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Musk and building inspectors in standoff over giant neon X sign [Updated]

Apr 17, 2024

Ashley Belanger - Jul 31, 2023 3:55 pm UTC

"Wtf is X" was trending Monday morning as the Twitter app logo on devices everywhere suddenly changed from the blue bird to a black-and-white X.

Many of the social media platform's users have criticized the company's flashy new logo as the app rebrands from Twitter to X. But more disastrous than the mad dash to rebrand the app is the company's seemingly impulsive move to change the signage on its headquarters in San Francisco without proper permits. While the app's users have joked that its digital rebrand has been harmlessly sloppy—for example, the app still prompts users to "search Twitter" and "tweet," rather than post Xs on desktop—the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection has raised more serious concerns offline. The city is currently investigating the Twitter building's signage changes, some of which have already been deemed unsafe.

Our HQ in San Francisco tonight

There are currently two active complaints that the city is investigating. The first has been labeled a clear safety violation, where an investigation "revealed an unsafe condition at the building."

"The Twitter sign at the corner of Market Street and 10th Street has been partially dismantled and the '@'symbol is dangling and could fall to the public way causing harm to pedestrians," the violation description said.

The other complaint is regarding the bright flashing X sign, a video of which Elon Musk currently has pinned atop his X user profile. City inspectors reported that the social media company neglected to get a permit for its new sign, attempting twice to access the headquarters' rooftop to inspect it. Both times inspectors were denied access, and a spokesperson for the Department of Building Inspection, Patrick Hannan, told The San Francisco Standard that without such access, the city can't determine if there may be other safety violations.

"A building permit is required to make sure the sign is structurally sound and installed safely," Hannan told the Standard. "Planning review and approval is also necessary for the installation of this sign." [Update: Hannan told Ars that the city received "24 complaints about the unpermitted structure, including concerns about its structural safety and illumination." Hannan confirmed that this morning, "building inspectors observed the structure being dismantled." Typically, Hannan said that "a building permit is required to remove the structure but, due to safety concerns, the permit can be secured after the structure is taken down."

Now Twitter will likely owe fees. "The property owner will be assessed fees for the unpermitted installation of the illuminated structure," Hannan said. "The fees will be for building permits for the installation and removal of the structure, and to cover the cost of the Department of Building Inspection and the Planning Department’s investigation."]

The inspector assigned to investigate the flashing X sign reported that a company representative said the sign was only temporary and would be removed following an event. While X users claiming to be neighbors to the company's headquarters complained about the bright sign—suggesting it might be illegal—Musk looked past the viral posts criticizing his sign to share X's new tagline, "Blaze Your Glory!!"

Twitter has not responded to requests for comment, but on Saturday, Musk posted to seemingly jokingly complain that X's landlord "keeps calling the police about our sign modifications!" Musk also confirmed in a post that the drama over the sign wouldn't spur his company to relocate.

"Many have offered rich incentives for X (aka Twitter) to move its HQ out of San Francisco," Musk wrote. "Moreover, the city is in a doom spiral with one company after another left or leaving. Therefore, they expect X will move too. We will not. You only know who your real friends are when the chips are down. San Francisco, beautiful San Francisco, though others forsake you, we will always be your friend."