San Francisco’s iconic Coca-Cola sign to be removed after 83 years

An iconic Coca-Cola billboard that has been part of the San Francisco skyline for more than eight decades is coming down.

The electronic billboard has been in place for 83 years but the company has decided now is the time to make the change.

"While we, like many San Franciscans, will miss seeing the sign, we made the difficult decision to not renew the lease as part of our efforts to focus on other digital media platforms that support the growth of our overall beverage portfolio," said Dora Wong with Coca-Cola North America wrote in an email to KTVU.

A towering presence in the South of Market cityscape, the original Coca-Cola billboards were installed on the rooftop in 1937 just as the Bay Bridge was opened.

"Just always seeing that sign lit up, coming off the Bay Bridge, I know I'm coming home," said longtime San Francisco resident Charley Fabiani.

The advertisement has been updated in recent years to include LED lights.

"Well, I'm surprised it's being removed. I liked the old neon better than the new LED but they tried to stay faithful to the old neon I guess and it's a classic," said Kevin Baker of San Francisco.

Crews were at 5th and Bryant streets Monday.

City officials say a permit was issued October 20, allowing for the double-faced sign and its structure to be removed.

It will cost Coca-Cola $100,000 to take the advertisement down.

The city said a permit was in place for removal work to begin. A Coca-Cola spokesperson said that work was expected to begin Monday and to be completed by the end of November. 

Charley Fabiani has lived in the city for 54 years and recalled one time the light-up sign helped him.

"I worked for a refrigeration company back 10 years ago for the homeless shelter there, and had to do some refrigeration work on the roof. I didn't have very much light and that thing lit up the roof for me the whole night," said Fabiani.

He and other longtime San Francisco residents expressed a little bit of heartbreak about this changing sign of the times.

"Everything of old San Francisco that's old is all coming down. It's a shame," said Fabiani.

While some people have asked if the billboard can be preserved, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman only says the company is working to make sure the sign is recycled appropriately.