South San Francisco CA November 22, 2015 Submitted by Leslie Arroyo, City of South San Francisco
This Friday, November 27, a tradition more than four decades strong will welcome the holiday season. If you’re in South San Francisco, be sure to watch the “Sign Hill Tree” light up at 5:30pm. It will shine brightly until midnight every night through the holidays.
The “Sign Hill Tree,” now a holiday icon for the City, was first installed in 1969. No one is sure whose idea it was to annually light the 800-bulb “tree,” creating a glow that can be seen for miles.
“It’s a tradition residents look forward to every year,” says Mayor Rich Garbarino. “For as long as I can remember, we have been lighting the tree and I still get a sense of childhood delight as I see the tree illuminated during the holidays.”
Here are a few facts about the holiday icon, courtesy of the South San Francisco Historical Society:
• The “tree” is actually a 90-foot telephone pole with “leaves” of steel cables wrapped in strings of lights. The pole is 75 feet high out of the ground and extends around 15 feet underground;
• A generator, provided by Buzz Haskins, was originally used to power the “tree.” The electrical crew manually started and stopped the generator at dusk and midnight. It wasn’t until about 1973 that electricity was installed up on the hill; and
• There are 28 individual strings of lights.
The annual undertaking is no small feat. Planning begins in July and the City’s Electrical Division installs the cables to support the structure in early November, though the tree is not lit until after Thanksgiving.
Garbarino says that he and other Council members hear compliments from people who enjoy seeing it every year. “People remark about our tree. They can see it from the East Bay, Peninsula and even mid-flight from SFO. It’s become a part of who we are as proud South San Franciscans.”