Palo Alto set to rule on AT&T proposal | January 20, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 20, 2012

Palo Alto set to rule on AT&T proposal

Residents split over company's controversial plan to install 20 antennas on city poles

by Gennady Sheyner

The heated battle between Palo Alto residents who demand better wireless coverage and those who find AT&T's proposed equipment unsightly and disruptive will resurface Monday night when the City Council considers an appeal to the company's controversial antenna application.

AT&T's plan to install antennas on 20 utility poles throughout the city is the first phase in the company's plan to put up 80 such antennas — a network known as a "distributed antenna system." The city's Architectural Review Board and Planning and Community Environment Director Curtis Williams had already approved the application, but these approvals were appealed by project opponents, prompting Monday's council hearing.

According to a report from Current Planning Manager Amy French, the city has received four appeals — one opposing the entire project (all 20 sites), two from residents opposing locations of specific antennas near their houses, and a fourth one from Cooley LLP on behalf on Tench Coxe, who claims that other types of technologies would be more suitable for improving wireless reception.

Paula Rantz argued in her appeal that the AT&T application is "part of a Band-Aid approach and does not represent the spirit of community and activism that Palo Alto is known for."

"There is a reason that Palo Alto is such a beautiful community," Rantz wrote. "It is because of the efforts of all that have come before us, and we need to continue to be involved and have ownership of how our city grows. There is no reason why we cannot create a comprehensive plan for voice, video and data."

The city's approval of the application would have dramatic implications for AT&T's long-term strategy in Palo Alto. If the council were to follow the staff recommendation and approve the application, AT&T would be able to undergo a far less stringent requirement for future phases of its plan. Future antennas would only need to undergo a staff-level review and would not need to go through the types of heated public hearings that have characterized the company's current foray.

In the lead-up to Monday's meeting, the city has received a deluge of letters, many urging the council to approve the AT&T application and improve cell coverage. Opponents have argued that the equipment would lower property values and create noise. Many of those who oppose the plan are urging the city to create a master plan for cell equipment. Kristi McMichael, a Waverley Street resident, is among them.

"I object to this system because I believe it will damage my property value due to its unsightly appearance and noise generating equipment," McMichael wrote. "I request that the City of Palo Alto invest the time and resources to create a comprehensive Wireless Master Plan in the interest of all Palo Alto residents."

Others argued that new wireless equipment is desperately needed in the city.

"That our community, home of Stanford University and so much high tech, should stand in the way of decent cell-phone service is an embarrassment, especially when the opposition so clearly fails to understand the physics of the situation," wrote city resident Eric Stietzel, who then urged the city to approve AT&T's application and "improve the wireless infrastructure that so many of us rely on to stay connected at home, at business, and on the go."

AT&T has already made some adjustments to its application to placate concerns from the city and the community. Whereas a previous design featured U-shaped antennas stretching over utility poles, the current one would include one antenna, creating a more monolithic appearance. Other equipment on the affected utility poles includes a battery cabinet, a power box and a remote-prism cabinet.

The Architectural Review Board, in its Dec. 8 review, also recommended using trees to screen equipment where possible and use colors that would make the equipment more discreet. About 30 people attended that hearing, with about two-thirds of them opposing the project.

The proposed antennas would be located at poles in the following locations:

179 and 595 Lincoln Ave., 1851 Bryant St., 1401 Emerson Ave., 1880 Park Blvd., 134 Park Ave., 109 Coleridge Ave., 1345, 1720 and 2326 Webster St., 1248 and 2101 Waverley St., 968 Dennis Drive, 370 Lowell Ave., 105 Rinconada Ave., 2704 Louis Road; 464 Churchill Ave., 255 North California Ave., 1085 Arrowhead Way, and Oregon Express near Ross Road.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by member, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2012 at 10:48 am

I wonder what McMichael would do should the "comprehensive Wireless Master Plan in the interest of all Palo Alto residents" end up placing two of these antennas within sight of his property.

The NIMBYism of some Palo Alto residents makes me chortle almost daily.

Posted by Gayle Rigggs, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:17 am

My husband was very ill this fall and had visiting nurses who kept needing to call in medical details to the doctors. They could not use their cell phones in our home because of lack of reception. Our land line didn't serve because the various numbers the nurses needed were programmed into their phones. It was a miserable situation.

Posted by Eric, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:26 am

Since you can't discuss cell towers without confronting fears of invisible radio waves, I want to add these links to the story. I know people who are afraid of EMF and I don't understand it. Light from a light bulb is EMF. A 100W light bulb emits far more radiation than your cell phone or a nearby cell tower but anything less energetic than ultra-violet light is "non-ionizing", i.e. doesn't rip apart molecules or mutate DNA. All it can do is heat.

Every time it seems that someone finally does the definitive study to put rest the dangers of living near power lines or using cell phones, someone else digs up the same flawed study and it starts all over again. Call me a skeptic. If you are afraid, please read the following article and see if it helps. I think it mentions all the important studies and explains why people still say the studies are "inconclusive" when plenty of studies have shown that there is no link.

Web Link

Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:28 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

There are better ways when you FORCE AT&T to use them. Denver has many of them implemented. Sculpture, fake trees, fake houses and even a WIND POWER tower. Many transmitters have been camoed by painting them the exact same colors of the building ( The Wells Fargo branch building in Arvada, a suburb of Denver is a good example ). The noisy equipment is housed inside the building.

Don't let anyone give you a snow job. Other cities have stiff visual and audio requirements and AT&T met those requirements along with their competitors.

For those who DEMAND better cell coverage, allow AT&T to add their equipment onto your rooftops.

Then you get better coverage and you can serve as test subjects to the long term effects of the transmitters...a win-win situation for everyone!

Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:47 am

rem is a registered user.

Come on folks - GROW UP

I have been using cell phones for 16 years, 1994 to present.

I still have hair on my head, it is the same color.

I CAN NOT wait until we get the cell tower at the baseball field on Middlefield in Mitchell Park. Hot Dog - GOOD reception!!!!

Get a life folks!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

i have verizon so do i benefit from the enteanas that are being put up a block from my house? last month a group of my friends all dropped att as cable and or phone carrier because of the worst customer service ever. NIMBY? sure. I spent enough money to live here.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Personally, I have no objection to the look of the redesigned antennas but this article fails to mention the noise problem. There is a fan located half way up the pole which emits a constant whirring sound on hot days. This will be very annoying to anyone sleeping with their windows open on a hot night.

Previous Commissions have failed to address this problem, so I'm hoping the CC will do so on Monday night.

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm

All AT&T pole attachment permits for cellular antennas should be no more than five years. AT&T should be required to soon serve all Palo Alto areas with more-powerful cell towers sited at our 8 or 9 City electric sub-stations located around town.

Win-win. AT&T cellular customers all over town will finally get what they have been paying a premium for, for years. City of Palo Alto Utilities will get paid by AT&T for tower and equipment locations plus fiber back-haul.

Eventually all Palo Alto utilities will be underground, poles will disappear. So whatever AT&T does with antennas on power poles, their current proposal is a temporary solution at best.

I recently switched my cellular service provider from AT&T to Verizon because AT&T coverage around town, in Stanford Stadium on game days, and to my home, was horrible. AT&T gladly took my money every month for two years. Not anymore. It felt really good to say goodbye to AT&T.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm

> I have been using cell phones for 16 years, 1994 to present.

Cell phones started to appear in the greater Bay Area about 1984. Anyone notice any increase in cancer that can be attributed to these devices? You'd think with all of the Universities (or note) in the area, and all that Federal Grant money that pours into these institutions, we'd have gotten at least one study that proves that hundreds of thousands of people have died locally, because of cell phones. Yet .. no such studies have been produced.

Was it Mark Twain who said: "intelligence must be the most precious commodity on earth .. based on how little of it there is to go around"?

Posted by Capbreton, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

So this works into the long-term plan to remove all of the ugly neighborhood telephone poles and move things underground, how?

Don't get me wrong, I'm in favor of more towers, just not more ugliness, and the plan is to eliminate the poles.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm

"For those who DEMAND better cell coverage, allow AT&T to add their equipment onto your rooftops."

Count me in!

I'll take the original design -- with two radomes -- or the revised, single radome approach; AT&T may mount it on our chimney; no screening is necessary.

The sooner, the better!

Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm

The idea that somehow these devices would affect property values is ludicrous. Many people have big huge petrified wood poles in our backyard with wires and boxes going all different directions off them. Did you ever even notice?
Its sort of like saying that a wall is somehow spoiled because it has a light switch or an electrical outlet. You simply don't notice it. If anything, someone house hunting might try to call their real estate agent, look down and see they are barely getting the "EDGE" network, start to feel annoyed about it, and find a house with better coverage.

Oh yeah, and Go NINERS!

Posted by TryOne-Put ONE up, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Put One UP, and see it for a few weeks. Then get more thoughts.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2012 at 8:57 am

"Put One UP, and see it for a few weeks. Then get more thoughts."

There are many TE DAS installations throughout the United States; it's a tried-and-true technology deployed many, many times; Palo Alto is at or near the tail end of deployment here, not the leading edge.

Ample cell coverage through ubiquitous DAS installations will significantly reduce handset radiation; it's a matter of public health: we need better -- wider; stronger -- cell coverage.

Posted by Gotta Laugh, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2012 at 8:24 am

The sky is falling again!

Break out those aluminum foil hats!

There is ELECTRO-MAGNETIC-RADIATION coming from cell towers. That MUST BE UNHEALTHY. It has RADIATION in it...that's bad. Sort of like Fukushima Daiichi (no not the Sushi place on El Camino).

I read this on the it must be true.

Good grief. There are a few folks in town that are very articulate and passionate...but woefully uniformed. This truly is a case of tyranny by vocal minority.

Posted by Blondie, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2012 at 10:12 am

When I moved into the neighborhood in the summer of 1998, I was charmed by the kids on bikes, parents with strollers, neighbors gardening and putzing around their yards. When I started using my work issued AT and T cell phone, I realized that half the people I saw that summer were actually outside because they had cell phones glued to their ears and getting iffy reception. When the opportunity arose, I moved to (expensive) Verizon.

I am not enamored with either Verizon or AT and T, I just want a damn cell phone that works in my house. Now, we will have that choice. Yes to antennas.

Posted by noise guy, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm

One posting said
"a fan located half way up the pole which emits a constant whirring sound on hot days."

- is the sound within city guidelines?
- is the fan in accordance with the city required distance from any house?

I ask, because, my neighbors on both sides have air conditioners that run from spring to fall. They are setback the required 6' distance required by the city. But the sound is a constant whirring.
If we are to deny a handful of antennas for this amount of noise, then perhaps we need to make sound guidelines more restrictive and apply it to anything that makes noise. (including blowers (-:)

I have to say, my parents lived on a farm in the Midwest. The sound from critters (frogs, crickets, owls etc) was almost deafening. Way worse than my neighbor's air conditioner.

Is sound just being used as an argument against the antennas after no one buys the ugly argument or false cancer causing argument?

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I respectfully urge City staff to approve the installation of the remaining sixty (60) DAS antennae throughout the remainder of the City. I'm looking forward to multiple DAS within Crescent Park, providing robust cell coverage to AT&T subscribers. We need better coverage to reduce hand-set radiation.

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