Around Town: to the rescue; mixed signals | News | Palo Alto Online |


Around Town: to the rescue; mixed signals


In our latest Around Town column, learn more about a firefighter assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, pushback against Verizon installing cell antennas and a local on this season's cast of Survivor.

TO THE RESCUE ... A Palo Alto firefighter is taking part in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts as a 15-year member of the state's Urban Search and Task Force 3, which was deployed to Texas last week. Chris Mosko, an apparatus operator, is a rescue specialist who was expected to join boat crews. Mosko is also a Class A equipment driver who was hired by the Fire Department in 2003 and promoted to engineer in 2011. He currently drives the Station 6 truck at Stanford University. Before joining the department, he was a heavy equipment operator with the Public Works Department. City Manager James Keene mentioned Mosko's participation at last Monday's City Council meeting. "Everything that's been happening in Houston (is) just both a reminder of visions of the future ... as it relates to global weirding," he said.

MIXED SIGNALS ... As Verizon prepares to install 93 cell antennas on utility poles and traffic poles throughout Palo Alto, it is facing increasing pushback from local neighborhoods. In recent weeks, residents have sent letters of protest to the City Council, urging the city to halt the project. Andrew Gibson, an Old Palo Alto resident, urged city leaders not to let Verizon "pollute our eyes and ears with 93 hideous and buzzing cell towers" and argued that the equipment would "destroy the great property value of Old Palo Alto homes. This ought to be enough to reject this devastating corporate proposal alone, yet I have not even begun to discuss the terrible side effects of 93 radiation-emitting towers on our quiet little town and it's population." While the overwhelming majority of the letters that the council received in the past week opposed the towers, some residents welcome the project. Judy Decker, a Bryant Street resident, said that for the past year she has been "almost completely unable to have an audible call from my home." "I don't want to switch to AT&T and would love to have more coverage in my home." As a real estate agent, Decker also disputed the idea that a "decent reception would diminish property values." Those fighting the antennas are facing an uphill battle, thanks to the council's decision earlier this month to approve a "master license agreement" paving the way for the installation and federal rules that prohibit localities from using health impacts as a factor in denying telecommunication equipment. City Manager James Keene recalled last Monday night an adage he used to hear back in his graduate school days: "'Feds have the money, states have the power and localities have the problems.' Feds don't have the money anymore but they have asserted themselves, particularly in the area of telecommunication, and pre-empted at (the) national and state level the authority of local communities to regulate the telecommunication issues," Keene said.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ... Palo Alto native Roark Luskin is one of 18 cast members competing on "Survivor" at Fiji's Mamanuca Islands premiering Sept. 27 on CBS. This season, the players are divided into tribes based on a perceived characteristic: heroes , healers or hustlers. The objective is still the same — to be the sole survivor who wins $1 million. Luskin is part of the healers group, nicknamed the Soko Tribe, "that receives gratitude for their good work," according to the show's website. She currently lives in Santa Monica and enrolled as a master's student in social work at the University of Southern California, according to her LinkedIn profile. The 27-year-old describes herself as sarcastic, focused and intelligent, according to a video on CBS' website. "I'm a really competitive person, and I hold myself to really high standards. I'm really, really, really achievement- and goal-oriented," she said on the video. Her take-charge attitude roots back to her childhood. "Bossy's a positive word in my mind," she said. "I'll have the ability to form genuine connections with people, but I'm not one to lose sight of why I'm on Survivor — to be the winner," she said on her show profile. Luskin's fierce personality could take her far. "I'm not going to set fire to you the second I come out on the beach, but I will insidiously bring you down," she said.


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6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2017 at 9:12 am

We have a utility pole. It is ugly and probably takes something from the value of our home.

We have very poor signal, which probably takes something from the value of our home. I often see neighbors outside on their phones because they can't get a signal in their homes.

There are many areas in town with extremely poor signals and this is supposedly the hub of high tech in the world. Please get these boosters up and running as soon as possible.

7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 4, 2017 at 10:06 am

How many of the hypocrites that hate cell phone towers own cell phones themselves? How do they think cell phones work? Or do they just want them moved to in front of someone else's house?

1 person likes this
Posted by We are here, we are here, we are here!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2017 at 10:27 am

"Feds don't have the money anymore but they have asserted themselves, particularly in the area of telecommunication, and pre-empted at (the) national and state level the authority of local communities to regulate the telecommunication issues," Keene said."

Neighbors: I do not know if this is true or not. But what I do know is that during the Maybell public debate in City Hall, the City Attorney stood up in front of the public and tokd everyone there was a state law that tied the hands of the Council so that they had no choice when it came to any proposal (even one that was mostly for-profit as Maybell was) that included affordable housing. She was very clear that state law meant they had no choice, and Councilmembers echoed this.

So some of the neighbirs looked up and read the law. It specifically and clearly said that the law did not appky to rezoning decisions; it was clearly not intended as a bludgeon in rezoning decisions, because rezoning has so many ramifications.. It did not apply, and it did not take a law degree to see that. The City Attorney and the Council were relying on our trusting that what they said was true and that we would not look up the law ourselves. A neighbor wrote them and pointed this out, as if it took that to see when the law very directly said that what they were claiming didn't apply. The City quietly dropped that line of bludgeoning and did not bring it up again.

That is but one example of many. They want to say, don't nlame us, outpr hands are tied!

To those who oppose this plan: I do not know if Keene is telling you the truth. But if this is an important issue, and what you decide to do rests on whether what he said is true, then read the law and how it really applies carefully for yourselves. The City Staff have a history of making misleading statements in exactly these kinds of situations, to try to end what are legitimate and possibly successful efforts by citizens that would interfere their plans. Do not trust what the City staff or Council tell you about what the law says in any sphere, even whether something is within zoning. They are often taking an extreme interpretation or just telling an outright lie like the above situation.

Are these 93 towers intended to create good reception for residents, or is it almost entirely catering to a corporate contingent that is rapidly taking over Palo Alto in ways that do go against state and local codes and rules? Could they be serving to make Palo Alto some kind of regional broadcaster, because Palo Alto is now the easy mark around the Bay for corporatizing civic assets? Maybe you wouldn't win on a purely health-related argument, regardless of the rule, but you may have other recourse if the plan is overkill and intended to mainly serve corporate interests (for a convenience rather than a true need). If you delve into those aspects, you might find recourse and partners around town.

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 4, 2017 at 12:33 pm

These micro-transmitters that Verizon is proposing are low-power with limited-range (like a few blocks), right? Arguments about turning the city into a regional broadcaster are covfefe-level dubious.

Like this comment
Posted by Sway Me
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2017 at 1:17 pm

I have attended a few of Verizon's public meetings regarding the "micro" cell sites.

What I have never seen at these meeting is a representative of CPA Utilities. It is my understanding that the utility poles are owned by CPA and they provide an easement for other utilities to use these for conventional telephone and cable TV.

Looking at the proposed installation, I would say that there needs to be some serious engineering work done to convince me that the additional weight of the cell sites will not result in significant damage to the utility poles in the event of an earthquake.

It comes to reason that if you place 500 lbs of electronics,antenna, and metal casings 30' into the air, once the pole starts to sway it will simply crack at the base. Wood utility poles were never designed for these loads.

This truly is a public safety issue.

11 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Complaining about loss of property value?!?

Guessing the typical complainers are 65+ and bought their home 20-30 years ago for 800K to 1.2 million and now they are worth four to nine million.

Is a tower gonna reduce it 100k? No, 'cause the buyer better buy that Old PA home before someone else does...

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