About a pretty pole

The tallest structure in Santa Barbara’s skyline is a (roughly) 200-foot pole painted red and white. It stands in a city equipment yard, not far from the ocean and the city’s famous Wharf. You can see it in the photo above, with the Wharf behind it.

As landmarks go it’s not much, but I like its looks and its legacy.

On the looks side, I dig the simplicity of its structure and the red and white colors. On the legacy side, I’m a connoisseur of radio transmitters (see here) who digs the fact that this pole radiates the broadcast signals of three AM stations at once, which is a rare thing. Since Santa Barbara has only five AM stations, the majority of them are right here. Scanning up (what used to be) the dial, those are:

  • KZSB/1290, the all-local-news station affiliated with the Santa Barbara News-Press. Born as KACL in 1962.
  • KCLU/1340, the AM member of California Lutheran University‘s chain of popular public radio signals for the South and Central Coasts, the rest of which are on FM. Born as KIST in 1946.
  • KOSJ/1490, the call letters of which stand for Old School Jams. Like KCLU, it also radiates an FM signal from Gibraltar Peak, high on the mountainside above town. Born as KDB in 1926. The KDB call letters are still here, for a noncommercial classical music station on 93.7.

All three signals have changed call letters, ownership, formats and transmitter locations over the years. Near as I can tell, this pole stands on what was originally the KDB/1490 site, and the other two stations arrived in the early 90s: first 1290 and then 1340. (On AM, whole towers radiate signals, and in some cases more than one station shares a tower, or a set of towers. This is a rare case where three stations do the sharing.)

I bring this up because the tower is an attractive landmark, and I’m afraid we might lose it. That’s because (it says here) all three stations have construction permits for a new transmitting system on this same spot. See, the tower (called a “monopole”) as it stands is about 200 feet tall. The system specified by all three stations’ construction permits is about 130 feet tall. It  will also also be “top-loaded,” which means that either it will get some extra wires extending away from the tower, or a new “umbrella” on top (extending, by my estimate, about 11 feet out). For comparison’s sake, the pair of 200-foot towers of KZER/1250, which overlook Goleta Slough, the beach and the Airport, have umbrellas on them.

So I’m hoping one or more of the engineers involved can let us know what the plan is. I do hope they’ll keep the whole pole; but I’ll understand if they can’t, since the pole is bent. If you look close, you can see that the pole is pranged slightly to the east (left on this picture) above the bottom of the white section closest to the top.  I’m guessing that’s about 130 feet from the bottom.

Either way, the plan should be in some way to keep what has become a familiar landmark. And not to replace it with something functional but kinda ugly.