SOS – Save Our Skyline!

The Umunhum Conservancy is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Mt. Umunhum and its historic Radar Tower.


On June 8th 2016 the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District’s Board of Directors voted to retain the historic radar tower atop Mt. Umunhum. The Tower will not be demolished!

Thanks to the community for your support!

What’s next?  Stay tuned!


A Special Meeting

The MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) Board of Directors is having a special meeting this Wednesday, June 8th. At that meeting they will consider and vote on a recommendation by their General Manager to officially vote to “Retain and Seal” the historic radar tower atop Mt. Umunhum.

What does that mean?  

The bottom line: if their Board goes along then the tower won’t be demolished!

Back in 2012 the MidPen Board considered three options for what to do with the tower:

  • Retain and seal … keep the tower intact, sealed to prevent access to the interior
  • Tear it down completely, or
  • Remove the top 4 floors, keeping the first floor only

At the time they decided NOT to decide, and to defer a decision until 2017.

Now that the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has declared the Tower historic, the only one of those options still possible is “retain and seal”.  Recognizing this, the MidPen Board will be asked on Wednesday to formally adopt that option. Rather than fighting the Board of Supervisors’ decision, MidPen will officially accept it and adopt it as their position as well.

After 2012 the MidPen Board made a few other decisions regarding the tower:

  • They voted not to accept any money from the Umunhum Conservancy to preserve the tower
  • They adopted a set of conditions that the Conservancy would have to meet before MidPen would enter into any agreement whatsoever with us (most importantly, the Conservancy would have to raise 50% of the required funds first)

This Wednesday the MidPen Board will also vote on cancelling all of those previous actions.  

What does THAT mean?

If their Board agrees, it means that the relationship between the Conservancy and MidPen can be restarted and redefined. We hope it means that we can begin to have a productive dialog leading to useful agreements on the future of the tower and how to best preserve it.

If the MidPen Board approves the recommendations of their General Manager on Wednesday it marks the end of one chapter in the effort to preserve the tower and the beginning of the next. The effort to prevent its demolition or decapitation will be over; we will have won!  

What’s Next?

The Conservancy intends to immediately begin paperwork to apply for historic status for the tower at the Federal and State levels.  

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 believes that the following steps are needed:

  1. 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.
  2. Repair projects identified by the assessment should be performed as funds are available. The most urgent repairs should be performed first.
  3. The Conservancy should continue to raise funds for those projects, one at a time, until the repairs required to truly preserve the tower are complete.
  4. Follow up assessments by an independent qualified contractor should be performed every 2 years thereafter, paid for by the Conservancy.

We look forward to substantive discussions with MidPen to agree on a mutually acceptable plan to preserve the Tower in a timely manner.

If you would like to attend the meeting this Wednesday, here are the details:

Wednesday June 8th, 2016

5:00pm to 7:00pm

Shoup Park Garden House

400 University Ave

Los Altos CA 94022

Parking at First Church of Christ Scientist across the street

Thanks again to the community for your support!

…Sam Drake / President / Umunhum Conservancy

 


Update: 18 May 2016

Historic Update:  Big News and Next Steps!

Summary:

  • 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

Details:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Repair projects identified by the assessment should be performed as funds are available. The most urgent repairs should be performed first.
  3. The Conservancy should continue to raise funds for those projects, one at a time, until the repairs required to preserve the tower are complete.
  4. 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


 

 

New Dates!

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!