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AT&T withdraws Palo Alto cell-tower application

Original post made on Nov 19, 2010

AT&T has withdrawn its application to install a 75-foot-tall cell-phone tower at the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club in Palo Alto.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 19, 2010, 9:28 AM

Comments (76)

Posted by just say no to iphone, a resident of Addison School
on Nov 19, 2010 at 9:53 am

Boycott AT&T. Their service sucks anyway.

Posted by commonsense, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:06 am

To just say no,
seems logical - eliminate more cell towers so the service will be better?

Posted by cell guy, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:20 am

The dominant source of cell phone radiation to users is the phones themselves. The phones adjust their transmit power based on how strong the cell tower signal is. A stronger tower signal means lower phone power. Counterintuitive: more towers means lower cell phone radiation exposure.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:25 am

It would be a big step forward if Palo Alto Planning people were to start using video/web-technology to offer residents and neighbors realistic pictures/animations of projects that are being proposed here in town. Seventy-five feet seems like a tall structure for a neighborhood. But without a picture, it is difficult to visualize what the impact on the skyline of the neighborhood might be.

Every project that is registered with the Planning Department should have web-pages added to the City's WEB-site that provides the particulars of the project, and some pictures that would let folks know what the visual impact of the project might be.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

People who are scaremongering about EMF are analogous to global warming deniers. People are using the "you can't really know" argument against the scientific consensus (see American Cancer Society and World Health Org in the case of EMF).

Posted by Concerned about irrational hostility, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

To "just say no to iPhones"- AT&T phones are not just iPhones. They have BlackBerry, Motorola, Samsung, Palm, LG, Sharp, Sony Ericson, Pantech, HP, and HTC to name a few. So their cell tower would not just be for iPhones. But I would love to know how many children you know personally that were killed by iPhones? Children should be kept away from all cell phones, and adults would be well advised to use either a bluetooth headset or ear buds. The brand of the cell phone does not matter... They all give off SARs.

Posted by just say no to iphone, a resident of Addison School
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:46 am

iphone owners are the only ones complaining about poor reception in Palo Alto. If people stop buying the iphone, there will be no need for more antennas.

Posted by David, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2010 at 12:15 pm

What a bass-akwards arguement. Everytime one of these cel towers gets shot down, we all take a backwards step. Too bad for all the AT&T customers who want to make an important call (like 911). The NIMBY fear mongers just took Palo Alto a step farther into the dark ages. Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot...

Posted by just say no to iphone, a resident of Addison School
on Nov 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm

If the only people with a problem are iphone users, then just buy another phone. Problem solved.

Posted by critical thinker, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm

David and Bob, I see you have drunk the carrier Kool-Aid. There are 13 cell towers within a mile of the proposed tower on Channing, and AT&T owns 6 of them. Rather than do RF propagation studies and re-engineer existing facilities (amplify return signals, deploy modern antennas that require less vertical separation), carriers just submit new tower applications and hope that their propaganda around safety based on their legislated "science" is blindly accepted by people incapable of questioning assumptions. New towers. Push back, and demand that cell tower growth is handled responsibly, with community input, preferring to serve residential areas from adjacent commercial and industrial districts.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 2:07 pm

One of the services that Counties might be tasked with would be to provide data collection for emissions of various EM transmitters that dot the land. What are the actual radiation levels from the towers that service all the residents and businesses in Santa Clara County? Might it not be a good idea to have actual data on hand before becoming as alarmed as some seem to be?

Posted by Amused, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I remember when it was asbestos that was the big concern.

Posted by Mark, a resident of University South
on Nov 19, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Interesting point cell guy. Never considered that!

Posted by critical thinker, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Bill, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 empowers communities to demand that permit applicants provide both the data and fund independent analysis of the data such that coverage gaps can be proven and alternative means of satisfying a coverage gap can be objectively compared rather than just siting a tower on the first location that presents itself - regardless of the impact to the neighbors of the site who will suffer reduced property values (as shown by peer-reviewed studies) and maintenance (meaning trucks, lifts, lights, radios) occurring at 2am.

The means exist to both do this data collection and objectively evaluate it through independent analysis, as reflected in the wireless facility ordinances of cities like Glendale and Richmond. Walnut Creek's ordinances are being rewritten right now. Palo Alto's wireless communications facilities ordinance is astoundingly weak, concerns itself almost exclusively with aesthetics, and must be updated in order to streamline the process of developing wireless communications facilities that allow new deployments to proceed without the fights that arise from the City not proactively representing the community concerns ranging from visual blight and the nuisance of 24x7 maintenance to the lack of science around health effects (telecom propaganda is founded on "science" that only measures thermal effects of radiation in adult males, for example, and falsely equates sometimes-on single-channel cell phone transmitters with always-on multi-channel antenna transmitters).

Posted by MV Resident, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm

The people who complain that their AT&T service "sucks" are often the same people who object to new towers going up because the radiation is "unsafe." These are often the same people who hold iPhones up to their heads for hours a day, put Bluetooth microphones on their heads, have WiFi routers in their houses, microwave their food, and use cordless telephones. Furthermore, they live within miles from 50,000 Watt AM broadcast antennas from the likes of KGO and within line-of-sign of 100,000 Watt FM transmitters in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Radiation is everywhere. Light is radiation. There is radiation coming down from space hitting you right now.

Maybe the reason Verizon has so much better coverage is that they were smart to put up so many towers before the uninformed masses figured out that cell towers kill.

Posted by just say no to iphone, a resident of Addison School
on Nov 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Does Verizon have better coverage because they have more antennas?
Or because their cellphones are not defective?

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Verizon already had a network optimized for CDMA. AT&T's GSM-optmized tower placements are not ideal for its 3G network (which is CDMA-like).

As been mentioned already here, the bottom line is that the fewer towers there are, the more radiation in your pocket or next to your head. If you're worried about cell phone radiation, this is the opposite of what you want.

I bet these people still think that vaccines cause autism.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I'm very disappointed, the cell phone reception in my part of town (the very south-east corner) is terrible. I must go outside to use my cell phone. Here I live in the middle of silicon valley and I can't get reliable cell phone reception without it fading in and out; so I must use an old fashioned connected telephone.

Posted by Buzz, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

So Larry Magid's use of the bully pulpit wins again! We sure don't want to ruin his view from his back yard with the tower that would inprove the service about which he is so free to complain. The same people who complain about the potential radiation damage to neighbors are likely the same folks who wear an earphone or attachment for hands free use of their high-powered personal phone system.

I guess Twain's statement is confirmed: Don't pick a fight with someone who buys printer's ink by the barrel!

Posted by George, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 19, 2010 at 8:53 pm

So the Luddites win again. It would be helpful if everyone took a basic physics class and began to question from knowledge, not from ignorance. Go on folks give it a try. Learn about something before criticizing it.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Agree with George, it's hard to accept the high degree of scientific ignorance in this town.

... and who is Larry Magid?

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Someone asked who Larry Magid is. He lives in Palo Alto and writes a column called "Tech File" for the Mercury News. He recently used his column to express his opposition to the tower, not because of safety concerns, but because its location would spoil the view from his backyard. He and his wife have been active members of the local group (whose web site is that has been organizing against AT&T. The group has been using community organizing tactics, like those promoted by Saul Alinsky in his book "Rules for Radicals," to create the anti-tower frenzy.

The real tragedy of this affair is that those of us who are willing to have a reasoned debate about cell tower technology have been preempted by a single voice. Those who have been working with AT&T on the Eichler club installation were told that AT&T withdrew its application because its executives felt threatened by a member of the Fake Tree protest group. Apparently one member called high-level executives a dozen or more times a day and AT&T felt that their safety was in jeopardy. Maybe getting a psychopath to intimidate people is one of Alinsky's rules.

Posted by Manjo, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 1:08 am

I would say it's the other way around. AT&T jeopardized the safety of the nearby community by dropping a 24/7 EMF/RF radiation emitting cell tower in the middle of a residential neighborhood and near a school. And for those of you that think it's safe, we want it in writing that you'll be covering all damages and medical expenses if you're wrong. If not, it's best you go curl up under a cell tower, bathe in the radiation, and get your clear reception if that's what you want.

Posted by Emmanuele, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 1:46 am

I agree with Manjo. Nobody can prove it's completely safe or unsafe for your health, so better to be safe than sorry as they say. Don't take that chance if you can put it somewheer else. If you don't believe that, you need a basic class in common sense!

Posted by Frank, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 2:48 am

I'm sick of all these arrogant PhD's that think becuase they know it all, they can tell the rest of us that cell towers are safe because of their calculations. Too much education, not enough common sense. They're only human, and equations are human derived. Humans make mistakes. That's why many of us are paying the consequences of smoking for decades, being assured by science that smoking was safe.

Posted by Geez, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 20, 2010 at 7:54 am

Emmanuele; Nobody can "prove" the old phone lines are completely safe either.

Nor the tar in the roads we all drive on.

Nor the cement in the houses.

Nor the electrical cables running to all our houses.

Better ban it all until someone can prove they are all completely safe.

Better to be safe.

Posted by ugly, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 20, 2010 at 9:47 am

Most of the NIMBYs want to ban the cell phone towers because they are ugly, not because they are dangerous. The radiation stuff is just a smoke screen.

Besides, only a small minority of residents (iphone users) are having problems. If all phones had problems, then I bet we'd have a different response.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I agree with the above comment. I expect all those that disagree with the tower are also in possession of a cell phone and want good signal strength and reliable coverage.

The fact is that they are unsightly, and hiding them in a tree sounds fake like an artificial Christmas tree. Problem is, we have so many ugly power lines strung around the City that we really have nothing to complain about in terms of ugliness.

So again Palo Alto has succombed to NIMBYs who prevent progress. I hope they all realise that it is more dangerous to ride a bicycle, cross a street or drive a car in Palo Alto than to live beside a cell phone tower.

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I didn't notice anyone in these posts touting their PhD credentials, so I assume "Frank" is using the title PhD as a proxy for people who use scientific evidence to defend their conclusions. Why, exactly, is that bad?

Posted by Wireless Field Engineer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I guess everyone has a point here about RF radiation, about poor cell coverage, and about their frustration, one way or the other.

FCC regulation actually does call for more transmit power for licensed spectrum (like those owned by AT&T and Verizon) than with unlicensed spectrum, like your Wi-Fi router at home, cordless phone and microwave.

However, it all boils down to how close one is, to the radiation source. I was startled the other day that my AT&T data card detected stronger in-house Wi-Fi signal (-70 dBm) than AT&T cellular signal (-90dBm) at home, permeated in the space where I live and breathe. I am gradually toasting my body like I would my food in my microwave with my Apple Wi-Fi router...isn't that thought scary!

That said, you would not be surprised to know that my AT&T cell phone coverage at home sucks. I can even circle the holes of coverage on my floor plan!

Cell tower is a necessary evil. AT&T somehow is known for poor coverage. Iphone worsened the situation as all the iphone users eat up the data bandwidth.

I do not believe that AT&T would blindly throw another cell tower without careful site survey or RF planning. We have to give credit to people who do their job. Too much RF signal jams the neighboring towers, like two people shout to each other at same time so nobody hears a thing. Properly placed towers actually helps, believe or not. Besides, the cost of cell tower rental cost is not cheap over time.

However, AT&T has a leg up against competition for 4G wireless, LTE, whose technology is closer to GSM than to CDMA.

I do not have an iphone, but I do have AT&T. I guess the imaginary holes in my house will either stay, or enlarge, because we turned down the opportunity to have better signal...

Posted by iphony, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Do iphones have so much trouble because all the iphone owners are competing for limited bandwidth? Or because the antenna in the iphone is defective?

Posted by Wireless Field Engineer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

The trouble in general I think is that AT&T cell phone subscribers experience poor reception, be it iphone or any other types of phones.

When the flash light does not provide enough lumination, one tries to add another one shooting at the same direction. This is the initial idea of adding a tower to fill in the hole(s).

Separately, by having all the iPhone subscribers and their big payment checks to AT&T for subscription fee, AT&T has its network infrastructure jammed, like flood gushing into little creeks.

All AT&T subscribers suffer, competing for the limited bandwidth that AT&T cellular infrastructure has out there. It is a known situation that AT&T is running out of cellular bandwidth.

Data users, especially those with smartphones like iphone or any other phone that runs Microsoft Windows Mobile, pump a lot more traffic into the cellular network that was traditional not there. We used to only use cell phones for voice calls. Now it is web browsing, email, youtube, you name it, way exceeds the bandwidth consumption a typical voice call brings to the network.

The newest generation iphone has a technical problem with the antenna somehow. This is vertical to the AT&T tower problem. I heard that orienting the phone differently, especially when extending the user's body as antenna, helps with reception. So, enjoy...

Posted by Michael Gomez, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm

In the San Francisco Bay Area, if you need good wireless coverage you go with Verizon, period. Verizon has gotten by without these 75 foot towers in residential neighborhoods. Check Bay Area Consumer Checkbook and Consumer Reports for their cellular surveys--Verizon always ranks far better than other carriers in this area.

Soon the iPhone will be available on Verizon, and the problem of iPhone reception in Palo Alto will be solved, making Apple happy, Verizon happy, and residents happy.

Posted by Terry, arrogant PhD, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Celly, thanks for the info on Larry M. I do follow the useful tech journalists, but I never heard of this guy.

Wireless field engineer, thanks for the very useful measurement of local WiFi field strength vs cell field strength. I didn't comment because I didn't do a measurement, but I imagined that the cell phone protesters didn't know that they were likely generating more radiation themselves, than a nearby tower.

Nobody, including us arrogant PhD's, can be 100% certain about anything relating to complex human biology. We do however, have a reasonable perspective of the real physical world, and can make relative judgments. So for my neighbors who fear EMF from cell towers or power-lines, constant high energy x-ray exposure, or the dread neutrino flux from outer space, I suggest they dig a hole and move a few miles underground to avoid the perils of living on the surface of a planet.

Posted by PhD, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I too have a PhD in EE, and I think that the PhD's referenced here are likely those that believe they can just perform a number of calculations and determine how safe or unsafe a cell tower is to those nearby. Experimental data is the only way to know and it may be decades from now before we know for sure. In the meantime, it's best to proceed with caution, especially when these cell towers are being placed near children.

Posted by Thomas, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I agree with Manjo - for those who think it's safe, back it up in writing that you'll be covering all damages and medical expenses if you're wrong! If not, you best stop calling the rest of us paranoid health nuts and stop forcing us to believe what you're not willing to put your money where your mouth is! How audacious, arrogant, and presumptuous some people can be - UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Posted by Susan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Seriously, who actually thinks that putting a cell tower near or on a school is a good idea for the children?

Posted by Sandeep, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm

There's no way I would let AT&T build that cell tower - I'm going to lay down in front of the bulldozer before I let them build it!

Posted by BILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm

What immense hostility and sarcasm.
If you are anti-cell-tower, then you lack "science" or rational intelligence. Even if you know the history of asbestos in buildings, tobacco-smoke in the lungs, alcohol when pregnant, thalidomide when pregnant, excess X-ray exposure, and (just 2 days ago) the unwarranted
risk of using Darvon, just taken off the market. Etc. And even if you know that in Europe the standards are far more restrictive than in the USA. But wait; aren't there any scientists in Europe?
Madame Curie was a great scientist; Nobel prizes in Physics and Chemistry. Knew all about Radium, except how dangerous is was. And we all know why she prematurely died.
Probably the right way to get at the truth of all these matters is with Statistical Analysis of
the Medical Effects over years or even decades. Not with Physics or Engineering knowledge.
And if the problem is with I-phone usage, wait for the next generation instead of wanting
so much EMR. It's like the smokers of 30 years ago: "I want to enjoy MY cig, and I don't
much care if the second-hand smoke worries or annoys you." Now, it's "I want my family
to enjoy our I-phones, and I don't much care if everyone steps up his/her radiation exposure due to the necessary Cell-Towers." (Pretend it's about emergency calls when
arguing about it.)

Posted by cell guy, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm

It seems a foregone conclusion that mobile bandwidth demands will increase a lot over the next 5, 10, 20 years. How will that bandwidth be delivered? There are three main contributors. One, which has pretty much been exhausted, is to maximize the amount of information that can be transmitted over a given bandwidth.

Second is to increase the available bandwidth. There is precious little in the EM spectrum that is useful for cell phones. Some will become available over time but it is not a huge factor in the foreseeable future. This is a regulatory issue and tends not to change easily.

Third, and to the point here, is that cell sizes can decrease. Instead of having cell towers every mile or two, we would have cell towers much closer together. What does this do? Whether a cell is big or small, it provides roughly the same total bandwidth (from basic information theory). But 100 small cells will provide 100 times the bandwidth of one big cell covering the same area. This is very clearly the direction that mobile is going: cells are getting smaller and smaller, meaning towers are getting closer and closer together.

The direction clearly is to have many more towers, although smaller and lower power. The systems will also become more expensive and take longer to roll out.

If we as a society don't want that, then we are basically saying that we want to stop any further advance in mobile communication and services. That seems an unlikely position. But the decision is at this level. If we as a society want more bandwidth-intensive mobile services reaching more people, we are saying that we want more closely-spaced towers. No getting around it.

Posted by Jim B, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Bob, before you call the rest of us scientifically ignorant, think about who's funding the majority of studies. Yes, cell phone companies. They're the only ones that have the money and a vested interest to serve their industry. So do you really think they're going to present studies that show that cell towers are dangerous? And it's cell phone companies that have high powered lobbyists that fund politicians, and politicians that make the laws and policies, amongst other things, determining that cell towers are safe, so we can place them anywhere, including the most absurd places without any say. Yes, and I presume you call that democracy too. So before you call the rest of us scientifically ignorant, take a good look in the mirror and you'll see a whole lot of real-life ignorance staring right back at you. Go out and get some real-life schooling.

Posted by Thomas, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm

I agree with Manjo... For those of you who think it's safe to be near them, go curl up under a cell tower, or better yet right in front of them so your cell phone emits next to no radiation, and bathe luxuriously in the cell tower radiation, and get your clear reception for all I care.... They call that natural selection and it will allow the rest of us can pass on genes to a future generation of citizens that have some common sense.

Posted by Adam, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:52 pm


I'd be laying right there next to ya in front the bulldozer, but I'd probably carjack it first.


Posted by Angela, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:57 pm

I'm a parent at Palo Verde Elementary and I'm glad that AT&T did the right thing by withdrawing. Cell towers have no business being near children. People don't seem to care or know that children are vulnerable to radiation. I think they should lock up the cell phone company execs and anyone else that allows cell phone companies to put cell towers near schools. How dare they put our children in harm's way!

Posted by Alfred, a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 21, 2010 at 12:06 am

Yeah, I agree with Susan. Best not to put these things near children.

Posted by Frank, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 21, 2010 at 12:19 am

Road Bump and Bill, whatever education you have or haven't, you're about as ignorant as someone who never even finished elementary school. Saying that someone who's anti-cell is ignorant is like someone in the 70's saying smoking's safe so the second hand smoke given off to a non-smoking individual is safe too. It's all been proven by science. Are you even old enough to remember that? You don't have to live with the effects of lung cancer because "rational scientists" ensured that smoking was safe. You better stop gambling with other people's lives, and if you insist, I agree with the guy who wants it in writing. Where are those "rational scientists" that insisted smoking was safe? They ought to be paying my medical expenses and even if they're alive, they'd probably just offer an apology at best. So stop calling people irrational if they have a concern about safety. I still have yet to see any one proponent offer a money back guarantee. So keep your mouths shut unless you can put your money where your mouth is.

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 3:53 am

There are only two possibilities regarding cell phones. Either you use them or you don't. If you use them, as I would guess most of you do who were opposed to the Eichler tower, you need to be close enough to an antenna, transmitting radio waves at the right frequency and with sufficient power, to allow your device to connect to a phone network. If you are close enough to that antenna to get a signal from it (a finite number of bars on your device's screen), then your body is exposed to the radiation that carries that signal. Plus, the cell phone that you are holding is hitting your body with a level of radiation several orders of magnitude greater than that emitted by the antenna.

There are laws of physics that are used to make calculations of the strength of these signals. Why would you object to someone who knows how to do those calculations from doing so and presenting them to others?

And I don't think anyone who is arguing that cell phones do more good than harm is basing their position solely on calculations using the laws of physics. That would be ridiculous, since what we're talking about is the interaction between physics (i.e. electromagnetism) and the human body. The other scientific disciplines required to understand the potential health effects of cell phone radiation are basically variations of biology and epidemiology. So far, no one has found a credible causal basis for believing that cell phone radio waves cause biological damage. Some epidemiological studies suggest that they might be dangerous, but epidemiolgoy is a statistical science and shows correlations, not causality. Epidemiology might help us identify a reasonable causal theory, but if it does, we need biological studies to back it up. Currently there are no biological grounds for believing that using cell phones is bad for you.

It's not fair to say that people who want to use cell phones, and therefore support the construction of antenna towers, don't care about the health of our children. We simply don't believe that the scientific evidence from physics, biology or epidemiology justifies the concern.

If you're not willing to discuss scientific evidence, pro and con, what evidence do you want to use? Of course the history of science is littered with the mistakes of smart people. You could start with Aristotle, who thought that the brain was just a cooling system for the body. Or how about the folks who believed that the earth revolved around the sun? But, the mistakes made by scientists have eventually been uncovered and refuted by other scientists. Can anybody provide a good counterexample?

The fact is that we are all bathing in radio waves right now--from TVs, radios, utility wires, power stations, Wi-Fi networks, as well from cell phone technolgy. There are currently around fifty cell antennas on towers or on rooftops in Palo Alto. Almost all of us have cell phones. And do the parents who worry about their children's health realize that Palo Verde uses Wi-Fi (which operates at frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum very close to those used by cell phones)and that their children are already exposed to far more radiation from that source in the classroom than they would ever have experienced if a cell phone tower had been built at the Eichler club?

If you believe that incremental radiation from a cell tower would harm your children or yourself, I suggest you get busy--you've got a lot of work ahead of you. I bet you'll need lots of scientists and engineers on your side if you expect to make Palo Alto a radio wave-free zone. And those of you who expect indemnification in the event that these radio waves are found to be harmful, you're going to need a lot of lawyers as well. Oh, and better contact your real estate agent, because property values are sure to decline when no scientists or engineers want to live in Palo Alto any more.

By the way, for Manjo and his comrades, the worst place to bathe if you want a good cell signal is right under the tower. The antenna's signal radiates horizontally from its point of origin.

Posted by BILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 4:16 am

Celly- 1. Main part of Tower radiation is horizontal, but in a diffuse way. Not like a laser, but diffuse.
Check out the available diagrams in the vertical plane. Lot of close to the tower-base radiation. That's why cell-phone reception at tower-base picks up after a tower activation.
2. What do YOU think of the scientifically-established standards in Europe?

Posted by Wireless Field Engineer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2010 at 8:47 am

Not sure whether calling anyone ignorant or idiot would help, so I was going to find out exactly what the current data is on FCC transmit power regulation, vs. those in Europe, just to draw a comparison. I dealt with the rulings several years ago.

My first google search led me to wikipedia. I think the link below provides a pretty good summary of current status. I suggest going over it first, if you are so passionate about the topic, one way or the other:

Web Link

RF radiation eventually becomes heat in human body, which is basically a bag of water, pretty absorbant to RF wave. The biological effect of the heat in a human body is beyond me, even though I have always been curious myself.

Someone from my family saw a mushroom cloud rising with his own eyes in his career. One of his coworkers at that time actually lost all his hair, and could not bear kids of his own, due to radiation to isotopes that they were dealing with at work. Not quite the Curries, but the damage was definitely done and observed.

Of course these are extreme cases of radiation. The subject we are talking about could not compare to isotope.

Coming back to government regulations, FCC is the one that makes the rules about transmit power and tower deployment practice. Those with strong conviction should start lobbying the FCC, or even the professors at Stanford, to conduct research and provide guidelines, on the harm of cell phones and towers to human body. Without concrete data, FCC is just going to go with what the industry recommends.

I like what Celly summarized above, given his facts. Without facts, it is hard to pursuade the FCC, AT&T or Verizon (who knows whether they will be next to install towers in Palo Alto...), or ourselves.

Too much radiation is bad, but how much is too much, and where do we stop...the people in Palo Alto, and those in the whole country or whole world, deserves an answer...

Posted by BILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 10:40 am


Posted by No cell towers near schools, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm

In Israel, we just dismantle the cell towers when they get built.

Posted by No cell towers near schools, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Bill, you're right. Other countries are far more conservative than the U.S. in determining safe levels of radiation. That's more proof that noone really knows how safe these things are. If people really knew how safe these things are, those safety standards would be the same everywhere throughout the world. All those people that claim that they're safe don't know what they're talking about.

Posted by Xiaomei, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

No cell towers near schools,

I think so to. We have to do here to, to take apart the cell towers when they built them. They are not put them next to our school kids is very stupid place to put them.

I am hope other cell phone companies not putting them next to the schools.

Posted by Joyce, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Just found out about this terrific news. Though I'm not part of the Palo Verde area, I'm very happy for the community. We need to unite our communities and make sure there's some type of city wide ordinance that prevents cell phone companies from dropping these towers anywhere they'd like. Frankly, I'm surprised Palo Alto hasn't adopted some city wide ordinance already. Communities such as Glendale and Walnut Creek already have ordinances that prohibit cell towers from being erected in certain places. As a parent of 3 school aged children, I agree with the comments about not putting these next to schools, and I'd be willing to join the fight on this.

Posted by Rachel, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Nov 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I'm a parent at Palo Verde and am ecstatic to hear about this! I couldn't believe that AT&T and the Eichler club didn't notify the school's parents. Did they think they could pull a fast one without us even knowing about it? Even the school and city planning department apparently didn't feel the need to tell school parents either! I read somewhere that the Eichler club didn't even tell their own members and even admitted that they themselves were concerned about the radiation exposure in some recent newsletter! Can you believe that? Does anyone have that newsletter? Maybe all those people that think it's safe should read that and stop and think why even the club that was letting AT&T put up the tower is hypocritical in claiming it's safe while at the same time admitting concerns about radiation exposure.

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Wireless Field Engineer refers to the drastically harmful effects of nuclear materials. The victims of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are only the most horrible examples of the biological effects of that type of radiation. However, that type of high frequency radiation is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the radio waves produced by cell technology.

We have a good understanding of the biological mechanisms by which nuclear radiation damages the body because we know that those high frequency waves can break up biological molecules, such as DNA, through a process called ionization. Cell phone waves, along with other waves at the low-frequency end of the spectrum, are non-ionizing.

Bill is right about antenna transmission. What I should have said is that the coverage and radiation under the antenna would not be greater than that found some distance away from it.

As for European standards versus those of the U.S., I'm not sure that they are substantially different from those in the U.S. You can check the FCC FAQ, at Web Link, for a comparison. It will be useful to read the findings of the World Health Organization, which is working on guidelines that are supposed to reconcile regional differences, when they are published.

As to the allegedly more stringent rules in European countries regarding distances from cell towers to schools and residential areas, I'd be interested to learn what kinds of towers are subject to those restrictions. Are they high power towers, such as those that cover large areas, or lower power, fill-in towers, such as the one proposed at the Eichler club?

Regarding Israelis and cell towers, don't Israelis have a very high level of cell phone use? If they take down the towers, where do they get the signals that allow them to use their phones? From G-d?

For those who want guarantees of cell radiation safety, just get rid of your cell phone. That will eliminate the source of almost all of the cell radiation that you fear. But, if you want to use a cell phone, how do you propose to get your signal?

For those bloggers who want to be compensated by people who approve of cell phone use, and therefore recognize the need for cell towers, in the event that cell phone radio waves are ever proven to be harmful, you can't be serious. I support the right of licensed drivers to drive. Can I be sued if another driver kills someone with his or her car?

Posted by Jenny, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Nov 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Rachel... This was written in the Eichler Club's newsletter this past week: "Another motivation for pursuing this project was to head off the possibility of a tower being erected just over the fence from us at a business on East Meadow Circle, where we would have all the visual impact and concerns from some about ambient radiation exposure, yet gain no financial benefit." So they wouldn't want the eye sore and radiation if the tower were across from them, but if they got money for it to put it on their property, they'd be willing to expose the radiation to our school children and nearby community.

Posted by Tom, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm

That's really to bad. We need more cell towers here, as AT&T coverage is so poor here, especially indoors.

Posted by wireless field Engineer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm

If the moms here are so worried about RF radiation, I suggest you check the public schools here in Palo Alto first, especially your kids' classrooms.

One time when I was at a PA elementary school library last year, I was surprised to see the dark green Cisco Wi-Fi access point hanging right on top of the librarian's head agaist the wall...and she just sat there talking and in and day out.

I then looked through a couple of the classrooms in the same school. The Wi-Fi access points are put on the same side of the classroom entrance. If one were to look from outside in, one would not be able to see them. The ones I saw were about 3 feet on top of an average adult's head.

So moms your kids are bathing in the Wi-Fi beams, every minute s/he is in school. Since the kids are so close to the source, the harm, if any, would be much worse than the cell tower emission traveling down Ross.

I think Google even donated some wi-fi equipment to PAUSD earlier this year, so there will be more...

I am guessing the carriers like AT&T chose sites like churches or schools to set up their tower, besides geographical location selection for coverage, partly the reason is that there will not be as much objection as if one were to select the site right in someone's backyard. These are public property so the sense of ownership is distributed.

Posted by Terry, arrogant PhD, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Sure, I would have approved the cell tower even if it were in my backyard, even though I have just left AT&T for Verizon ...for the lack of coverage issue.

Here is what is so ironic with the "save our kids" argument. Lets imagine that we assemble a team of top experts and research a typical family with the goal of establishing the top ten list of greatest environmental risks to our kids. I'd bet my PhD that cell phone tower radiation would not be on the list. The really sad part though, is that there will be key items on the list that the parents are effectively unaware of.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I wonder if these are the same parents who drive their kids everywhere because they think the traffic is too dangerous
to let their kids ride bikes or walk.

Also, I wonder if they have given cell phones to their kids to call for rides home.

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Let's be clear about how the Eichler protests evolved. Larry Magid, who writes the "Tech Update" column for the Merc, and his wife Patti Regehr, who Larry describes as a professional community organizer, were worried about how a tower would look from their backyard, which is adjacent to the Eichler club. Magid devoted his weekly tech column to his concerns about cell towers and the aesthetics of his backyard view. However, he explicitly said that he is "unconvinced" by the scientific evidence against cell towers.

His wife, who is trained in the methods of Saul Alinsky, joined with other property owners near the Eichler to launch an all-out war against the tower. Since the Alinsky method is based on the belief that the ends justify the means, they were willing to use any argument that people were willing to believe to prevent what they saw as an attack on their property values.

One part of their campaign was to set up shop outside Palo Verde Elementary School, just before school started, to warn parents about how the evil Eichler club wanted to irradiate their children with harmful radio waves. Many of the petitioners didn't care whether there was a scientific or practical reason for the fear they were inciting. They were just betting that the combination of the words "children" and "radiation" would have the effect of creating an anti-antenna frenzy. Judging by some of the posts, it was a good bet.

But don't think this is some grand battle between good and evil. Both the Eichler club and the leaders of the anti-Eichler movement were engaged in a battle over property. The Eichler board reviewed the medical evidence against cell towers and concluded that a tower on their property, if there was any reason to be concerned about radiation, would be orders of magnitude less dangerous than the radition emitted by the cell phones that everyone in Palo Alto, including children, already use extensively. They assumed that people are going to continue to use cell phones and, given that the area around the club had poor coverage, some local property owner would benefit financially by leasing a small piece of their property. Why shouldn't the beneficiaries be the Eichler club members?

The moralistic condemnation of the Eichler board is misplaced. I am sure that none of them believed that the tower would have any deleterious health effects. And what makes you think that Patti Regehr and Michael Jaratt, two of the anti-Eichler ringleaders, thought about anything but the effect of the tower on their real estate values?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by It is all about money, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I'm sure that many of the Palo Verde Neighborhood residents fought the tower because it would impact their property values.

The Eichler Board pursued the tower because the Club needs a new pool deck. Why else would you put an ugly tower on the Club property?

Was it the neighborhood's responsibility to help fund the Club's new pool deck?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Additionally, anecdotally, the protestors also felt that they were disturbed by noise and parking of swim meets and asked for compensatory free swims and invitations to group dinners.

Posted by BILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Additionally, my wife found out about the Cell Tower Project from a P.A. worker on Oct. 25,
and being a member of the Eichler Club, wrote the Club Directors an E-mail wondering why the Board was negotiating with AT&T without broad knowledge of the Membership. Soon
she, and several Eichler members became opposed both to the Tower and to the non-transparency of the Board at Eichler. As a physician and engineer, I thought their cause a good one and joined them. We were a group of Eichler members.
Only later did we find out about Larry, Patti, and Michael.
Then it became a large neighborhood group, Eichler members and non-members, protesting
the actions of 6 Eichler Directors, whom we felt were not representing the historical values
of the Club or the wishes of the members at large.
Now we can be clearer about the evolution of the anti-Cell Tower events. The negotiations with AT&T had never been approved by the members of the Club, or even known about by the overwhelming majority of members. If you wish to castigate someone,
I don't think it's Patti, Larry, or Michael you should be looking at.

Posted by Colored, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Why is it always the white people who are psycho about fake science?

Oh sorry. Rich white liberal people.

Posted by bad reception iphones, a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

How about instead of putting up terribly ugly and possibly dangerous towers, you all stop buying terrible, 'hip' phones?

No you will not become younger if you buy one, and your child will not be cooler if you buy into apple's little controlled environment they call 'iphone'.

Just get an android on verizon and we'll all be happy. Kids get their apps, parents get good reception and feel 'cool', and we don't have to put up terrible new towers and we all get good service.

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Okay Bill, I'd be glad to add you and your wife to the cast of characters behind the protest. I explain below the reasons for my oversight.

Regarding the board's actions and the growth of the opposition to them, let's look at the history in more detail. On about October 25, people with property within 600 feet of the club received a notice from the city advising them that a permit had been filed by AT&T.

That notice went out despite the board's explicit instructions to AT&T's contractor, Trillium, that the permit not be filed until they had a chance to communicate with their members. As you say, your wife sent an email to a member of the board asking what was going on. She received a response the next morning apologizing for the unintentionally poor communications. She was also told that AT&T had not yet provided the board with all the information that they needed to make a presentation to the members, but that the board was working on setting up a forum for members once this information was available.

You and your wife continued to make email inquiries of the board, after October 26, when your first email was answered, and you were sent prompt updates in response to your inquiries. It was made clear in these updates that the board had never had any intention of signing a contract with AT&T without first discussing it with members. (It is curious, by the way, that you made no mention of radiation concerns in any of those numerous early emails prior to November 4. They were exclusively concerned with questions about how tall the tower would be, how it would be maintained, what access rights AT&T would have for maintenance, etc. I suppose your inner physician/engineer hadn't kicked into gear yet.)

Eleven days later, on November 4, the board held a meeting at the club to discuss the tower with members. Up to that point, you had no basis for bemoaning the board's lack of transparency or morality, because they had been in almost continual communication with you and had made it clear that they had done nothing to warrant such accusations. Therefore, I find it odd that you or your wife would feel the need to band together with anyone else at that point because of dissatisfaction with the board's behavior.

When the meeting was held, somehow non-members showed up even though it was to be a members-only meeting. Nevertheless the board was quite gracious in listening to the concerns of everyone present. In addition to listening to people talk both in favor and against the tower idea, the board explained once again how Trillium had neglected the board's request that they be given time to communicate with their members before the permit application was filed. The Trillium rep acknowledged at that meeting that Trillium, not the board, was to blame, and apologized for the mistake.

The board also made it clear at that meeting that they would be polling their members and would continue the discussions with neighbors as soon as they had the results. However, at least some of the attending non-members—particularly Patti, Larry, and Michael—made it quite clear that they were not interested in dialogue. Larry warned the board that this could get nasty. Patti was quite loud and rude and her behavior reminded me of left-wing tactics I had observed in the sixties, as practiced by followers of Saul Alinsky. Larry later confirmed my suspicion when he told me that Patti had been trained by someone who had been trained by Alinksy. Michael informed the group that he had created a web site, what turned out to be the precursor to the, with all sorts of anti-antenna references.

So, forgive me for assuming that the StopFakeTree group was spearheaded by Patti, Larry and Michael, but it sure looked that way after the November 4 meeting. Maybe the November 4 meeting marked the merger of your member faction (concerned about the club's historical integrity and the tyranny of the board) with the non-member faction (with their community organizing chops).

By November 14, Larry had posted his NIMBY article on the Merc's web site and Patti had spent the weekend soliciting neighbors (some would say harassing them) to sign an anti-antenna petition. Flyers had been placed on the windshields of cars in the club neighborhood. The next week, Palo Verde parents were informed of what terrible things would befall their children due to the radiation-emitting fake tree that would be installed over 600 feet away.

Listen, I don't blame you and your comrades for using whatever methods you could to protect the property values that you felt were threatened, even though I'm not convinced that they were ever under threat. But please don't tell us about the club's historical values and the board's non-transparency. The board tried its best to communicate with its members and with the rest of the community. They went out of their way to communicate with you and your wife personally, as can be attested to by the long trail of emails you exchanged with them. An organization can't be transparent to someone with his eyes shut tight to everything but what he wants to see.

This was a battle of one set of property owners versus another, pure and simple. Even though the member poll was never taken, the consensus of the members as measured by their emails to board members was decidedly in favor of installing the tower. I would argue that those who wanted the tower for the club, combined with the even larger group of people who want better cell service, should have organized as professionally as the StopFakeTree people. But although they would have represented the majority, their fervor could probably never compete with that of a smaller group of people dedicated to protecting their perceived housing values.

Posted by BILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2010 at 4:36 am

Celly, thanks for your ample reply. 1. We were never part of the StopFakeTrees effort. 2. We did appreciate the prompt replies to our E-Mails to the Board. 3. Why is it you don't want to be told about historical values? 4. It recently came up that the Board may have been quietly discussing the Cell Tower since April ( but my wife found out about the project only on Oct.
25 when she met a city surveyor in front of the Club and he told her). If true, that would be a half year of quiet discussions without any real notice we can recall. 5. Soon after Oct. 25,
the E-mails started, and the Board was then responsive. 6. Thanks for pointing out that Trillium filed its Permit Application with the City too fast, even though it was half a year after entering into discussions with the Board.

Posted by 4G, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 22, 2010 at 10:45 am

Verizon and Sprint are launching 4G cell service in Palo Alto, while AT&T can't even get basic service working right. Web Link

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

Celly - You sound awful angry.

Given the detail you provide, you must either be a Board Member or heavily, heavily invested. Maybe it was your idea? Or is this just about winning and losing?

I wouldn't worry, AT&T will improve the service. They have to in order to compete, and it will be even harder after Verizon starts selling iPhones. And then you'll get the service you feel you deserve.

You've also been spared the wrath of the membership when they actually see what a 75-foot fake tree does to your Club. What an embarrassment that could have been.

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm


I'd like to respond to your points in order:

1. Thanks for clarifying your membership status in the StopFakeTree organization. I suppose it would be more accurate for you to describe yourself as a fellow traveler. After all, you did try very aggressively to convince the board that Michael Jaratt, a StopFakeTree leader but not a club member, should be invited to assist the board in the composition of the letter that would accompany the survey to be sent to members.

2. Wow! That's the first time you've said any thing nice about the board, a group of volunteers who spend their personal time doing their best to make the Eichler club an attractive and enjoyable place.

3. I'd be glad to hear about the club's historical values, I just don't believe that they really had anything to do with your opposition to the tower.

4, 5, 6. I know you are trying to make it seem as if the board acted like a group of imperious conspirators, but the facts indicate otherwise. You are right that discussion among board members and with Trillium began last spring. However, as you should know, Eichler board meetings are always open to all members and the dates of the meetings are made known at the beginning of the year.

The board had decided that they wanted to determine for themselves whether the tower was a good idea for the club before they presented the idea to the members. To me, that's what leaders are supposed to do. Most people want their elected representatives to do some work on an issue before being asked their opinion on it.

If you or your friends had attended any board meeting between April and October, you would have heard about the tower idea. It was no secret. And you would have had the opportunity to request that the board conduct a poll of the members sooner rather than later. However, I don't think you would have been happy with the poll results, because the members would most likely have voted to proceed with discussions with Trillium and AT&T.

The board pursued a decision making process with respect to the tower that consisted of the following steps: a. reach consensus among board members that the tower would be safe, that it could be built without being an eyesore, and that a proposal could be created that was worth presenting to the members; b. if board consensus could be reached, present the proposal to members; c. if members approved, work with neighbors to take their concerns into consideration.

You might not like the process, and you might think that some of the decisions were boneheaded, but the process was very transparent to all members.

Posted by BILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Celly, you say "if Board consensus could be reached, present the proposal to members."
That did not happen until much later and under neighborhood pressure. You say "if members approved, work with neighbors to take their concerns into consideration." For a project of this magnitude, working with impacted neighbors should have begun as soon as the Board was tempted by AT&T's offer. And the process was transparent only to Club members who came to Board meetings or read the non-transmitted Board Minutes. The tower was kept out of Splash and Volley, which is what Club members are sent. Since Board meetings are considered routine by the members, they are infrequently attended. I estimate 280 of the 300 members knew nothing of the Tower before Oct. 25. Speaking for myself, I must try to correct past assumptions and become more attentive.

Posted by BILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2010 at 2:52 pm

And, I just noted your little joke, renaming Michael Jaret. Now he's Michael JarATT.
Good one, Celly.

Posted by Celly, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2010 at 3:24 pm


If you didn't attend any board meetings prior to November 4, and none of your friends did either, how do you know that the board only agreed to present the proposal to its members after the neighbors raised a fuss? You and your wife were told of the board's intentions with respect to talking with members, via an email sent to you on October 26, the day after you first asked about the project. That was well before there was pressure from neighbors.

If you think you can do a better job managing the club's affairs, you should run for election to the board. There are not many people who are willing to do so because of the time commitment and the thankless job of being second-guessed by people who don't do anything for the club but complain. You can question the board's wisdom, but you can not accuse them of duplicity or laziness.

And, I must say, it's very sneaky of the board to have a routine schedule for their meetings. I'm sure they must do that in order to circumvent the participation of the members.

You got what you wanted, why do you have to continue to impugn the board's integrity? Can't you at least concede that they did the best they could, even if you would have done it differently?

Posted by bILL, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Celly, ok. I admit that so far as I know, the Eichler Board did the best they could. And, yes,
you betcha' I would have done it differently.

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