Such is the latest chapter in Elon Musk’s chaotic rebrand of Twitter into “X,” which first caused headaches for its hometown last week when the company illegally tried to remove its original logo from the outside of the building. Then, over the weekend, the company affixed a giant X above the building, prompting 24 complaints about its structural safety and bright lights, according to the city’s Department of Building Inspection.
On Monday, several residents of neighboring buildings said the blinding, flashing strobe light above the building in downtown San Francisco was so strong that shades were not enough to keep the lights out. Sam Chand, who lives across from the headquarters, said it was a nuisance for him and his fellow neighbors Sunday night.
“I don’t understand why it had to be blinking that bright,” he said, as a massive crane worked on the building Monday. “Subtlety is not (Musk’s) strength.”
While some people stopped to snap pictures of the scene Monday, others seemed to shrug it off as yet another episode in an ongoing loop of absurdities happening at the building in their neighborhood. As the company’s relationship with its hometown has become an increasingly fraught, the nearby residents have had plenty to get used to.
Over the past year alone, the company formerly known as Twitter has been sued for failing to pay millions in rent, investigated for illegally converting offices into bunk rooms and been the target of vitriolic statements from Musk, who has likened the city to a “derelict zombie apocalypse.”
Then, this weekend, a city building inspector tried twice to gain access to the new rooftop sign, according to the city’s complaint tracker. Representatives for the company refused to let the inspector in, allegedly telling the official that the structure “is a temporary lighted sign for an event,” the complaint said. The inspector explained to on-site X representatives that the structure must be removed or abide by city code.
The building’s property owner will be fined for the installation and removal of the structure, as well as the cost of the city’s investigation into the matter, according to Patrick Hannan, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Building Inspection.
Musk acquired the company for $44 billion last year and has made drastic changes since then, including shedding roughly 80 percent of the workforce primarily through layoffs, promoting more subscription services on the platform and restoring hundreds of previously banned accounts.
Matt Dorsey, a member of the Board of Supervisors whose district includes the X building, said he is trying to reach out to Musk via some of their mutual contacts so they can have a “productive” conversation about the company’s relationship with San Francisco.
He said the company’s actions over the past week have felt “adversarial” toward the city, and he can’t quite understand why Musk is allowing his company to act like that.
“They must know it was illegal, and I think they know better,” Dorsey said of the unpermitted installation of the sign. “I’m less concerned about the sign than what it may communicate about a contentious relationship with local government.”