News


Palo Alto approves AT&T's antenna plan

Company to install 20 antennas on existing utility poles as first phase of its 'distributed antenna system'

AT&T's controversial plan to install 80 antennas on utility poles throughout Palo Alto surged forward Monday night (Jan. 23) when the City Council approved the first phase of the company's proposal.

The council voted 7-1, with Councilman Greg Schmid dissenting and Mayor Yiaway Yeh recusing himself, to uphold earlier approvals of the AT&T application by the city's Architectural Review Board and by Planning and Community Environment Director Curtis Williams. The council hearing was prompted by four separate appeals.

Related story: AT&T's antenna plan moves forward in Palo Alto (Dec. 9, 2011)

The council's vote means that AT&T can proceed with installing antennas at 19 locations throughout the city. Each installation will include a vertical antenna over an existing pole, a battery box and a radio box. The vote also means that the company can proceed with the later phases of its "distributed antenna system" (DAS) without going through the public-hearing process. The system will ultimately feature 80 antennas.

Dozens of proponents and opponents of the AT&T application packed into City Hall for the appeal hearing, with some residents sporting "No DAS" stickers and others wearing "Yes!" stickers. Proponents argued during the public-comment period that the antennas are desperately needed in a city that remains plagued by dead spots despite its reputation as a hub of innovation. Others argued that the proposed antennas are unsightly and that the city should create a "master plan" for wireless technology rather than approve applications one by one.

Paula Rantz, who filed one of four appeals, requested in her appeal that the "application be denied until the City has come up with a comprehensive Wireless Master Plan for the installation of cell towers/nodes taking into the account the needs of the various providers AND the overall impact to our community." Stacey Bishop, meanwhile, argued that the antenna proposed for 1880 Park Blvd. would be less than 20 feet from her home and in direct line of sight from various rooms.

"It's simply too close to a residential home to have an antenna," Bishop told the council.

The council agreed and directed staff to consider other locations in the area for the antenna. The most likely location is 1920 Park Blvd., a site that AT&T had previously considered before opting to move its antenna farther away from the corner and closer to trees.

But the council also acknowledged that AT&T has legal rights to install its equipment and approved the other 19 antennas. Various state and federal laws, including the Telecommunications Act, restrict the city's ability to deny applications to wireless-service providers. According to a report from Current Planning Manager Amy French, federal law prohibits the city from regulating the placement of wireless equipment based on impact from radio frequency, provided the emissions from equipment comply with Federal Communication Commission regulations.

The council's purview of Monday was limited largely to aesthetic issues, and members concluded at the end of their long discussion that the visual and noise impacts of the antennas would not be significant enough to warrant denial.

"They're certainly not going to be put in an art museum, but they aren't anything that's going to detract from our community," Klein said of the antennas.

AT&T had revised its application last year after many in the community panned the company's prior design, a U-shaped installation consisting of two antennas over a utility pole. The Architectural Review Board in November approved the new monolithic design and added a long list of conditions, including one that the equipment be tested for compliance with the city's noise ordinance immediately upon installation.

"We see this right now as the best way to provide wireless services in the near future in Palo Alto that would best serve the community in a very aesthetically sensitive way," AT&T's counsel Paul Albritton told the council.

Councilman Sid Espinosa said he was pleased with the application process because it led the city and AT&T toward a better design. He was one of several council members who voiced enthusiasm about improved cell reception.

"I hear from a lot of Palo Altans about dropped calls," Espinosa said. "I'm excited that we're creating the coverage people would expect here in Palo Alto and in Silicon Valley."

Klein and Espinosa both noted that the council had little choice but to approve the application. Doing otherwise, Klein said, would probably bring forth a lawsuit that the city would likely lose. Even Rantz acknowledged that the city's rights when it comes to wireless equipment are severely limited.

"Our power to determine the character of our community has been taken away at the state and federal level," Rantz told the council Monday.

"We're in what many people call the innovation capital of the world, and yet we have no right -- zero right -- to have a master plan," she added.

While Rantz's appeal focused on the entire application, two others (one from Bishop and one from Janell Sumida-Riker) protested specific site proposals. A fourth appeal, filed by Cooley LLP on behalf of Tench Coxe, argued that AT&T has chosen the wrong technology.

Related story: Residents appeal AT&T antenna plan (Dec. 30, 2011)

But many of the speakers at Monday's meeting said they welcome the improved cell coverage. Leon Beauchman, director of the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Wireless Communications Initiative, said his group is promoting an effort to make the entire Silicon Valley a "4G region." So far, he said, San Jose is the only city in Silicon Valley that supports the fourth-generation standard for wireless (what is commonly known as "4G").

"We're trying to catch up so that we can take advantage of the technology that was invented right here in Silicon Valley," Beauchman said.

Schmid voted against the application, saying he was disappointed that the project is moving forward without a broader strategic discussion about wireless equipment. Yeh recused himself from the discussion because of a property interest.

AT&T responded to the city's approval with a statement saying Palo Alto "took a needed step tonight in advancing the wireless needs of its community."

"We appreciate the effort of the staff and council in working through the concerns raised and will continue to work with them to ensure we can implement this critical wireless upgrade."

The antennas will be installed at utility poles near the following locations:

179 and 595 Lincoln Ave., 1851 Bryant St., 1401 Emerson Ave., 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 Expressway near Ross Road.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2012 at 7:21 am

Thank you, Clare Campbell, for all your hard work on the review of AT&T's application. I'm an enthusiastic supporter of enhanced cell reception throughout our City. I hope the City works expeditiously with AT&T to install the next 60 Tyco DAS units throughout our City.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A-Strong-Wireless-Signal-Is-Good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

The city needs to build its own wireless network for government, public safety purposes and low-end public use. Whether it outsources the work to a 3rd party (like AT&T), or installs/operates the network itself--pole tops are likely to be needed for antennas for that network.

This whole episode has been beyond silly.

Let's hope that the next AT&T application meets with more acceptance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:05 am

I am not concerned about the aesthetics or the small amount of radiation that may be emitted. However, I am concerned about the noise from the fans. The noise level only has to comply with Palo Alto's noise ordinance which means that on a hot day the fans may emit as yet an unspecified amount of noise.

These 20 antennas are only the first to be installed AT&T wants to install a total of 80 antennas. Other companies are sure to apply for permission to install their antennas which may mean over 300 antennas could be installed throughout Palo Alto including in residents backyards. That is why I'm so concerned about the noise level.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Same old ATT
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2012 at 11:45 am

AT&T refused to supply specific information about the sound levels. They mumbled about compliance with our rules. This is an ominous signal.
If the sound was not a problem they would have bragged about the numbers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 11:56 am

This is long over due, and a huge 'thank you' to the city council for approving this. With over 50% of the city limits west (or south) of Hwy-280 or Foothill Expwy (the foothills), don't over look that portion of the city and the need for reliable cell signals for AT&T, Verizon, etc. We can't even go to the city's largest park and reliably use a cell phone. In an emergency, we have to move around to find a sweet spot to make a call, and it usually drops the call.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm

> However, I am concerned about the noise from the fans

Since the poles with the DAS antennas will be clearly visible to anyone how happens to notice them, it won't be that hard to walk up the pole and listen for the noise.

Noise dissipates as the inverse of the distance from the source--so walk away from the poles, counting paces (assume 3 feet per pace). Make notes about how loud you think the boxes are as you walk away. At some point (assuming 45 db of noise strength) you should not be able to hear the box. Please keep good notes, and post your findings on this thread.

Here's a calculation tool to get started:

Web Link

Oh, as a calibration exercise, please add to your notes if you can hear Caltrain from the point where you can't hear the boxes any more--and estimate the distance from that point to the tracks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thankful
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Finally! Thank you! :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerryl
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I attended the meeting and was very pleased with what I saw of our Council in action. I think the council did the right thing and put a lot of effort into understanding the design aspects and the various issues. City staff were well informed and able to address many questions intelligently. Well done to all!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by susan
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I hope this improves my AT&T reception.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm

"AT&T refused to supply specific information about the sound levels."

AT&T's component supplier, Tyco Electronics, supplied equipment noise information. The City requested a noise study; the study was peer-reviewed.

The data, report & review are set forth in the City staff report; it's available on the City's web site.

Note Tyco's DAS gear is not new; this same gear has been previously installed in many locations in the US.

As noted above, it will easy to measure the noise level of a DAS unit, once installed and operating.

Given the sound level dissipates significantly with distance from the unit -- as noted, sound levels vary inversely with the square of the distance -- it's highly likely the sound will be compliant with current City regulations.
_____

Thank you, City Council members, for your approval of these first 20 units; I'm excited to see the next 60 units installed in our City.
_____

"Make notes about how loud you think the boxes are as you walk away."

A resident might also use a sound level meter; they are commonly available and not too expensive to rent or buy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jim
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

It's very unlikely that the sound level to the nearest house will be as much as the sound level of a neighbor's air conditioner that can be 6 feet from your house.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Guess it requires a Federal law for common sense to prevail in Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 25, 2012 at 6:15 am

Why didn't the Weekly repot on this matter that came up during the discussion

Web Link
"Council member Karen Holman focused her concerns on the aesthetic effects of antenna installation, asking the ARB why a truly artistic design is not being considered. "

Is she for real? Are people going to stand on the sidewalk and stare at "artistic" antennas.
This is a common theme of her tenure on the council. Is this what she considers to be the major concern facing our city today--"aesthitically pleasing" structures????
I guess when you devote your life to usurping private property rights, this is what is to be expected for an encore.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I can't believe this educated community hasn't looked into the extensive health risks. I hope you all enjoy cancer, leukemia, and taking drugs in an attempt to get rid of problems could easily be avoided by not having radiation spewing all over our neighborhoods!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Perhaps, Toby, you could provide us with some evidence for your claims. And if they are true why are you living in Midtown???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Hi Svaoid,

Am I supposed to run and hide when there is a problem? Wireless radiation is harming EVERYONE! We didn't know this before--we know it now!...

900 MHz microwaves (the frequency of most cell phones)
Web Link

WirelessMess.org/cancer

Rapid Aging Syndrome
Web Link

Harvard Event Addresses Corruption in Wireless Industry
Web Link

Trailer from Disconnect: Is Your Cell Phone Killing You?
Web Link

Cell Towers Harming Birds
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm

"Am I supposed to run and hide when there is a problem? Wireless radiation is harming EVERYONE! We didn't know this before--we know it now!..."
That is what I suggest you do, since you feel that it is such a problem. Presenting a study in rats and websites with crackpots is not proof. Sorry--if you are so worried about wireless radiation then get rid of your cell phone (you may as well toss your microwave also) and go live in the less densely populated areas of Montana or Idaho.
The sky is falling!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

So doctors and Harvard people aren't good enough for you?

You obviously work for the wireless industry. You can keep people in the dark for only so long.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 25, 2012 at 3:22 pm

"So doctors and Harvard people aren't good enough for you?"
just because someone is a doctor does not make what they claim valid.
You also need to read your links better--the person spoke at Harvard--he is not a "Harvard" person.

Here is a rebuttal to one of your links by a doctor (so I hope he is good enough for you):
Web Link

"You obviously work for the wireless industry. "
Actually I do not

"You can keep people in the dark for only so long."
I would turn on the lights, if I were you


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Dr. Carpenter is Harvard trained. Obviously you were NOT interested enough to look at all the links. Since when is NIH an unreliable source? You have made up your mind, and your mind is closed.

The reason wireless information is starting to come out right now is because so many people have gotten ill from "smart" meters. Your cell phone most likely puts out 900MHz just like smart meters. But smart meters more violently pulse the radiation which has the more severe (and immediate) biological effects. It is like having a cell tower attached to your home. We are lucky to be living in Palo Alto because Palo Alto has not yet gone to smart meters.

You can say wireless is harmless all you want, but your opinion will not stop the growing number of people who have had to leave their homes to find refuge in places like West Virginia. I don't think my moving to Montana will solve the problem which affects us all!

How long do you want to ignore the problem? Until most of America is ill? Until all children develop autism? Will you want to be one of the few healthy left who is forced to provide support for all the disabled?

A wise person would say, "Let's stop the antenna spread and look into the issue before continuing. There IS enough evidence to know there is a problem...Web Link

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm

To those who believe cell phones are dangerous to health:

The federal Communications Act of 1996 sets standards for emissions. As long as the applicant's equipment is below those standards, it is illegal for a governing body to reject an application.

Those who think that cell phones are dangerous should direct their efforts to changing the law.

It is very disingenuous of people to argue that cell antennas are "ugly" when their real complaint is the belief that they are dangerous.

At best, those who believe that cell phones are dangerous are merely postponing the process by using these irrelevant arguments. They need to assemble their evidence and attack the federal law if they are to have any chance of winning.

I for one do not think that cell phones are dangerous. Detractors have not convinced me, and their tactics are very off-putting.

Show me some concrete evidence.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Robert Smith, I think the NIH study is concrete evidence. Since this is not up to your standards, would you please give an example of what would be concrete evidence?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:56 am

"Dr. Carpenter is Harvard trained. "
Which link has a Dr Carpenter???
Of course the question is does being Harvard trained make you a better scientist or researcher than someone who went to the University of Florida

"Since when is NIH an unreliable source? "
which study was an NIH study???
Does the NIH ever make mistakes with their research.
You seem awed by names, Toby.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bad science
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 8:48 am

Toby,

Do you not read these links you post, or do you not understand them? One document claims health risks at 300hz and 3000k Hz. You could reproduce these frequencies with a piano. Are you asking us to believe listening to music causes cancer? At least some of this "evidence" is junk.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Toby,

If the NIH paper is sufficient evidence, then I would suggest that cell phone detractors should proceed to use that evidence to persuade the congress to change the law. The present law gives the city almost no ability to listen to arguments about health.

I should add that there are two separate issues: risks to actual cell users, and risks from antennas to the general population.

Detractors often use claims of risk to cell users to support not installing the antennas. But this is confusing individual choice with social choice.

Ironically, when a cell phone is used in a poor coverage area, it uses more power and generates more signals. By depriving cell users of excellent coverage, detractors are probably increasing any health risk that exists.

One must also consider the ways in which cell phones aid safety. There are now numerous instances of people using cell phones to protect lives and property. Are we overall better off with cell phones even if there is some risk? Automobiles kill a huge number of of people each year and have not been outlawed.

In any case, detractors need to work to convince people of the risk and change the law.

Detractors are pursuing a losing strategy. They are simply pitting themselves against cell users who are increasingly annoyed by poor coverage. The many publicized failures to get new antennas installed have awakened users to the need for supporting the antennas. Cell users are also seeing that a small number of people have succeeded in the past to prohibit antenna installations. We are becoming determined to get involved.

AT&T collected about 2000 signatures supporting their recent initiative. That is one in 30 residents of the city. I am also told that Palo Alto has the highest per capita cell ownership of any city in the country.

Cell users are not being convinced by the health arguments, and feel that the detractors are trying to deprive them of a tool that they see as useful for irrational arguments about health.







 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jaco P
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Time to break out the tinfoil hats.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

"I can't believe this educated community hasn't looked into the extensive health risks."

From CNET's November 2011 article on cell phone radiation [Web Link=]:

"Research abounds, but there still is not conclusive or demonstrated evidence as to whether cell phones cause adverse health effects in humans. While some studies have found a possible link between long-term (10 years or longer) cell phone use and brain tumors, decreased sperm count, and other ailments, other research has found no such effects. The science will continue, and we will continue to monitor the results, but it can take years of exhaustive research before studies actually prove anything (if they ever do)."

CNET continues:

"If you're concerned about limiting your SAR exposure, you can take a few easy steps. You can text instead placing a voice call, use a speakerphone or headset whenever possible, and carry your phone at least 1 inch from your body (making sure the antenna is facing away from you). If you're pregnant, you should avoid carrying a phone next to your abdomen. Some researchers also caution against using your phone in areas with a weak signal since phones emit more electro-magnetic radiation during those times. Children, who have smaller and thinner skulls, should limit cell phone use, and people of any age should not sleep with an active phone next to the bedside or under the pillow."

Note the following sentence therein:

"Some researchers also caution against using your phone in areas with a weak signal since phones emit more electro-magnetic radiation during those times."

Kindly note, Toby: more AT&T Tyco DAS will enhance signal propagation throughout Palo Alto.

Robust cell signals will likely lower radiation at the hand-set.

Hand-set radiation is of far greater concern than tower or DAS radiation; more DAS -- not fewer -- will likely result in appreciable reduction in user radiation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm

JA3+--Do you seriously expect me to take the word of CNET over doctors and the NIH? I guess if you developed a brain tumor you'd have it removed Lady Gaga?

Robert--First, cell phone users are NOT being told about the risks!!! Yes, they've heard something, but they have heard more from the wireless industry's purposely flawed studies. People think that there isn't a problem because the government hasn't stepped in. Extremely few doctors know about the problem, and don't know the signs which are everywhere!

Second, people are addicted to their cell phones—literally. Cell phones cause a glucose reaction in the brain which appears to mimic addiction. So you are asking clueless addicts to vote against their "drug". It's not a fair vote!

As for legal issues. Again, this problem has been brought out by "smart" meters, and since you haven't noticed, PG&E has NOT followed laws. They didn't do the required environmental impact studies which would have shown there was a problem, they forced meters on people telling then they were required when they were only supposed to offer them to people, they have successfully used fear and threat tactics, and some of the meters exceed the ridiculously high and outdated FCC limits.

The people fighting smart meters are so shocked by the corruption that the laws are obviously meaningless. When they try to tell people what is going on—it sounds so "science fiction" that they can't believe it is true. So changing the law has to start by raising awareness.

How do you educate people about such a complicated issue—especially when they think CNET is a credible source for health information? Have we become such a society that Lady Gaga will have to drop dead with her last works, "I was killed by my iPhone", before anyone will listen?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Doesn anyone know how I can get in contact with Lady Gaga? :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a real doctor
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm

The NIH never said that cell phone s cause cancer. Toby is lying. I guess if a doctor told him to cut off his testicles to prevent cancer, he would hack away.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Wow, I sure hope your doctorate is in philosophy! Exactly where did I say that the NIH says cell phones cause cancer? I did not! You shouldn't jump to such conclusions. Look at the studies and you find lots of information about how wireless is harming us all. Cancer, by the way, is only one of the many concerns!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 27, 2012 at 6:00 am

"Exactly where did I say that the NIH says cell phones cause cancer?"

What about this quote of yours:
"-Do you seriously expect me to take the word of CNET over doctors and the NIH? I guess if you developed a brain tumor you'd have it removed Lady Gaga?"

Were you not suggesting that the NIH study said there was a link to cancer. If not, then why mention the NIH and brain tumors???
I guess the foil must be too tight, toby


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bad science
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 8:43 am

Toby,

Where are all these sick people getting I'll from cell phones. With the numbers quoted, I have not met a single one, and I should have.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

I was honestly very concerned about Palo Alto there for awhile. I was shocked that a city full of such educated, technically adept people would fight this because of perceived health risks. If the posters here are any indication, my concerns are invalid. It looks like there are a very small amount of people who are (insert word of choice here, I can't seem to find a nice one). While the bulk of the residents are intelligent enough to know that unless they swallow it their cell phone isn't likely to harm them. They are also smart enough to know that increased cell phone coverage is a very good thing. Placing an antenna on top of an existing telephone poll is neither going to destroy their home value, nor kill their children.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Hi Toby,

Regarding the NIH article, I did read the abstract. I don't have access to the full article and am not competent to review this in general.

It would however appear that the study is aimed at simulating the actual USE of a cell phone. It apparently is not concerned with the effects of an antenna in one's community.

In fact, almost all claims about cell phone risks concern actual use.

Yet, many detractors are not simply advocating that people not use cell phones, or use them sparingly or in certain manners. These folks are trying to stop antenna installations, which will impede everyone from using cell phones, including those who do not believe that there is a risk, or who think that the risk is acceptable or can be mitigated.


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