Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County Supervisors Grant Mount Umunhum Radar Tower Historic Status, Decide it Will Stay

Santa Clara County supervisors Tuesday decided the fate of a radar tower sitting atop Mount Umunhum.

For years, a battle has brewed over whether to take down the prominent radar that some have labeled an eyesore and others, a historical treasure. Many see the tower as a symbol of Silicon Valley, but the 56-year-old construction is also a piece of Cold War history.

On Tuesday, the county’s board of supervisors voted unanimously to declare the tower historic, effectively ensuring that it won’t be going anywhere.

“The tower was the coastal defense radar that would look out 200 miles for incoming enemy bombers carrying nuclear weapons,” said Sam Drake, president of the Umunhum Conservancy.

Members of the conservancy group pled their case to Santa Clara County supervisors Tuesday, hoping to convince them to add the tower to the county’s historic inventory. The move would make it much more difficult for the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District, which manages the summit, to take down the radar tower.

After hearing from both sides, the board of supervisors agreed with the conservancy group, but their decision didn’t sit well with some Native Americans.

“Preserving the tower ignores the history the tribal folks had with Mount Umunhum,” said Valentin Lopez with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.

Bob Watts, who worked on the radar tower when he was 18 years old, disagreed. He said the tower was built to withstand a nuclear bomb, adding that he is glad to see that public pressure won’t be able to take it down.

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