Tower Site Calendar now available!

March 20-27, 2003

San Diego, California (part I)

A year or so ago, we presented some pictures from our visit to Los Angeles back in the summer of 2001 (you can find them here and here and here), and promised we'd eventually get around to putting up the pictures from San Diego and Tijuana that we took during that trip, too.

We'll start at the birthplace of TV in San Diego, Mount Soledad. When KFMB-TV signed on here in 1949, it was a fairly isolated hilltop in La Jolla, a few miles north of downtown San Diego. Today, La Jolla is one of the most prestigious suburban communities in California, and the towers that still crown Soledad sit amidst very expensive, very big homes.

Thanks to KFMB engineers Rich Lochmann and Rick Bosscher, I had the chance to spend a few hours touring the magnificent new facility KFMB was just then completing on Soledad (you'll read about in in an upcoming issue of Radio World, with more photos, too.)

KFMB's goal was to add digital TV and a master FM antenna to its existing tower at Soledad, all while working within La Jolla's tight zoning restrictions. (That's why the new transmitter building seen below has a tiny passageway connecting it to the original transmitter building - it thus becomes an "addition" instead of a new building!)

KFMB made clever use of its space - what you see in the picture below is the control panel for the FM combiner that feeds the Dielectric master antenna (known locally as "Quadzilla") - but the combiner itself lives up in the ceiling, thus freeing space below for an engineering shop (you can see the combiner at the top center of the photo if you look closely.)

At the left of the photo you can see part of the KFMB-TV/DT transmitter; at my vantage point for taking this picture, my back was to the door of a room that served as an office and "HDTV viewing room" (complete with copper shielding on the walls to keep out all that RF!)

Not shown here is the little stuffed caricature of an engineer (complete with tools in hip pocket) hanging up near the combiner. Gotta love a sense of humor at a transmitter site!

In any event, the KFMB site on Soledad was then home to KFMB-TV on channel 8, KFMB-DT on channel 55 (the market's first DTV), KFMB-FM on 100.7, KPBS-FM (the public radio station) on 89.5 (using a shorter tower at the Soledad site that was the original KFMB-TV tower half a century ago) and KIFM (98.1). If we're reading the coordinates right, it appears that the master antenna now holds KFMB-FM, KBZT (94.9), KYXY (96.5) and KIFM.

But those are hardly the only stations that call Mount Soledad home. Just across the road from the KFMB site is another site that's home to San Diego's other VHF station, KGTV (Channel 10), which is today the ABC affiliate but was for many years the NBC affiliate under the calls KOGO-TV.

That's KGTV itself at the top of the taller tower on the left, with KGTV-DT (Channel 25) just below it.

If memory serves, the eight-bay FM antenna on that H-shaped tower on the right belonged to what was then oldies KJQY (94.1). That 94.1 facility is a grandfathered superpower 100 kW class B, and was for many years classical KFSD; today it's playing 80s and 90s pop as KMYI, "My 94.1."

Also up here are classic hits KPLN (103.7) and rocker KIOZ (105.3). (The eight-bay antenna on the KGTV tower was then being used by one of the stations that's since moved over to the KFMB site, I think.)

Another tower just a bit lower on the mountain was home to "Mix" KMSX (95.7 Carlsbad, now oldies KOCL), Spanish AC KLQV (102.9) and K35DG (Channel 35), the LPTV that broadcasts educational programming from the University of California at San Diego.

It's only a short drive from Soledad to the Kearney Mesa area, a few minutes north on Highway 163 from downtown San Diego. Kearney Mesa is a popular place for broadcasters; when we visited, every commercial TV station in town was located within a few blocks of each other, in and around Engineer Road. KFMB was here first, but just down the street are studios for KSWB (Channel 69, the WB affiliate), KNSD (Channel 39, the NBC O&O - which has since moved most of its operations to a showcase studio downtown) and even XETV (Channel 6, the Fox affiliate that's licensed across the border in Tijuana - we'll see its transmitter site in a few weeks here on Tower Site.) Just a short drive away were studios for KUSI (independent Channel 51), the cross-border combo of KBNT-LP (Channel 17, the Univision affiliate) and XHUPN (Channel 49 in Tecate, Mexico, the UPN affiliate) and the recently-consolidated Clear Channel facility (which, thanks to LMAs of Mexican stations, operated nearly a dozen stations from its building on Granite Ridge Road.) Only KGTV bucked the trend, operating from a studio facility east of downtown that it's used since the KOGO days.

We'll finish our first installment of the San Diego visit out on highway 52, heading east to the growing suburb of Santee.

This major freeway has an unusual distinction - it slices right through the middle of the three-tower array of KFMB (760)! You can't see the highway itself atop the rise of earth at the left of this photo, but the tower at the extreme left in the haze is actually on the other side of the road, with its transmission lines running through a culvert beneath the freeway.

(KFMB has another unusual distinction: when it moved up the dial from 540 kHz in the fifties to clear that channel for Mexican use, it ended up with 5 kilowatts day and night. Later, 760 was able to boost power to 50 kilowatts at night - but remained at only 5 kilowatts during the day, in order to protect daytimer KBRT, then known as KBIG, which transmits on 740 kHz from Catalina Island, 26 miles across the sea from the Southern California coast. Rumor has it that KFMB tried to buy out the 740 operation several times but was never successful.)

This is just the beginning of our San Diego trip...stay tuned in a week as we return with Santee's other tower sites (including one that's due to come down any day now) and a few more goodies - and then we'll head down to Mexico to look at some of those "X" sites.

Want to see more neat sticks all year round? Nashville's WSM (at left) is one of the more than a dozen Tower Site images featured in the 2003 Tower Site Calendar, still available from Tower Site of the Week and

If you liked last year's edition, you'll love this one: higher-quality images (in addition to WSM, this year's edition includes Providence's WHJJ; Mount Mansfield, Vermont; Buffalo's WBEN; KOMA in Oklahoma City; WTIC, Hartford; Brookmans Park, England; WPAT, Paterson; Four Times Square, New York; WIBC in Indianapolis; WWVA in Wheeling, W.V.; WGN Chicago and more), more dates in radio history, a convenient hole for hanging - and we'll even make sure all the dates fall on the right days!

This year's edition is still available in limited quantities! Orders placed now will be shipped within 24 hours! And this year, you can order with your Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express by using the handy link below!

Better yet, here's an incentive to make your 2003 NERW/Site of the Week subscription pledge a little early: support NERW/ at the $60 level or higher, and you'll get this lovely calendar for free! How can you go wrong? (Click here to visit our Support page, where you can make your NERW contribution with a major credit card...)

 Click here to order your 2003 Tower Site Calendar by credit card!

You can also order by mail; just send a check for $16 per calendar (NYS residents add 8% sales tax), shipping included, to Scott Fybush, 92 Bonnie Brae Ave., Rochester NY 14618.

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