The Umunhum Conservancy is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Mt. Umunhum and its historic Radar Tower.
Historic Update: Big News and Next Steps!
- The historic radar tower atop Mt. Umunhum has been declared “historic”
- It (probably) won’t be demolished or turned into a shade structure
- The tower still needs repairs to truly preserve it
- The Umunhum Conservancy looks forward to discussions with the tower’s owner on next steps
On May 10th 2016 the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to list the radar tower atop Mt. Umunhum on the County’s Heritage Resource Inventory. For the first time, the tower has official “historic” status! While listing on the Inventory does not make it impossible to demolish or decapitate the tower, it makes any such attempt much more difficult.
This is a major milestone in our community’s long effort to preserve the Tower and the history it represents. On behalf of the Umunhum Conservancy, I’d like to thank everyone for their support!
While preliminary, the tower’s owner, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MidPen), has indicated that they will honor the supervisors’ decision. Their General Manager was quoted in the Mercury News as saying “I think the tower is probably going to be there long after you and I are gone.” The Conservancy is happy that MidPen seems willing to drop their proposals to demolish the tower or to reduce it to a one story shade structure.
With this objective achieved, what’s next?
While the tower now is recognized as historic at the county level, it does not yet have such status at the state or federal level. The Conservancy will immediately begin working on those projects.
The tower still needs over a million dollars in repairs, according to MidPen’s 2012 estimate. If the tower is safe from demolition, we still need to move forward with those repair efforts. The tower must be preserved, not simply abandoned.
The Conservancy has been working since 2013 to raise funds to preserve the tower. To date we have raised approximately 25% of MidPen’s 2012 estimate. Many thanks are due to the wonderful individuals and businesses that have contributed to this effort to date!
Originally MidPen conceived this as an all-or-nothing proposition: either the Conservancy raised all of the necessary funds before October 2017 or else. (MidPen never officially decided what “or else” meant, but the only reasonable assumption was that it would have been total or partial demolition). As those outcomes are no longer possible, the October 2017 deadline is now no longer relevant.
The Conservancy believes that the all-or-nothing nature of tower repairs is also no longer relevant. Repairs necessary to preserve the tower should be performed as funds become available, with the most urgent repairs performed first.
The goal of such repairs should be to prevent further future damage to the tower (water intrusion through cracks and openings, etc), to resolve any necessary safety concerns, and to address aesthetic issues caused by MidPen’s interim repairs. The tower would remain sealed and the interior would remain off limits to visitors.
Unfortunately we have no details of the specific repairs that are needed at this point to preserve the Tower. MidPen’s 2012 assessment contained a total cost, but no detailed breakdown of the projects that cost would cover. (We have asked MidPen for these details numerous times but never received them.) In any case, an assessment done in 2012 would be obsolete in 2016; a new assessment is required.
Therefore at this point the Conservancy believes that the following steps are needed:
- An assessment of the tower’s current condition should be performed by an independent qualified contractor. That assessment should result in a prioritized list of specific repair projects that are needed, with an estimated cost for each. The Conservancy should pay for such an assessment and should select the contractor to perform it.
- Repair projects identified by the assessment should be performed as funds are available. The most urgent repairs should be performed first.
- The Conservancy should continue to raise funds for those projects, one at a time, until the repairs required to preserve the tower are complete.
- Follow up assessments by an independent qualified contractor should be performed every 2 years thereafter, paid for by the Conservancy.
We believe this course of action will insure that the tower is preserved for future generations while minimizing public expense and maximizing transparency.
I and the Conservancy welcome the opportunity to discuss the next steps with MidPen and hope to quickly reach a mutually agreeable plan going forward.
As things progress we will keep you updated.
Thanks again to the community for your support!
…Sam Drake / President / Umunhum Conservancy
The historic Radar Tower atop Mt. Umunhum will be demolished unless the Conservancy raises funds to preserve it.
Mt. Umunhum and the Radar Tower are owned by the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD). They do not spend funds on historic preservation. Unless the Conservancy raises approximately $1.5 million by October 2017, MROSD will demolish all or most of the Radar Tower.
As of April 2016 we are approximately 25% of the way to that goal. Thank you for your support!
For more information, please see our FAQ.
Come learn about the history of this fascinating site, see actual artifacts, and enjoy a slide show of amazing historic photos of the radar station when it was in operation between 1958 and 1980. Presented by Basim Jaber (Historian/Archivist and founder of the USAF 682nd Radar Squadron Veterans Association, and member of the Umunhum Conservancy Board).
For presentation dates and registration information, click here!
Support from Local Leaders
Numerous local political figures and other community leaders support preserving the Radar Tower atop Mt. Umunhum. Check out the list, and thank them for their support!
Thanks to our friends at KMVT, here is an interesting interview with Conservancy Director Basim Jaber about the history of Mt. Umunhum and the Conservancy!