the site hanging inside the modern office, a backlit stained glass window rescued from the Mansion's library—now hanging near the Sutro Tower Pepsi machine that mysteriously dispenses Coke products—and the original tower's southwestern concrete base, used as of May 2009 to secure pulley system equipment to the ground.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Pictures of the Sutro Mansion hang on the wall of the Sutro Tower office, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009
Original Photo Credit: David July --- The concrete foundation of the original transmission tower remains at the Sutro Tower site, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009Original Photo Credit: David July --- The stained glass window rescued from the Sutro Mansion library now hangs backlit in the Sutro Tower building, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009

The tower was designed to withstand seismic activity. Part of that design includes the foundation, made with about 15 million pounds (6.8 million kilograms) of concrete. The tower itself weighs about 3.7 million pounds (1.7 million kilograms). This engineering combination places the tower’s center of gravity below ground. In 1997, the City of San Francisco designated Sutro Tower an essential facility, recognizing it as a key component of the city's emergency response plans to ensure the continuous availability of transmission services. In order to comply with new standards required by this designation, Kline Towers with Simpson Gumpertz & Heger installed additional seismic upgrades in September 2003 designed to protect the tower from earthquakes in excess of 8.0 on the Richter scale.

Measurements to ascertain the radio frequency (RF) exposure levels at Sutro Tower are within FCC guidelines (Docket 93-62) are taken every three years or when any DTV antenna is activated or increased in power. Hammett & Edison, Inc. of Sonoma, California has conducted these exposure studies since at least 2006. The exposure study (STI) conducted on 30 June 2006 found the tower in compliance with the "requirements for limiting public exposure to radio frequency energy." The exposure study (STI) conducted on 01 July 2009 found "the maximum ambient RF levels were well below the prevailing standard" at all points and that "the RF exposure levels at all but one of the 26 reference points are less than those measured during the last set of measurements done in June 2006." Following the completion of the DTV project, an exposure study (STI) was conducted on 24 November 2009. The measurements taken complied with the requirements of both the agreement with area residents (STI) and the government mandated standards for RF energy exposure.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Looking straight up from the center underneath Sutro Tower, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009

During the 06 December 2006 special holiday episode of the Discovery Channel series MythBusters, co-hosts Tory Belleci, Grant Imahara and Kari Byron pay a visit to Sutro Tower general manager Gene Zastrow (now retired) to test a theory about RF. The basic premise of the myth they are investigating is that since microwave ovens use energy similar to that of broadcast towers, you should be able to cook food by placing it at or near such a facility. After declining the team's request to attach a turkey to Sutro Tower to see what happens, Zastrow says he doubts the experiment would work. "Microwave transmitters that the stations use are very low power. They're in the neighborhood of a couple of watts, as opposed to a microwave oven which is, you know, seven, eight-hundred, even up to twelve-hundred watts of power, plus it's very confined." The team eventually tries a portable microwave transmitter atop a KRON TV news van and the large radar aboard the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, but all tests fail to heat the turkey rendering the myth busted. You can download and watch the Sutro Tower segment from the episode or read a transcript.

The tower also receives an annual structural inspection conducted by an independent engineering firm, the last of which was performed on Leg C and the south face of the tower on 08–09 October 2008 by CEL Consulting of Oakland, California. According to the inspection report (STI), the engineer found minor corrosion on some fasteners (requiring cleaning and repainting, or replacement) and diagonal strands (to be "addressed during the next scheduled construction at the site"). Overall, the structural members, skin and the three leg bases showed no signs of distortion, distress or overload.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Sutro Tower signs: Caution Red Light Indicates Auxiliary Operation No Access to Roof or Tower Level 2; FCC Antenna Structure Registration 1001289, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009Original Photo Credit: David July --- Sutro Tower FCC lighting beacon status panel, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009Sutro Tower's FAA Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) number is 1001289, File Number A0122425. Sutro Tower, Inc. holds FCC Registration Number 0006161137 and FCC License ID L00232792. Pursuant to USDOT/FAA Advisory Circular 70/7460-1K, Sutro Tower is equipped with FAA-approved lighting some of which is provided by Flash Technology of Franklin, Tennessee. Lamp replacements are installed about every two months according to Sutro Tower maintenance supervisor David Grimes (watch "Who Changes The Lights On Sutro Tower?"). The lighting compliment includes twelve (12) high-intensity white flashing obstruction beacons, nine (9) medium intensity flashing red beacons, eighteen (18) steady-burning obstruction lights and three (3) red/white antenna beacons. The tower body is painted in alternating bands of Federal Standard 595 Color 12197 Aviation Orange and Federal Standard 595 Color 17875 Aviation White by D. Zelinsky & Sons of Brisbane, California. The tower is painted continuously to protect the steel from rust and corrosion, however the factory painted siding has faded over the years.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- David July stands in the two person elevator in the western leg of Sutro Tower, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009A small two-person elevator in the western leg of the tower provides access to the upper levels. Equipment under a certain weight can be moved up and down via a system of ropes. Pacific Gas and Electric supplies the substantial power needs of Sutro Tower. To meet the one to two million watt requirements of the tower, PG&E provides two 12.5-kilovolt feeds from separate substations, while on-site emergency diesel generators provide backup redundancy. On a typical day, there are an average of seven (4–10) employees on-site with four working for Sutro Tower, Inc. and the others their respective broadcasters. Staff for each station take their programming signals, received by microwave or fiber optic cable, and process/amplify them for public broadcast.

In October 2007, Sutro Tower began participation in the California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Project run by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Monitoring equipment was installed in September 2007 just above Level 3 at 400 feet (122 metres) and on Level 6 at 760 feet (232 metres). Twice daily, the equipment takes in air and transports it to the ground level for on-site carbon dioxide and methane analysis. Fluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and other greenhouse gases are analyzed at the NOAA Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado, on a weekly basis. Sutro Tower is also a data collection site (STR) for the NOAA ESRL/GMD Tall Tower Network.

During the early morning of Sunday, 08 February 2009, a television station's transformer at Sutro Tower overheated causing a great deal of smoke and subsequently triggering the fire alarm. The San Francisco Fire Department responded to the site and investigated the matter as discussed in the official Incident Report (STI). No flames were produced during the incident and the smoke diminished once the equipment was powered down. Gene Zastrow observes, "It's very unusual for a transformer to overheat but occasionally a small manufacturing defect can, over time, cause overheating. This is the first time in the 17 years of my tenure this or any other situation has caused a fire department response."

Original Photo Credit: Clifton Stone --- Sutro Tower pokes out of the fog, 3746 21st Street, San Francisco, California, 01 July 2005

Sutro Tower, Inc. maintains the official Sutro Tower Antenna Status page displaying which transmitters are in operation. Standalone and historical diagrams are available for download below.

Sutro Tower Diagram (2009-11-01) Sutro Tower Diagram Current and Future (2009-01-31)
Current as of 2011-09-23
Current versus Future
Sutro Tower Diagram (2008-05-17) Sutro Tower Diagram Proposal (2008-05-17)
2008-05-17 2008-05-17
Upgrade Proposal
Sutro Tower Diagram (2003-06-14) Sutro Tower Diagram (1998-02-05)
2003-06-14 1998-02-05

Approximately 184 other small and ancillary antennas exist for backup and other communications services including those of the California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspector and SIRIUS/XM Satellite Radio's terrestrial repeater 48. Other antenna systems are located on the support building roof, in part to receive signals from area broadcasters for retransmission and testing.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Sutro Tower antenna status panel, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009

The Sutro Tower Digital Television Conversion Project took place between January and November 2009. Transforming the look and functionality of the tower, the DTV project primarily consisted of removing analog antennas and installing new digital antennas, a complete history of which is detailed below.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Eight image vertical panorama of Sutro Tower, Twin Peaks Boulevard, San Francisco, California, 26 May 2009DTV first came to the tower in November 1998 with the installation of a stacked UHF antenna array between Level 5 and Level 6. The interim array consisted of four ~32 foot (~9.8 metre) antennas attached to a 125 foot (38.1 metre) vertical steel truss. This structure provided service to KRON-DT 4 and KBCW-DT 44 on Antenna 1, KGO-DT 7, KQED-DT 9 and KMTP-DT 32 on Antenna 2, KTVU-DT 2, KCNS-DT 38 and KCSM-DT 60 on Antenna 3 and KPIX-DT 5, KFSF-DT 66 and KOFY-DT 20 on Antenna 4. Installed at the bottom of this truss is the antenna for KSOL 98.9 FM, the only antenna scheduled to remain here after the DTV antennas are relocated to the stacks atop the tower.

On 12 December 2007, Dielectric Communications of Raymond, Maine (who acquired Kline Towers in 2004) announced they signed a $1.75 million deal with Sutro Tower, Inc. to complete a series of upgrades and enhancements over the next three years, including work to phase out analog television, install auxiliary digital antennas and move the primary digital equipment to the Level 6 stacks. Specific additions include TFU-WB UHF slot cavity antennas, TFU-JSC/VP high-power pylon antennas, TUC and TUA wideband UHF panel antennas, combiners, transmission lines, two high-speed wireless data services and additional components.

As part of the San Francisco Planning Department review of the project (case 2007.0206E), a draft Environmental Impact Report (sfgov) was published on 17 May 2008 in advance of a public hearing on 26 June 2008. The report contained an overview of the upgrades proposed, an environmental impact survey analysis, potential project alternatives and a review of mitigation measures. The Comments and Responses (sfgov) document released 01 October 2008 contains summaries of oral comments made during public hearings and those received in writing during the 17 May 2008–01 July 2008 public comment period. Local news stations also conducted interviews and published information to help inform the public.

The Planning Commission certified the EIR and approved the project on 23 October 2008. This approval included an additional condition where Sutro Tower, Inc. must submit the final terms of their agreement with several neighborhood associations prior to the expiration of the EIR appeal period. The Final Terms of the Agreement to Provide Information and Extend Certain Services to Sutro Tower Area Residents (STI) were entered into on 07 November 2008 paving the way for the project's start.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Looking up at Sutro Tower's eastern face from the roof, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009

Work began in mid-January 2009 starting with the construction of a rooftop equipment enclosure and reinforcement of the tower to accommodate an auxiliary digital antenna array. On 21 January 2009, the first version of The DTV Delay Act of 2009, legislation pushing the digital television transition deadline from 17 February 2009 to 12 June 2009, was introduced in the Senate. Six days later, Gene Zastrow suggested the delay could benefit broadcasters since backup digital transmitters were not yet installed. It was also noted that continuing to operate analog and digital simultaneously would keep the cost of electricity high for the stations.

The Delay Act passed the Senate on 29 January 2009 and the House of Representatives on 04 February 2009. Agents of the stations that broadcast from Sutro Tower met on 05 February 2009 to discuss how they would proceed. Since the legislation did not prohibit broadcasters from sticking to the original date or transitioning in the subsequent months before 12 June, two bay area stations considered the option to cease analog operations. The next day, KGO-TV president Valari Staab provided an unconfirmed list to the San Francisco Chronicle indicating KICU 36 had selected 17 February and KOFY 20 might transition 21 February. The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on 11 February 2009 and the FCC released an order on 20 February 2009 directing all stations planning to cease analog operations before 12 June 2009 to inform them of that decision by 17 March 2009.

The auxiliary stacked UHF antenna array between Level 3 and Level 4 was installed and made operational in April 2009. This backup DTV array used when the primary transmitters must be powered down consists of two 47.6 foot (14.5 metre) antennas attached to a 160 foot (48.8 metre) vertical steel truss. This structure provides service to KOFY 20, KPIX 5, KFSF 66, KRON 4 and KTVU 2 on Antenna 1 and KQED 9, KMTP 32, KCNS 38, KCSM 60 and KBCW 44 on Antenna 2. In addition, KGO-DT 7 has an auxiliary VHF antenna on Level 2.

After additional reinforcement work in May 2009 to accommodate the new digital antennas, operations began on the three existing vertical mast assemblies. Extending 215 feet (65.5 metres) upward from Level 6, the solid round steel masts are made from A53 of A106 Grade B certified pipe fabricated by Lingo, Inc., of Camden, New Jersey. They are attached to the tower with an X-braced steel pedestal and secured by Phillystran, Inc. synthetic fiber guy wires. Removal of the KGO, KBCW and KOFY analog antennas on Mast B (southern stack) commenced in April 2009. On Friday, 12 June 2009 at 2359 PDT, all analog operations were discontinued. The 40.5 foot (12.3 metre) antenna for KGO-DT was installed atop the mast in July 2009 followed by the 30.4 foot (9.3 metre) antenna for KBCW-DT added below it.

Original Photo Credit: Johnny0/Burrito Justice --- Sutro Tower before (left) and after (right) the western stack removal, San Francisco, California, ~19 July 2009/09 August 2009

Next, a gin pole was added to Mast A (western stack) in preparation for the 28 July 2009 removal of the KRON and KPIX analog antennas. The remaining KTVU analog antenna was removed 04–07 August 2009. These changes received attention by local observers, as the western mast's removal was plainly visible. Construction of the new 156.5 foot (47.7 metre) mast began around 12 August 2009 and completed around 21 August 2009. The 64 foot (19.5 metre) KOFY-DT antenna was hoisted up to Mast A and side-mounted to it on 27 August 2009. The bottom half of the combined KPIX-DT/KRON-DT/KTVU-DT antenna was installed on 28 August 2009 and the top half on 29 August 2009. By 05 September 2009, the guy wires were installed and the gin pole removed.

Work started on Mast C (northern stack) the week of 07 September 2009, beginning with the installation of a gin pole and removal of the KQED, KMTP, KFSF and KOIT antenna guy wires. Removal of these antennas was completed by 16 September 2009. Most of the mast was then removed between 18–20 September 2009, followed by the construction of the new mast section and guy wires 22–27 September 2009. The first section of the combined KQED-DT, KMTP-DT, KCNS-DT and KCSM-DT digital antenna was installed atop the new mast on 30 September 2009, quickly followed by the second section on 01 October 2009, the guy wires on 02 October 2009 and the new KFSF-DT side-mounted antenna on 03 October 2009. Part of the installation was performed by Seacomm Erectors, Inc. of Sultan, Washington. Around 08 October 2009, the installation of additional transmission lines was completed. During the week of 12 October 2009, all stations broadcasted from their auxiliary antennas while the former main antennas were disconnected, the new main antennas brought online and tests conducted.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Looking straight up inside the western leg of Sutro Tower, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009

All major work with regard to the 11 digital television stations was completed on 21 October 2009. In the following weeks, each station tuned their equipment, adjusting power levels and optimizing the signal. The final phase of the project included removal of any remaining analog auxiliary and interim digital antennas. By 24 October 2009, the temporary DTV antenna stack installed in November 1998 was removed. During the following two weeks, the new KOIT-FM side-mount antenna was installed and the KOIT-FM temporary antenna, on the northern outrigger since April 2009, was removed. The project was completed on Friday, 06 November 2009.

Larry Kenney has a detailed collection of photographs covering each phase of the conversion project. You can browse the sections by timeframe:

  1. November 1998 — 07 August 2009
  2. 12 August — 05 September 2009
  3. 07 September 2009 — 14 November 2009

There are many resources available to help you receive broadcasts from Sutro Tower and other bay area transmitters. A list of stations broadcasting from Sutro Tower is available, as well as the San Francisco Chronicle's general list of area television, FM radio and AM radio stations. Many of the station websites provide answers to questions about receiving their programming.

You can also use the FM Fool FM Signal Locater to learn the distance and compass heading from any address to your favorite station's transmitter. For a comprehensive listing of bay area and general HDTV tips and tools, including how-to guides on antenna setup and configuration, visit Bill & Larry's Broadcasting Page.

Finally, Sutro Tower, Inc. published the following troubleshooting steps to assist viewers having difficulty after the DTV conversion project.

If you have lost or missing channels:

  1. Make sure your antenna is designed for UHF and VHF. Only two VHF channels are used for digital signals now in the San Francisco Bay area. They are KGO Channel 7 and KNTV Channel 11. However, only Channel 7 broadcasts from Sutro Tower. All of the other TV channels now broadcast on UHF, so it is very important to have a good quality UHF antenna.
  2. Change the position of your antenna. If is an indoor antenna, move it to a new location and scan again. You might need to move the antenna several times to find a position that works for all channels. If you have an outdoor antenna, you can pan the antenna left or right and try a re-scan. It may require several tries with the antenna in different positions to find a spot that works for all channels. Re-scan after each time you reposition your antenna to see if you have found the best spot to point your antenna.
  3. Ask neighbors and friends to help. If you do not have the ability to move antennas around or are confused about re-scanning, please ask a neighbor or friend for help.
  4. Early generation TV sets and converter boxes do not work as well as the ones made today. If you have a TV set with a built in digital tuner or digital converter box that is over 5 years old, consider replacing it.
  5. Finally, if you would like to report reception issues, please send a note to Sutro Tower, Inc. may not respond to all e-mail, but they will keep a tabulation of the problem areas for their Engineers to evaluate.

The basic re-scan procedure:

  1. Press menu on your remote and choose the channel scan function.
  2. Your TV set or converter box will then find all the channels now available in your area.
  3. Do not forget to re-scan the channels on all of your TV sets.

The advanced re-scan procedure:

  1. Disconnect the antenna from the converter box or digital TV.
  2. Re-scan the converter box or digital TV without the antenna connected.
  3. Unplug the converter box or digital TV from the electrical outlet for at least one minute.
  4. Reconnect the antenna to the converter box or digital TV and plug the unit back into the electrical outlet.
  5. Re-scan the converter box or digital TV a second time.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Looking up Sutro Tower's southern leg from the roof, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009

At 908 feet (277 metres) and to the northwest of Sutro Tower, Mount Sutro is part of the Franciscan Assemblage, the unique geological formations found on and near the San Francisco Peninsula. The topography is mostly made of pillow basalt and chert—micro and cryptocrystalline sedimentary rocks—from the early Cretaceous and/or late Jurassic periods. The hill is "capped by a highly fractured and weathered chert formation which tilts steeply downward in a westerly direction," according to the 21 January 1966 Dames & Moore soil and foundation survey report.

Original Photo Credit: Mathew Brady and Levin C. Handy --- Adolph Sutro, from the Library of Congress Brady-Handy Photograph Collection, between 1865-1880

First appearing on maps in 1833 as Blue Mountain, Mount Sutro's history of names has been thoroughly researched by amateur historian Dan Schneider. The original designation was given by Captain Frederick William Beechey (1796–1856) of the British Royal Navy around 1826–1827. It was later unofficially renamed Mount Parnassus by Adolph Heinrich Joseph Sutro (1830–1898), a successful engineer, businessman, real estate investor and the 24th Mayor of San Francisco (1895–1897). When the Sierra Club decided to christen the peak Sutro Crest in 1910, daughter Dr. Emma Sutro Merritt objected and in 1911 the name Mount Sutro was instead made official.

Adolph Sutro lived in his birthplace Prussia until 1850 when he moved to the United States. Over the next ten years, he built a relationship with Bank of California founder William Ralston and eventually designed, promoted and built (1860–1878) what would be known as the Sutro Tunnel. The tunnel was designed to drain water from the Comstock Lode silver ore mine under present-day Virginia City, Nevada approximately 3.84 miles (6.18 metres) as the bird flies to an exit point in Sutro, Nevada, near Dayton.

Moving back to San Francisco in 1879, Sutro began making large real estate investments in locations like Mount Parnassus, Land's End and Mount Davidson. In the continuing years, Sutro headed projects he is probably best remembered for today. Among these are the Sutro Baths, opening on 14 March 1896 as the largest indoor bathing facility ever constructed, the November 1886 Arbor Day planting of the Sutro Forest on his land spanning from Mount Parnassus to Blue Mountain and south to Ocean Avenue, and the wildlife preserve designation bestowed upon Seal Rocks in 1887 at Sutro's urging to protect the sea lion colony living there.

The surface is undergoing a botanical restoration led by the University of California, San Francisco, owners and custodians of the 61-acre Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. UCSF, whose Medical Center is located to the north of the reserve, has the support of several volunteer groups including the Mt. Sutro Stewards, Nature in the City and the California Native Plant Society.

Original Photo Credit: Dustin D. Smith --- Mount Sutro trail work underway, San Francisco, California, 03 January 2009

This partnership has worked to remove non-native species, repopulate indigenous plants and restore public trails even unearthing a trail hidden for years by the brambles, flora and fauna. Believed to date to 1906 or earlier, this western ridge trail was restored for public use. In 2003, UCSF received a $100,000 grant from the Rotary Club of San Francisco to develop the native plant demonstration area located on the summit of Mount Sutro. Volunteers meet on the first Saturday of every month to maintain and improve the existing trail network; remove and prune invasive blackberry, ivy and weeds; and help sustain native plants in the summit garden and demonstration area.

Near the demonstration area is the former location of Nike Missile site SF-89C, part of the Project Nike US Army anti-aircraft missile defense system. The Mount Sutro control area worked in concert with Battery Caufield SF-89L, missile launch site and headquarters for the 740th AAA Battalion at Fort Winfield Scott. Starting development in 1945 and going operational in 1953, Project Nike would operate up to 280 batteries nationwide until 1979. SF-88 at Fort Barry, Marin County, was decommissioned in 1974 and transformed into a public museum operated by the National Park Service (Golden Gate National Recreation Area).

Located in the heart of the city, Mount Sutro is surrounded by several residential neighborhoods. The southeast corner not far from the summit is home to the UCSF Aldea San Miguel housing complex along Behr Avenue and Johnstone Drive. Occupying the southern and southwestern sides of Mount Sutro, the Forest Knolls community exists east and north of Warren Drive, south and west of the Mount Sutro summit and west of Sutro Tower. South of the tower is Clarendon Heights and the community of Midtown Terrace, established in 1957 and consisting of 817 residential homes. Mount Sutro is bounded on the west by Clarendon Avenue south of the Twin Peaks Boulevard intersection. Winding counter-clockwise along Laguna Honda Boulevard, Woodside Avenue and Portola Drive, the southern border meets Twin Peaks Boulevard in the southeast and follows the Boulevard north to Clarendon. Bordering the southeast corner of the UCSF campus lays the Interior Green Belt, an urban forest featuring various bird and sensitive plant species. Just north of the forest is the small and scenic community of Parnassus Heights.

In May 2009, UCSF announced they had obtained preliminary approval for two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants totaling $337,560 for two fire mitigation projects. Within the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, the South Ridge project area is comprised of eight acres to the immediate west of the UCSF Aldea housing facility and the Edgewood Avenue project area is comprised of six acres in the northeastern section of the reserve. The proposal calls for the removal of dead and live vegetation by means of "goat grazing, mechanical clearing, hand-clearing and chemical application." The blue gem eucalyptus and Himalayan blackberry are specifically targeted, however UCSF will work with scientists and the Mount Sutro Stewards to determine which species should remain and the exact amount of vegetation to be removed. Thereafter, approximately 225 native, more fire resistant species of trees will be planted along with grasses and wildflowers.

In response to criticism of the plan from some local residents, UCSF addressed specific concerns and announced they would delay the project in order to hold additional public meetings. Organizations supporting the UCSF plan include the Mount Sutro Stewards, Nature in the City, SF Urban Riders, the California Native Plant Society, the Rotary Club of San Francisco and the Cole Valley Improvement Association. Opponents of the plan like Save Mount Sutro Forest and the San Francisco Tree Council claim fire mitigation is just an excuse to remove non-native species and believe the risk of fires will actually increase.

On 25 February 2010, UCSF announced they were withdrawing the FEMA grant applications because their timelines would not permit the creation of demonstration areas as necessary per the 2001 Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Management Plan. The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required by FEMA, which would take two years and place a moratorium on any mountain work, was also cited as a reason for the withdrawal during a 24 March 2010 community meeting. UCSF's new plan calls for a yearlong California Environmental Quality Act review, the development of a two-acre demonstration area and continued community involvement through a series of scheduled community workshops. According to these new plans, work on the demonstration area would begin in September 2011.

On 18 January 2013, UCSF released a new draft EIR that addressed "thinning of the forest, removal of some invasive shrubs and vines, native plant restoration and construction of new trail linkages." On 20 February 2013, UCSF published a Frequently Asked Questions document in advance of a scheduled public hearing to discuss the draft EIR on Monday, 25 February 2013.

In addition to Save Mount Sutro Forest and other local advocacy groups, the San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial by Joseph Mascaro against the plan. Huffington Post, Epoch Times, Synapse and the Chronicle also covered the story.

At the same time, an unrelated project to test the effectiveness of goat grazing in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve began on Monday, 04 March 2013 and the San Francisco Planning Commission approved a plan on Thursday, 07 March 2013 to build thirty-four new homes on the west side of Mount Sutro.

While public tours of the site are not permitted—look at pictures of private tours—those wishing to see Sutro Tower up close may do so on public lands. The Summit Reservoir, a 14 million gallon drinking water and fire protection resource built in 1954, is located to the immediate northeast of Sutro Tower and offers the closest views of the tower and building. Ample street parking is available along Palo Alto Avenue and Marview Way to the north and east of the reservoir. In March 2004, the Summit Reservoir was targeted for a comprehensive rehabilitation and seismic upgrade, the first of such projects scheduled per the Public Utilities Commission Water System Improvement Program.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- The Summit Reservoir exercise trail next to Sutro Tower, San Francisco, California, 26 May 2009

The refurbished reservoir was returned to service in August 2006 complete with a paved public path around the perimeter. This path has evolved into a nice, quiet place frequented by residents of all walks of life. At the southern corner of the path, near the painted 800 marker, you can join a series of tranquil unpaved trails through the woods, one of which encircles Sutro Tower and ends near the base of La Avanzada Street at Dellbrook Avenue.

Some of the best views of the bay area are available one-quarter mile (402 metres) to the east at Twin Peaks. Accessible by car via Twin Peaks Boulevard, the popular lookout on Christmas Tree Point Road may be a hit with tourists, but truly offers a unique and sweeping view anyone can appreciate. A small unpaved trail exists for those wishing to travel between Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks on foot, dramatically reducing the trip's distance and time versus following the roads. Exit from the northeast corner of Summit Reservoir, the only paved access excluding La Avanzada Street, and turn right onto Marview Way. When you get to the gated driveway on the left across from Farview Court, you will see the start of the trail to the right of the gate. Take the trail east, south of the open water Twin Peaks Reservoir and behind several private residences toward the tree at Twin Peaks Boulevard. From there, pass the panel in the ground, hop the guardrail, cross the road and take the steep trail that leads you to the observation area. Stand next to the green trash receptacle at the westernmost part of the parking loop where the trail ends for an unobstructed view of Sutro Tower and the reservoirs. For a great panorama of the city, hike up the stairs to the top of the Twin Peaks summits.

Both of the above-described unpaved trails are potentially hazardous with uneven terrain, blocked/narrow footpaths and proximity to various plants and animals (I saw a fox during the day). You are doing so at your own risk, so please explore safely and stay on public lands. Remember, Sutro Tower's fenced-in property is private and any trespassers will be detected, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The Twin Peaks Reservoir is the backbone of the San Francisco Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS), which began development in 1908 following the great earthquake of 18 April 1906 and the subsequent destruction of much of the city by uncontrollable fires (still the worst ever in US history). The 10.5 million gallon (39.7 million litre) storage reservoir constructed with 6 inch (15.24 centimetre) thick reinforced concrete is located at an elevation of 758 feet (231 metres) as originally envisioned by Chief Dennis T. Sullivan in the 1890s. Divided into equal bays, a sudden break in the distribution system would only affect one half leaving the other available for use. Further down the system are the Ashbury Tank and Jones Street Tank, each with a capacity of 500,000 gallons (1.9 million litres) and 750,000 gallons (2.8 million litres) respectively.

Original Photo Credit: David July --- Christmas Tree Point Road and the Central Radio Station of Twin Peaks with Market Street and downtown in the background, San Francisco, California, 26 May 2009

In addition to the scenic overlook, parking area and man who sells decent food and drink from his truck during the day, Twin Peaks is also home to the City and County of San Francisco's Central Radio Station. This facility has one 180 foot (54.9 metre) tower, ASR 1025293, and one 197 foot (60 metre) tower, ASR 1064388, providing communications support for the City Police and Fire Departments, 911 dispatch system, Sheriff, District Attorney, Office of Emergency Management, Public Utilities Commission and the Unified School District (operating radio station KALW). On 15 July 2012, police announced that vandals broke into the facility and cut several wires. No essential services were disrupted but the FBI was notified nonetheless.

To the south of Sutro Tower and west of Twin Peaks is Sutro Reservoir 10-024, completed in 1952 and containing 32 million gallons of potable water. The tank is built into the side of Mount Sutro with a topographically sloped concrete liner and walls 40 feet (12 metres) high. In 2003, Lotus General Contractors repaired the 300,000 square foot (27,871 square metre) concrete lid and resurfaced it for use as tennis courts (not yet implemented). In 2006, Sutro Reservoir was refurbished and seismically stabilized as part of the Water System Improvement Program. The Midtown Terrace Playground and Sutro Recreation Center, 280 Olympia Way, is open to the public at the southwest corner of the reservoir.

There is at least one camera on Sutro Tower currently (as of May 2009) in operation, but it is not publicly available. However, a monitor on-site does display the current view. Original Photo Credit: David July --- A monitor on-site displays the image from the camera on Sutro Tower, San Francisco, California, 22 May 2009The last known public view from the Sutro Cam permanently blue screened on 06 May 2004, 0941.

On 25 August 2012, local San Francisco ISP MonkeyBrains placed a camera pointing toward Sutro Tower online. You can view the MonkeyBrains Sutro Cam page; use "sutrocam" for the username and "fog" for the password.

Over the years, many other webcams have come and gone offering views of Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks. The Powazek SutroCam froze on 05 December 2000, 1035. A permanent foggy vista captured 28 July 2005, 0940 is all that is left of the Twin Peaks Cam. My long-time favorite City Birds Cam disappeared on 27 March 1999. Most recently, Jeffrey Bennett's Bernal Heights Cam was producing a great time-lapse image in the direction of Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks, however he has since moved to Minnesota.

Not to be confused with the Twin Peaks in San Francisco, Mike Richmond maintains a comprehensive weather station (providing data to the National Weather Service) and webcam from Twin Peaks, California within the San Bernardino National Forest.

Original Photo Credit: © The Exploratorium, Michael Naimark --- The Golden Gate Fly-Over exhibit at the Exploratorium with a frame from the film superimposed over the screen (David July), San Francisco, California, Circa 1985--1987My personal fascination with Sutro Tower and Mount Sutro is inexplicable, although I have always held an interest in technology, including computers, amateur radio (de KD4PGJ) and electronics. It all began during my first visit to San Francisco in 1989. I remember seeing Sutro Tower while traveling around the city and taking a liking to it. My first trip to the Twin Peaks overlook was especially memorable because of the great view of the tower there.

Another memory from 1989 is my visit to the Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts. An exhibit there at the time called Golden Gate Bridge Video featured the Golden Gate Fly-Over (1987) film directed by Michael Naimark, an aerial movie map filmed from a helicopter using a gyro-stabilized camera at 1,000 feet (305 metres) above sea level. The exhibit allowed guests to effectively fly over the city using a trackball to control the motion. When it was my turn, I used the trackball to move through the city towards Twin Peaks. Before I knew it, I was staring at Sutro Tower on the screen like I was hovering next to it. This was a fairly remarkable experience from the perspective of an eight-year-old in 1989, well before present-day resources like Google Earth (open with 3D Buildings and Terrain layers enabled).

Original Photo Credit: David July --- TWIN PEAKS street sign from San Francisco, Tallahassee, Florida, 22 June 2008Original Photo Credit: David July --- Florida License Plate Tag MT SUTRO, Tallahassee, Florida, 07 September 2003

Beyond my websites and personal visits (five as of January 2013), there are several daily reminders of the city by the bay in my life. Strategically hung on a small wall in my living room is a Twin Peaks street sign that once stood in the shadow of Sutro Tower. It was purchased in 1996 from the now defunct (as of 2004) San Francisco City Store. In late 2001, I registered MT SUTRO for my car's license plate and have moved it to my subsequent vehicles ever since. The last time I left San Francisco, the final glimpse I had of the city looking out the airplane window was of Sutro Tower standing alone above the fog, the city below completely shrouded as depicted in the photograph below.

Original Photo Credit: Tom Husband --- Sutro Tower stands alone above the fog as seen from Mount Tamalpais, Marin County, California, 16 February 2008

My Sutro Tower Tour
Sutro Tower Tour I
Sutro Tower Tour II
Sutro Tower Tour III
Sutro Tower Tour IV
Sutro Tower Tour V
Sutro Tower Tour VI
Sutro Tower Tour VII
Sutro Tower Tour VIII
Sutro Tower Tour IX

Clothing and Accessories
Animal Instincts Monkey T-Shirt
Bay To Breakers Costume (alt)
Belt Buckle by Doe
Belt Buckle
T-Shirt by Cody
T-Shirt by Arin Fishkin
FTC Retro T-Shirt
Gama-Go "Sutro Squid" T-Shirt
Amos Goldbaum T-Shirts
Halloween Costume I
Halloween Costume II
Halloween Costume III
Halloween Costume IV
Halloween Costume V
Halloween Costume VI
Halloween Costume VII
Headline Shirts "Cloud City"
"I Love Adolph Sutro" T-Shirt
"Mighty Sutro" T-Shirt
oneculture Denim Jeans
Paper and Wood Earrings
Rag Sutro Tower T-Shirt
Samantha Stollenwerck T-Shirts
Shotwell's T-Shirt
SF Sutro Tower
SF Sutro Tower Onesie
Soma Sutro Cycling Cap
Sutro Tower "Local" T-Shirt
Sutro Tower "Local" Shirts by Glug Reissued
Sutro Tower Napkins
Sutro Tower Necklace Pendants
Sutro Tower Ties I
Sutro Tower Ties II
Sutro Tower Tote Bag
United Hue Sutro Tower Tee
Wheel of Sutro Shirt
Zip-Up Hooded Sweater

Agathe Azzis
Aluminum Sutro Tower Model
AT&T Park
A. Bailey and E. Garcia
Oana Barac-Matei
Glenn Budak
The California Chronicles
CANstruction SF 2011
Cardboard Sutro Tower Model
Mona Caron
Heather Champ
Cameron Chernoff
Chalk Drawing/Photo by Andy Brooks
Chuck Prophet Album Cover
Trevan Crowe
Greg Dean
Chantal deFelice
Detailed Sutro Tower Model
Destroyed by 3-Head Dragon
Sutro Tower Diorama
Sutro Tower Dish Towel I
Sutro Tower Dish Towel II
Ariel Dovas
Draft FCB for The New Wheel
Hannah Duenwald
Nathalie Fabri
Fabric 8
Lee Fenyves
Liza Ferneyhough
Arin Fishkin
Chloé Fleury
Wilson Fu
Annie Galvin
Katie Gilmartin
Giant Gnome
Google Offices (SF)
Britta Gustafson
Jessica Ivey
Elly Jonez
Danny Kartman
Abby Lee
Josh Lee
Jeanne Liotta
Gerard Livernois
Logo for fitGLENfit on Chenery
Logo for Frequency 8 Records
Logo for Soma Buena Vista Bicycle
Julian Lozos
Julian Lozos Sutro Frogs
King Kong Climbing Sutro Tower
Dave Marcoullier
Mural at Fabric 8 Parklet
Mural at Foods Co on Folsom
Mural at Sports Basement
Mural at Trader Joe's
Mural at Trader Joe's
Mural at Valencia Whole Foods
Mural in Haight-Ashbury
Mural on Excelsior Overpass
Mural on Mission near 17th
Mural on Mission
Erin Stevenson O'Connor
Lauren Peters
Thaddeus Phipps
Lark Pien
Cole Pierce
Jeff Plotkin
Wayne D. Quinn
Ian Ransley
Eric Rewitzer
Lance Rivers
Pete Scully
Jack Shen (NSFW)
Robin Sloan
SF Skyline Bath Toys
Space Claw for Mayor
Star Dog Studio
Deth P. Sun
Sutro Attacks! at 780 Valencia
Sutro Christmas Card
Sutro Ink Stamp
Sutro Sculpture at Creativity Explored
Sutro Street Art
Sutro Tower Knitting Chart
Sutro Tower Pumpkin Carving
Sutro Tower Pumpkin Stencil
Maira Sutton
Andy Szybalski
Sutro Tower Cupcakes
Sutro Tower Embroidery
Sutro Tower Model Trifecta (more)
T.L. Taylor
Trophygeek Painting
Victorian Mural
François Vigneault
Kevin Warnock
Jason Waskey
Michael Wertz
Wilka Design
Wooden Sutro Tower Model I
Wooden Sutro Tower Model II
Wooden Sutro Tower Model III
Charlene Wright
Rachel Znerold

Official Sutro Tower

KPIX Eye on the Bay: Up Above
KPIX News: Sutro Lights (org)
KPIX News: DTV Project
Mount Sutro Stewards at Work
MythBusters: Cooking with RF
Owen Scharlotte Time-Lapse
Spectrum Analyzer Tour
Sutro Tower Sunset Time-Lapse
Sutro Tower Sunset Time-Lapses
Nathan Wolfe Near the Top
ajdotti's View from the Top

Hal Bergman
Bill Cendak II
Ron Cervi
Ron Chapiesky
Alexander Crook
Stuart Dixon
Jeremy Fitzhardinge
Flickr mountsutro
Flickr sutro
Flickr sutrotower
Flickr sutro tower
Flickr sutro tower pool
Flickr twinpeaks
Jim M. Goldstein
Rachel Granofsky
Thomas Hawk
Chris Henry
Grant Imahara
Matt Jalbert
Todd Lappin
Greg A. Lato
Gerard Livernois
Marc Liyanage
Lunar Eclipse 2011-12-10
Brendan McWeeney
Will Scullin
Eliya Selhub
Simpson Brothers
Sutro Island
Sutro Tower 1973-09-01
Sutro Tower Sunset Time-Lapse
Mark Wallace
Charles Whiskey
Mila Zinkova

Sutro Tower Tattoo I
Sutro Tower Tattoo II
Sutro Tower Tattoo III
Sutro Tower Tattoo IV
Sutro Tower Tattoo V
Sutro Tower Tattoo VI
Sutro Tower Tattoo VII
Sutro Tower Tattoo VIII
Sutro Tower Tattoo IX
Sutro Tower Tattoo X
Sutro Tower Tattoo XI
Sutro Tower Tattoo XII
Sutro Tower Tattoo XIII
Sutro Tower Tattoo XIV
Sutro Tower Tattoo XV
Sutro Tower Tattoo XVI

Things of Interest
Architectural Guilty Pleasures
And now, some love for Sutro Tower…
The Bandit Notes
Bill & Larry's Broadcasting Page
Burrito Justice's 21st Sutro GIF
"City of the Future" Model
Deli Sign
Field Service at 1,700 Feet
From Whale Mansion To Mega Tower
The Full Picture
Fybush Tower Site of the Week 2001
Fybush Tower Site of the Week 2011
Google App Background
Google Sightseeing
HDTV-in-SFbay Group
Holiday Sale Signage
In defense of the Sutro Tower…
Larry Kenney
Mount Sutro Forest
Mount Sutro Hike (October 2013)
Mount Sutro's Untold Understory
Mt. Sutro's Many Names
Jim Price
Mary Ann Quinn Tower Climb
The Online Engineer
Old Mt. Sutro, Reborn!
POPlus Castro Window
San Francisco in LEGO
Security Badge (Vintage)
Seven Views of Sutro Tower
SF Natural Areas
Sticker Graffiti
Sutro Moves into Digital With Dielectric
Sutro Tower by Justine Fields
Sutro Tower Blast-Off
Sutro Tower Buffet Centerpiece
Sutro Tower Coat Rack (at SFmade)
Sutro Tower Coat Rack for children
Sutro Tower Community Perspectives
Sutro Tower Dishtowel
Sutro Tower Fan Club
Sutro Tower Geocache
Sutro Tower Grocery Tote
Sutro Tower Hand Stamp
Sutro Tower Hat Rack by Justin Godar
Sutro Tower Inspired Chairs
Sutro Tower Note Cards
Sutro Tower Pet Dish
Sutro Tower QI Cameo
Sutro Tower Skateboard Decks
Sutro Tower Stout
Sutro Tower Tote Bag
Sutro Tower Under Construction
Twin Peaks Area Historical Images
Twitter Account (unofficial)
The Ubiquitous Tower of San Francisco
Video Game: Defiance
Voting Card

Related Mount Sutro Articles
Grandma's Tower
Room with a View
The Compliment
The New Domain
The Remote Experience
The Artwork Collection
The View from Below
The Forthcoming Reunion
The Benevolent Guardian
The Three Fish Conjunction
The Gateway to the Bay
The One Who Stands Alone
The Welcome Back You Get
The Conductor of the Heavens

Original Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk --- Sutro Tower, San Francisco, California, 12 July 2005

Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
Original Photo Credit: San Francisco Public Library
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: Clifton Stone
Original Diagrams Credit: Sutro Tower, Inc.
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: Johnny0/Burrito Justice
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: Mathew Brady and Levin C. Handy
Original Photo Credit: Dustin D. Smith
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: The Exploratorium, Michael Naimark
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: David July
Original Photo Credit: Tom Husband
Original Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Comments59 Comments on “”Comments RSS Feed

  1. Steve

    See this page for an interesting perspective on your tower. The location is given there as -122.45255 longitude by 37.75524 latitude.

  2. kvn

    well gosh darn it, someone likes that magical trident as much as me. Any other Sutro junkies have any more diagrams of that happy tri-ped? If so, I'd love to see them.


  3. Peter

    Thought you tower junkies might like this T-Shirt available from Upper Playground

  4. J. Iorns

    Is there a place near/around the tower where you can get a really nice view of the city? I think I was taken there years ago on a date and we had a picnic on a cement structure/wall. Does that sound right?

  5. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    The spot you are looking for is Twin Peaks. Located next to Mount Sutro and Sutro Tower, Twin Peaks offers the finest panoramic view of the Bay Area.

  6. Jas

    I've been obsessed with Sutro Tower forever! It's SO San Francisco and wherever I am in the city I find myself looking for it…it's the coolest and I don't even know why…

  7. Mike Gilbert

    Thank you for the great info on the tower. It is truly a beautiful structure…and to think the people (wearing tin foil hats so the man can't read their thoughts) at want it torn down. How could you tear down something so iconic at this? A tower in rural England was put on an historic register because like the trident- It's a piece of history- truly a Space Needle of the Bay Area

  8. Mike Gilbert

    Also, I'd check out for some great photos of similar structures from around the world- I know I can't get enough

  9. Lenza McElrath

    Last week I lost all the digital PBS channels (9.1-5). I called PBS and they said that work is currently being done and it should be completed next week. Does anyone know what is going on?

  10. Giles Hall

    Can someone tell me something about the maintenance of this tower? For example, how often is it painted and with what sort of paint?

  11. dave

    Looking for pixs of the tower being built, any clues? Great site BTW

  12. troymccluresf

    Sweet, I'm linked!

    Now if I could only find a good Sutro Tower t-shirt. I think I'm just going to have to make one.

  13. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    Check out Clothing and Accessories in the Links section for Sutro Tower t-shirts and more.

  14. Lesli

    My daughter has a t-shirt with Sutro tower on it and under it says, "Local". Someone got it for her at a gift shop on Irving near 9th Ave. Not sure if they still sell them…

  15. troymccluresf

    I was in the Haight the other day, in front of TRUE, and they had a really cool, detailed women's t-shirt with the Tower emblazoned on the front. I didn't have time to check it out (or see if there was a men's) but it was pretty nifty.

  16. Phil

    This site has some Sutro Tower construction photographs.

  17. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    This link and one to Sutro Tower construction photographs at the San Francisco Public Library (found on your site) have been added to the hyperlinks section above.

    Thank you for the contribution, Phil!

  18. Hugo

    Can the tower be used for 3G Cell Phone Networks; eventually operating at near DSL speeds? I am sympathetic to the impact of all frequencies on residents, animals and the environment. Hopefully signals can be broadcast at lower strengths and given the height of the tower will be broadcasts from a greater height.

  19. Thomas Inman, PhD

    The value of your research is immeasurably helpful. As a writer and former R&D environmental scientist, I am curious about Edgewood Avenue, a dead end brick street that "lacerates" Sutro Forest. I am told it was once destined to support a cable car run to Sutro's other mansion. As I was raised on Edgewood, I was also told the brickwork, evident in other SF areas, was constructed by a particular group of masons (union). My research has led me to question the Arbor Day planting of Australian & Blue Gum Eucalyptus, although the initialization was indeed started as your article suggests. Do you know how the seedlings were acquired?
    More simply, in your explorations, did you encounter any information regarding Edgewood Avenue? Again, you are to be commended for your work. Thanks!

  20. amos goldbaum

    If anyone is still looking for sweet sutro tower shirts I have been making and selling them for a few months now. check out my design here or go to and click on "store." I have men's and women's sizes and you can buy online or at my locations in downtown sf.

  21. Coley Wopperer

    Hi David,

    I have a webcam to offer up that I found after seeing all the ones you mentioned, here, disabled.
    Since moving from the Inner Sunset to Potrero, I have been looking for a camera I can watch to remind myself of the foggy area I used to inhabit! Joy to find one!

    Hope this helps =) Cheers

  22. Terry Nitzel

    I lived at 660 Clipper Street in "The City" in what was then known as the "diamond hights" neighborhood of SF. I wonder if any "ham" radio operator has ever tried to "load up" Sutro Tower on the 160 meter ham band?? For those readers who may be familier with ham radio, that is the "band" from 1800 to 2000KHZ. Really old old timers will remember 160 meters, as the old am "police band". The oldest "broadcasting" station of ANY type was KQW now using the call-letters KCBS, KQW was originally licensed to San Jose. KPH for Palace Hotel was the first Marine radio-Telegraph station. It should be remembered by history-buffs that the value of radio was first realized as an aid to helping ships in "distress" The original "distress" signal was CQD, (come quick distress) The signal was later changed to SOS, (save our souls) or(save our ship) by the Berlin Radio Conferance of 1912. The Radio Historical Society, located at the old KRE radio station, operates KPH on an ocasional basis from it's newer transmitter site in Marin County.

  23. Jesse

    On a clear day in northern ca a person can see sutro tower with the naked eye from the top os the siberia express chairlift at squaw valley ski resort.

  24. William A. Siewert

    I can remember as a youth when us kids from Noe Courts park would drink beers at Twin Peaks and one night some guy had climbed up to the top of the Sutro Tower and threatened to jump! It was quite a spectacle with the police helicopter flying around the tower broadcasting advice for the man to climb down to his safety, while people on Twin Peaks were yelling for him to jump! (The Stoney Years)

  25. Gerard Livernois

    hey hey,
    I'm looking for a drawing of the original design of 1968 online. It was a duodecagon with more space needley

  26. Diana Matson Smith

    I have memories of my parents driving up Mount Sutro in the 1950s and seeing a house at the top. And almost falling off the edge of hill in our 1950 Plymouth! I still call "Clarendon Heights" Mt. Sutro. Newcomers don't know what I am talking about! I accumulate SF history stuff from all kinds of sources and was happy to find your thoroughly put together article.

  27. Peter Dal Poggetto

    The Sutro Tower is and will always be a blight on the San Francisco skyline. Those who think the tower to be "cool" or "iconic" have no idea what Twin Peaks and Mt Sutro looked like before the tower was constructed. The peaks were clean, natural and uncluttered. Sometimes when the fog pattern is just right over the peaks, you can see how much better the peaks and city looks when the tower is obscured.

    I suspect if one is a transplant from some other part of the country, like so many residents currently are, it looks cool compared to the flatlands and dullness of their states of origin.

    Being a native San Franciscan, I saw the demolition of the Sutro mansion, clearing of the forest, and the construction of the blight tower. I know what the Twin Peaks and Sutro skyline looked like before it was destroyed by a tower and some San Francisco politicos.

    Nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing it torn down and replaced by a more efficient safe high tech means of transmission.
    Don't worry you'll still be able to watch your Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil.

    Congrats to the devoted folks who are doing their best to restore
    the native lands around the tower.

    Peter Dal Poggetto

  28. Roger Alvarado

    I have worked in the City since 1998. I have visited the city since 1989. I have always been awed by the engineering feat of the tower's construction. I know that some people will claim that the tower is an eyesore, however, the tower has granted me some of the greatest memories of this Beautiful city. I had my mother visit me in San Francisco some years ago. My mother lives in Ottawa and is very proud of Ottawa's history and its semi-colonial landmarks. Well I took her around the city's hills. While sitting at a Park on Potrero Hill. We witnessed a phenomenon that without the tower would otherwise be impossible to see. The hill was fully covered in fog, only the 2/3 top of Sutro Tower was visible. The view was breathtaking until the tower started plumming fog, much like puffs of white fog, up throught the center of the tripod, then at that very moment the view became astonishing. It was amazing! The best part of the moment was that not 2 minutes before my mother had been wondering why on such a nice day in Potrero Hill we could not get a better view. I did not know anything about Sutro Tower then. I will send her this link Today, Maybe she will remember that morning sitting at a bench on Potrero hill Looking out to the fog and Sutro Tower. If she reads this she will know for sure how much I miss her and how much I remember the moments that we spend together. Love you Mami.

  29. Mike Fogel

    Nice site… thanks for putting together all this info. Can you provide links to any community groups working to remove the tower?

  30. Jaime Hansen

    I would like to send a photo of a painting done by Wayne Douglas Quinn of the Sutro Tower in fog. It will be on my blog.

  31. Terry B.

    What an ugly tower, perhaps the ugliest in the United States. It looks like something the military built during the Cold War, grown to monstrous size (perhaps due to exposure to radiation, like Godzilla). If only some group would encourage proposals for an elegant design to replace this mess.

  32. Bill

    Considering the plainness of most towers, I think it's nice to see something creative and different. Many people may dislike it, but as many if not more think it's part of the city's character. I enjoy seeing it as a part of my routine.

  33. Jeff

    San Francisco landmark, engineering marvel, Sutro Tower, we love you!

  34. William Bowen

    I've loved and admired that tower since my very first visit to San Francisco in 1974, a year after it went into full operation.

    I spent many a day working at Level 3 of the tower when I worked for a communications firm in the mid-1990s. Going up the leg of that tower in that elevator is a trip!! Electrically driven but manually controlled, if you stop it too quickly you'll activate the safety brake and get stuck in the elevator until someone comes up the tower via climbing to release the safety. Yes, I did that a couple of times and caught Gene Zastrow's rath for doing it.

    The present General Manager of the Tower, Gene Zastrow, is one of the greatest people I've ever met in my professional life. A great person to deal with and he knows his business. I wish the new General Manager well but Gene is going to be a VERY hard act to follow.

    Let me close with a note – while the view of San Francisco is nice from Twin Peaks, I will always remember how beautiful the City looks from the outrigger ports (little doors in the enclosure) from Level 3. I just I'd have taken a camera with me on one of my trips up there.

  35. Denver

    I agree with Peter Dal Poggetto & Terry B….it's an eyesore…the first time I saw it I called it "Gigantor"
    It becomes a hideous focal point on an otherwise beautiful natural landscape and detracts from the beauty of the city and the mountains. How it ever got approved, and why the residents haven't rebelled against this monstrosity is beyond me.

  36. Rob

    Great site! However, in reading the "DTV Conversion Project" section, it's not clear to me whether KRON-DT 4 and KTVU-DT 2 are now transmitting at full power on their new antenna (I hope not since their signal is marginal at my place in Santa Rosa!). Can someone tell me if there are still changes coming that would increase signal strength to the North Bay? Thanks in advance…

  37. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    The project is moving ahead of schedule. After this week's installation of the KOIT-FM side-mount antenna, the testing phase and transition to full digital operations should occur next week!

  38. David Wallace

    Where / what are the SF GG Bridge fog cam URL's?

    SF Gate had a 3D fog fordcater & There was / is a Berkeley GG bridge cam but I can't find them now!

    Wedding & Surf photos on my website!

  39. Eric Bergen

    A very interesting and informative site. Thanks for maintaining it! I appreciated learning about the big object taking up a significant spot on SF's skyline.

  40. Larry Bernard

    Come to the Auxiliary Communications Service Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Meeting this Tuesday 18 May 2010, and find out all you wanted to know about the Sutro Tower and didn't know whom to ask! Details below:

    Our next ACS General meeting is devoted to a really interesting presentation about Sutro Tower. Mr. Eric Dausman will be our guest speaker. He is the Vice President and General Manager of Sutro Tower, Inc. He will speak about the history of Sutro Tower, its antenna system, how it was constructed, who is connected to what and why, plus a discussion of digital communications.

    Tuesday May 18, 2010 1900 Hours (3rd Tuesday of the month)
    Emergency Operations Center, 1011 Turk Street, SF, Ca

    Come and get a live presentation, with opportunity to get your questions answered by an official of the company!
    See you at the meeting!
    Larry Bernard KG6VOM

  41. Bill Cereske

    Right you were Larry, it was a fantastic presentation! The only thing missing is a nice HAM repeater up there! Eric really knows his stuff! I liked the part about RF emissions – where he would scan a household and get a 1% of exposure limit reading, then pin the meter to "Danger" when aimed at the baby monitor transmitter.

  42. Tam

    There's a fantastic design of the Sutro Tower at for fans of the tower.

  43. ray

    As a graphic designer of 20 years, and a big fan of modern architecture, i found this tower UGLY!
    proportionally wrong to itself, the hill below it and to the city surroundings. no mention the color and the ridiculous structure. like a devil's fork or an abandoned construction crane. OMG! you guys are crazy! tear down that freaking thing!

  44. Rocky

    Hi, I just want to say great job with all the information you gathered about the Sutro Tower. I am a local here in San Francisco and I really learned a lot reading all your material. Keep on updating it for us! Thanks

  45. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    Photo Credit: Marc Malonzo --- Sutro Tower from Twin Peaks, Christmas Tree Point Road, San Francisco, California, 26 March 2011

  46. Julia Fishel

    My dad was a broadcast engineer for KCBS for years. When I was maybe about 7, one night at dusk, he snuck me up Sutro Tower to the top platform for a view of the city. Strangely, I don't remember being scared. The 'snapshot' in my mind of the city lights beginning to twinkle below, and oh the wind (!!), is one I'll never forget.

  47. Ray C

    I'm thinking of buying a house in Twin Peaks and raising a family. Have there been any conclusive studies on Sutro Tower causing cancer or other illnesses? Am I being too paranoid here? You just never know, and studies like these take forever to find conclusive evidence on (e.g. Erin Brockovich and PGE power lines). The only sources I've found on the internet were from a gentlemen named Neil Cherry.

    This link mentions him:

    And this is his study:

    It looks like Mr. Cherry took a look at childhood cancer cases and saw that there were elevated childhood cancer cases in those who lived within 1 mile of Sutro tower over those who did not. However, this is just one source, and I'm not sure if Mr. Cherry had any special interest or reason to deliver such a study (unless some sort of group who hates the tower paid him to do so!).

    What are your thoughts?

  48. David July Icon: Sutro Tower


    Although I am not in a position to analyze that research and definitively access its veraciousness, this is what I think of the situation.

    I do not believe there been any conclusive studies on Sutro Tower causing cancer or other illnesses. Either way with the antenna changes made in 2009, I believe any such research would require an update. At the same time though, I do not think you are being too paranoid. Companies long denied the health implications of their industrial factories and manufacturing centers, even when these facilities were built in proximity to residential areas. Over time however, the evidence presented itself as hospitals and scientists analyzed patterns in patient illnesses, journalists started asking questions and finally, public outcry.

    According to the radio frequency exposure studies conducted over the past five years, Sutro Tower's electromagnetic emissions comply with the "prevailing standards for limiting public exposure to radio frequency energy." The Hammett & Edison, Inc. study completed on 11 December 2009 found that after the completion of the DTV conversion project, "the measurement results were lower by an average of about 60%."

    That study was partly conducted under the provisions of the 07 November 2008 agreement between Sutro Tower, Inc. and three neighborhood associations—Midtown Terrace Owners Association, Twin Peaks Improvement Association and Forest Knolls Neighborhood Association—which stipulated particular conditions for RF exposure measurement studies and reports including government agency involvement. The conditions all reference measurement levels falling within the "applicable FCC standard for R-F exposure."

    From my standpoint, the facts suggest the risks are low. The city, state and federal agencies agree on the definition of acceptable exposure level standards. The contracted engineers' reports indicate a history of compliance with these standards. And perhaps most convincingly for your query, the neighborhood associations representing those living closest to the tower (and who have battled the tower for years) came to an equitable agreement.

    Personally, I find it easier to accept an argument that the government is covering something up when its own interests are at stake. If we were discussing one of the new airport security technologies, then I could see why their interests might dictate a position of denial and scientific retorts. Since the FCC RF standards are far more general in application, it is the broadcasting corporations who have something to gain from downplaying the risks.

    Much in the same way cellular telephone companies would be devastated if conclusive studies showed that exposure to that RF radiation was cancer causing or otherwise bad, so would the broadcasters around the world who use the same technologies implemented at Sutro Tower for television and radio transmission. Given the widespread nature of those technologies, I believe that we would have much more evidence if there was a problem of concern.

    In Peter Jamison's 20 January 2010 article "Celling Out: The Bay Guardian now wants to cash in by letting T-Mobile build antennas on its roof" in the SF Weekly, he states that the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper frequently "bash[es] the corporate titans operating in the Bay Area telecommunications market." Although the bulk of the story relates to the Guardian's apparent hypocrisy, it does also note that "in 2002, the Guardian itself ran a story on a 'study' that purported to show a link between radio waves emitted by telecommunications equipment on Sutro Tower and cancer rates." This could suggest that the study gained some notoriety due in part to the ulterior motivations of the newspaper.

    In the end, we just do not know yet how all of the EM floating around will affect us in the long term. But from what I can tell, standing next to a microwave oven with bad seals while it cooks is probably far more dangerous than moving to Twin Peaks or chatting on the phone.

  49. danny gerona

    i am facinated of the sutro tower when i first saw it i work 5 miles away from the site, at laguna honda hospital kudos to those who built it.

  50. Larry A. Fredeen

    The Sutro Tower ranks right up there with the Golden Gate, and Bay Bridges as the landmarks of the bay area! I've liked it since the first time I saw it a few months after it was built. And, your site is excellent… more information than I ever expected. (Too bad the mansion was ordered torn down.)

  51. Michele

    I did an art project about Sutro Tower and ended up getting pretty close up to the tower. I've loved it ever since. I took a ton of pictures that ended up in a Sutro Tower book project but thought I'd share these photographs that I posted on my Etsy site. Enjoy!

  52. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    KQED: Sat 1/28: planned maintenance at Sutro Tower, SF
    by Red Dana
    26 January 2012

    Sutro Tower needs all stations transmitting from there to switch to their auxillary antennas on Saturday (1/28) morning by 8am so they can do some tower work. This includes KQED’s DT9 signal. They hope to be done by noon.

    Most OTA viewers should see little or no change in their reception during this time, but some more distant viewers may experience problems. If that happens, most tuners should automatically find the signals again once stations are back on their main antennas, but a few viewers may need to do a rescan.

    Comcast Cable viewers of KQED TV9 will not be affected by this work.

  53. don

    to help fine tune our yagi fta antenna we could use the elevations ABOVE SEA LEVEL of the tv signals going north to santa rosa area for fox, abc, cbs, nbc and pbs. thanks don mattern

  54. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    @Gerard Livernois

    This SFGate blog post contains an image from the 18 November 1971 issue of the San Francisco Examiner, which contains a Sutro Tower design plan matching your description.

  55. Stephanie

    Sutro Tower needs a paint job! How often does the tower get a touch up? It's about time for a refresh.

  56. ron swanson

    Cool site, didn't see a mention of the cover of Chuck Prophet's Temple Beautiful album which prominently features Sutro Tower, still looking for a Temple Beautiful page with the same level of detail as this.

  57. David July Icon: Sutro Tower

    @ron swanson

    Thanks for the tip. I added a link under Art.

  58. David July Icon: Sutro Tower


    The tower is painted continuously to protect the steel from rust and corrosion, however the factory painted siding has faded over the years. No official word yet on when the siding may be given a refresh.

  59. Joy Anderson Fiske

    Please check your research on the name of the chief desigb engineer. It was Furman L. Anderson, Jr. He was the engineer that designed Sutro and was the VP of Kline Towers until his retirement 20 year ago.


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