MENLO PARK -- While the hot topic issue of what will become of the reinforced concrete "Cube" atop Mount Umunhum won't be decided until next month, the board responsible for the future of the peak approved most features of a public park at the site on Wednesday.
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board gave the go-ahead on plans for parking areas, multiuse trails, a potential visitor center and safety upgrades to the main road. But the fate of the five-story, Cold War-era radar tower won't be decided until Oct. 17, along with what sort of other amenities will be at the top of the mountain.
Wednesday's meeting in Menlo Park drew about 50 people, a far cry from the more than 200 who crowded an informative meeting in July. Fifteen people spoke, many about the tower.
Vietnam veteran Chuck Berls said the board "has a once in a lifetime opportunity to honor veterans with a memorial that the entire community can see for miles and miles around."
George Clifford, also a veteran, said he served for years in a site similar to the Umunhum tower and called it "an unsightly piece of concrete atop a beautiful mountain."
Three ideas have been floated for the tower, which was once part of the Almaden Air Force Station and served to scan the horizon for incoming Soviet bombers.
One is to raze the five-story building completely, another involves chopping it down to a foundation and a wall. The third option by far the
According to consultants, it would be least expensive to tear it down at a cost of about $640,000. Chopping it to its foundation would run about $817,000.
Keeping the tower, the most expensive option, would cost an initial $1.1 million and an additional $750,000 in maintenance over the next four decades.
Former Oakland A's owner and Santa Clara developer Steve Schott stepped forward in July with an offer of $200,000 to help save the structure in hopes that the community will match his donation for a total of $400,000 -- approximately the difference in cost to tear down the building vs. leaving it standing.
On Wednesday, San Jose engineer and historian Basim Jaber said $1,100 has been matched so far in two donations -- one for $100 from a 7-year-old boy's piggy bank.
Jaber said the district hasn't been actively seeking matching contributions to help save the tower.
"They haven't been touting it," he said. "It's pretty obvious they want the tower down."
Board chairman Curt Riffle said that while the funds "would be a factor" in a decision, they also have to consider the purpose of the district.
"What we have to do is revisit our mission plan, and ask if that aligns with what we are doing." he said.
At its peak, 120 Air Force personnel and their families lived at the base, which had homes, a gymnasium, garages, even a bowling alley. The 44-acre base operated from 1957 to 1980, when it was made obsolete by satellites. It was acquired in 1986 by the open-space district, a government agency based in Los Altos.
Those interested in making donations to match Schott's gift can call the district at 650-691-1200 for more information.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.