Do you know anything about the new pole at 21st Avenue and Geary? At least I think it’s new. It’s very tall and has what looks like megaphones pointing in each of the cardinal directions.
After some research and help from my cub reporter David, I found out that it’s called an Outdoor Public Warning System (OPWS) siren. It is designed to alert residents and visitors of San Francisco about possible danger. According to the OPWS website, there are 86 sirens which are located on poles and on top of buildings throughout all neighborhoods in San Francisco, Treasure Island, and Yerba Buena.
There are several in the Richmond District along Fulton at 11th, 25th, 32nd and 39th, plus at California & Funston, 100 El Camino del Mar, 32nd & Anza, Balboa & Great Highway, Merrie Way & Point Lobos, and Beach Chalet. See the full city map of OPWS sirens.
The system is tested at noon every Tuesday for 15 seconds, and it sounds similar to an emergency vehicle siren. In the event of a disaster, the 15 second alert tone sounds repeatedly for 5 minutes. David tells me that the sirens can be triggered individually, in groups, or all at once depending on the emergency. For example the sirens on El Camino del Mar and along the Great Highway are in place specifically for coastal and tsunami dangers.
David also filled me on some interesting facts and history about the siren system:
There is a group of volunteer radio folks that listen each week and call in to a central spot to let the city know which ones are working and which ones aren’t . The new system was installed due to the activism of the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood association. They went to the city with a photo of the siren at the wharf leaning at an angle and kept up until the modern system we have became a reality.
In the 60′s of course they were for telling you time is up we are having a nuclear war. Before that, massive siren units sat on tops of buildings (some are still up there) driven by v8 auto engines. They put out so much energy that you of course would be deafened and materials within 5 feet of the speakers would catch fire.
Thanks to Eric for sending in the question and to David for all the info. Below is a very brief documentary about the system, sent in by Greg over at NJudah Chronicles.
Tonight was the theatrical premiere of the new documentary, “Remembering Playland”, which looks back on the Playland At The Beach amusement park that sat on Ocean Beach from 1921 to 1972.
The Balboa Theater was packed; only the 9:15pm show on Wednesday still has tickets available (buy tickets). In the crowd were Playland attendees that had been interviewed for the documentary, which is full of great stories about the park best known by locals for its Fun House and cackling matron, Laffing Sal.
Many of those interviewed for the film are part of Playland-not-at-the-Beach, a “museum of fun” in El Cerrito, CA that was created to preserve and recreate the history of Playland. PNATB was also in the lobby displaying memorabilia from the park.
To top off a great night, the It’s It ice cream crew was on hand passing out free sandwiches to moviegoers. The original It’s It was created and sold exclusively at Playland for over four decades.
I came home with a DVD in hand ($15) so rest assured they’ll be available via mail order very soon.
The crowd hits the lobby after the 7pm show
The It’s It truck parked outside the Balboa Theater
A replica of the Laffing Sal animated statue from Playland
A commemorative Playland poster
Handing out free It’s It ice cream sandwiches to moviegoers
Memorabilia on display from Playland-Not-At-The-Beach
On the heels of today’s Examiner story, the Examiner updates us with news that the Department of Building Inspection visited the Alexandria property today and posted two notices.
The first notice alerts owners that they must register the Alexandria as a vacant building with the city. According to city law, this requires paying a $765 fee and continued maintenance to keep it in secure and good condition. The second notice was a violation for a broken window on the premises.
“The inspection did not confirm any of the exemptions provided in the (vacant building ordinance),” DBI spokesman William Strawn told the Examiner.
Kudos to SFAppeal and the Examiner for continuing to fan the flames on this issue.
Now, let’s hope the owners, who are rumored to live abroad, actually receive and act on these notices in a timely manner.
One towering figure in the show is “Indy”, short for Indricotherium, which is the largest land mammal ever discovered weighing in at 20 tons, or roughly the equivalent of 3 adult elephants. Since Indy arrived in the city, he (she?) has been making his way around to the various sights and in honor of that, the Academy is holding a fun Photoshop contest.
Of course I had to make sure that Indy visits some Richmond District sites; what better way for him to learn where he can venture to after the Academy closes?