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SF’s Iconic Electric Coca-Cola Sign Is Being Removed Forever

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The iconic Coca-Cola sign that has been towering over San Francisco’s Hwy 80, for over 80 years, is being removed this week.  Permits were filed over the summer for the “REMOVAL OF EXISTING DOUBLE-FACED “COCA-COLA” GENERAL ADVERTISING DISPLAY & SUPPORT STRUCTURE”, and it’s deconstruction has already begun at the corner of 5th and Bryant Street.

Brokeassstart.com spoke with a representative of the sign’s maker at YESCO Bay Area, who confirmed that the sign is being removed permanently, when asked what would become of the sign, he said, “Coca-cola’s contract stipulates that it be destroyed after removal.”

It is not clear why Coca-cola is removing its famous, neon billboard, one that has stood 112ft above San Francisco since 1937.  Perhaps it’s because commuter traffic is down in the Bay Area by 20% due to the pandemic, or maybe it’s because of San Francisco’s very vocal, anti-soda stance and 2016 Soda Tax, which charged everyone an extra tax for buying sugary drinks.  This tax raised millions of dollars over the last 4 years by the way, $1.65 million of those soda tax funds are currently being used to provide emergency food for people affected by COVID-19).

The sign was built on this building at 701 Bryant st., now ‘Antonio’s Antique’s’, in 1937.

What is clear is that once removed, no billboard can replace it.  The contract for the billboard space goes back over 80 years, and is custom, once it’s dissolved, it’s gone forever.  The permitting text confirms that as written: “Voluntary removal of General Advertising Signs and associated sign structure at 701 Bryant Street. Per Section 604(h) of the Planning Code, once a GA Sign is voluntarily removed, it cannot be replaced. Issuance of permit terminates land use right to GA signs at this property.”

We don’t know what Coke is planning for the future, maybe its got a better plan to advertise to us in the Bay Area, after all, Coca-cola spent an average of $4 Billion dollars on advertising per year globally between 2016-2020.  But replacing an ad that has embedded itself in the memories of generations of San Franciscans, starting at childhood, is basically impossible.

Coca-cola has a long history of advertising in the Bay Area.  They were here literally advertising at the ground floor of the SF Civic Center in 1913.  Here’s a shot of the construction at the corner of Larkin and Hayes in 1913, the spot that is now famously the Bill Graham Auditorium:

Civic Center,1913 – View northerly across Market from 9th Street toward Civic Auditorium under construction at Larkin and Hayes. Coca-Cola sign and United Railroads streetcar passing by.  Source: https://opensfhistory.org/

Coca-cola also had a bottling plant in SOMA starting in the 40’s, perhaps to serve all those thirsty sailors, soldiers and ship builders during WWII.

Mission & South Van Ness,1946. Looking east down Mission, Coca Cola bottling plant. Source: https://opensfhistory.org/

Bellow is the coca-cola sign above Interstate 80 in 1955.  The photo is taken from Brannan near 6th.  The view is to the north, over a construction site where the famous ‘California Flower Market’ used to be. You can also see political signs for ‘Christopher for Mayor,’ and ‘Ertola for Supervisor,’ and ‘Reilly for mayor’.

(George Christopher, a Greek immigrant, won the race, and served as SF Mayor until 1964.)

Brannan near 6th,1955 – View north over construction site for California Flower Market. Political signs include ‘Christopher for Mayor,’ ‘Ertola for Supervisor,’ and Reilly for mayor, and of course, the Coca-Cola sign (source https://opensfhistory.org/)

Even if you think that advertising is a form of pollution, for better or worse, it is a part of San Francisco history, and this particular sign was pretty special.  Goodbye forever, you bold red, gold, and white symbol of American capitalism, you will be missed by some, and derided by others.

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife (not so much nightlife anymore).

If you're a writer, artist, or performer who would like to get your work out there, or if you've got a great product or service to promote, we've got 120k social followers and really fun ways to reach them. We make noise for our partners, and for our community. alex at brokeassstuart.com

5 Comments

  1. October 26, 2020 at 12:19 pm — Reply

    Is there anything we can do?

  2. Grant
    October 29, 2020 at 12:11 pm — Reply

    I bet once the sign is gone, Anthony’s Antiques will be next to be demolished, and some huge high-rise will occupy the space.

    • babluemeanie
      October 30, 2020 at 2:15 pm — Reply

      YUP

    • Steve Randall
      December 3, 2020 at 7:34 pm — Reply

      As the Coca Cola representative contrived to say .
      Coca Cola is going to spend its advertising dollar on digital advertising , sentencing the iconic sign to not only removal but per contractual imperative to destruction. The removal of this absolute treasure can be blamed on the greedy landlord but , in my view , this is but another example of the Digital Age devaluing and replacing any and all vestiges of culture which predate the omnipresent digital pulse which has and is taking over what will be called “ Kulture “ and hypnotizing the public with advertising and great deluges of mediocrity acting as a kind of soma and progressively taking over the public mind and rendering it inert to all but its function of “buying stuff “ usually on credit and subject to usurious interest rates continuing to act as a funnel not only of American National wealth but ,also , that of the world .

  3. Stanley
    November 1, 2020 at 12:49 am — Reply

    The sign was gone as of Thursday. Only the supports remained.

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