They Once Wanted To Put a Restaurant On Top of Sutro Tower

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The iconic San Francisco “space fork” known as Sutro Tower has become a recognized symbol for t-shirts and tattoos, but the 48-year-old radio and TV signal tower was the result of a hard-fought battle between local radio and TV stations. Some wanted it where it ended up being built near Mount Sutro, others wanted it on the San Bruno Mountain in San Mateo County, just south of the city limits. 

The tower was completed in 1973, and obviously, the Mount Sutro side won. But the battle on where to put the tower had raged through the 1960s, pitting TV station against TV station, with one side promising to put a restaurant on the San Bruno Mountain version that would attempt to make the place a tourist destination. 

This revelation comes from the latest Total SF Podcast from the Chronicle, which Peter Harlaub wrote up with a little more detail in today’s Chronicle. “The Chronicle wanted it on Mt. San Bruno, because they owned KRON,” Sutro spokesperson Dave Hyams said on the Total SF podcast. “And ABC wanted it [on Sutro] because they owned this property.”

The restaurant appears to have been a gimmicky offer that the Chronicle hyped to make the deal seem sweeter. Hartlaub cites a December 7, 1962 Chronicle article explaining the (very preliminary) plans.

SF Chronicle archives

“The proposed $2-million television tower atop San Bruno Mountain may also become a tourist attraction, with an elevator and viewing platform similar to the Seattle World Fair Space Needle,” the Chron wrote in 1962. “Crocker Land Co. disclosed yesterday that if federal officials gave permission to build the 734-foot transmitter tower, even a restaurant might be added.”

The dispute between the TV stations was resolved by federal regulators, who said (very logically!) that the San Bruno Mountain site with the restaurant on top would pose a safety threat.

“They fought for about 10 years, and finally [federal aviation officials] weighed in and said, ‘No, you can’t put it on Mt. San Bruno, because it’s in the SFO flight pattern.’” according to Hyams.

So instead of a restaurant, we got a space fork.


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Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura is a two-bit marketing writer who excels at the homoerotic double-entendre. He is training to run a full marathon completely drunk and high, and his work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly curious decisions.

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