September 27, 2021 — KZYX took a significant step forward in the quest to bring its main studio to Ukiah last week. The station now has a permit to install a tower at 390 West Clay Street, formerly the site of acupuncturist Grace Liu’s clinic. KZYX will maintain a satellite studio in Anderson Valley, but the current signal is threatened by the growth of trees between Philo and the transmitter on Cold Spring Mountain. Having a main base in the county seat has also been a dream for years.
Craig Schlatter, the city’s zoning administrator and director of community development, approved the permit at a hearing on Thursday morning and spoke with KZYX later in the afternoon.
“From a planning perspective, it’s a pretty strong project,” he said. “It really made a difference because the applicant had done so much on their own to work with the neighbors, and that’s a key component to any successful project.” Schlatter added that the application was accompanied by three letters of support, from the sheriff, Cal Fire, and the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority.
One neighbor had an aesthetic concern about the tower, and asked that it be situated a little further back from the street and tucked behind some tasteful vegetation, which the applicant agreed to do. KZYX board president Tom Dow has spearheaded efforts to secure the building and the permits, including knocking on doors and talking to people to find out how to get off to a good start with the neighbors. On Friday afternoon, he granted the first interview from the new station — and a tour.
Dow reported that one of the key elements of establishing a studio in Ukiah was getting the use permit to install a 90-foot tower to serve as a studio transmitter link. KZYX has a satellite dish that receives national programming, but the tower is necessary to transmit local programming from the studio.
KZYX has been in negotiations with Grace Liu’s sons, who inherited the property after her death, and Dow expects bank transactions to be completed by the end of the week. He believes it will take several months to complete the planning and designing phase, which includes updating the electrical wiring, remodeling a bathroom to meet ADA requirements, and replacing the worn-out carpet. “Then we’ll have to order equipment, which will take some time to get,” he said. “Everybody knows these days supply chains are difficult...the goal will be that we’d start some work on this before the end of the year, and that we would be doing inside construction...through the first half of next year.” On that timeline, the station would be ready to operate by mid-summer of 2022.
In the meantime, the interview continued with a portable field recorder, starting in a big empty room with a wall of windows and a view of City Hall. Airplane noise was audible overhead, so soundproofing will be part of the upgrade. “This will be a good room for something,” Dow concluded. “It is accessible from the front, so it will be easy for the public to come in.”
The main building is basically that large room and a foyer, leading into a long skinny hallway with studio-sized rooms on either side, plus a bathroom and a kitchenette. There is also a covered courtyard with two picnic benches and a much smaller building that will probably serve as office space for operations, management, and administrative staff. “It’s a solid building and a good location on a nice property,” Dow reflected. “But we are going to have to do some upgrades to make it suitable for a broadcast studio.”
Listeners will be hearing more details in the near future about the capital campaign, plans for improvements, and progress on the projects involved. As for Dow, he listed a few reasons he’s willing to take it on.
“The more secure and reliable our signal is, the better, so that we’re there when we’re most needed, in terms of emergency or road closures, or nowadays, covid updates.”
What is KZYX News?
KZYX reporters cover local news for Mendocino County, California, Monday through Friday in six and a half minute reports. Featuring Sarah Reith, Sonia Waraich, Michelle Blackwell, Jim Culp, Marty Durlin and Alicia Bales.