Plan for wi-fi antennas slammed by residents

Residents of Hotel President in downtown Palo Alto urge City Council to deny AT&T proposal to mount two new antennas on building

A proposal by AT&T to mount two wi-fi antennas on the balcony of Hotel President in downtown Palo Alto is facing resistance from Hotel residents, who are calling for the City Council to kill the project tonight (Monday).

The proposal has already received the backing of the city's Planning Director Curtis Williams and the Planning and Transportation Commission. The council heard complaints from some of the residents at its March 21 meeting and will decide tonight whether to grant the project final approval.

The proposal for 488 University Ave. is the second AT&T proposal to meet resistance from local residents in the past two weeks. A plan to install a cell tower on St. Albert the Great Church on Channing Avenue continues to irk residents near the church, who claim the new antennae would violate the city's zoning laws and bring down their property values.

AT&T already has antennas on the roof of Hotel President but is seeking to install additional ones on the balcony's railing. Jeffrey Jones, who lives on the sixth floor of the hotel, told the council on March 21 that the new proposal threatens his privacy. He also claimed the company's outreach to the hotel residents has been insufficient.

"I've been frankly stunned by the lack of real community outreach by a company that purports to really want to be doing something for Palo Alto," Jones said.

AT&T and business leaders from Joint Venture: Silicon Valley argue that the new antennas are necessary to boost Palo Alto's weak wireless connections. Leon Beauchman, a retired AT&T executive who heads the "Wireless

Communication Initiative" for Joint Venture: Silicon Valley said the initiative recently did a study on wireless capacity and determined that the region is "woefully underinvested" in wireless infrastructure.

"The most famous example was riding down 280 and no one could maintain a call all the way down 280," Beauchman said.

AT&T officials also indicated on March 21 that it would limit its maintenance access to the new antennas so that it would not have to go through the residential units.

The council meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. or as soon as possible after a closed session on labor negotiations.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:07 am

Why doesn't ATT put the antennas on top of City Hall? It's tall enough that the towers shouldn't bother neighbors, and no residents live in the building.

Like this comment
Posted by Approve-the-Request
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:22 am

I hope the Council approves this request. However, the question of placement of these antennas is still not fully answered by the coverage in the local papers. It might be interesting to have AT&T answer the following:

1) Why this location?
2) What methodology was used to determine this location?
3) Are there other possible locations?
4) Any chance of compensating the residents whose apartments might be entered by technicians?
5) What kind of coverage will result with these antennas in place (meaning will AT&T provide the City a coverage map for downtown)?
6) Will other antennas be needed in the future?

One would have hoped that these sorts of questions would have been asked by now .. but this is Shallow Alto .. all form, and precious little substance.

Like this comment
Posted by just_the_facts_maam
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

I'm at a loss to understand the intense opposition to wireless in this city. I live in a neighborhood where a "fake tree" wireless antenna is proposed. Photos of the third generation "fake tree" installed in another city (which is amazingly realistic, compared to current ones), improved siting, other concerns were addressed with factual information based on installations in other cties. The RF radiation is far below what either a cell phone user, a WiFi computer user, or the owner of a microwave oven (devices all owned and used regularly by the opponents of the cell tower), would experience. After the community meeting, the opponents seemed satisfied. A week later, the neighborhood is full of "NO CELL TOWER" signs in front yards of folks who indicated they were satisfied the new information assuaged their concerns. In this city, it appears to me, facts and actual relevant information can always be trumped by Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. So it is not surprising that small WiFi antennas would generate the same intense opposition as our neighborhood "fake tree" cell antenna.

Like this comment
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 4, 2011 at 11:29 am

For me, the issue is not the antennae, but the access. I think it is a terrible idea to install something that has to accessed through a private party's apartment. Top of City Hall or top of 525 University are better ideas.

Like this comment
Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Maybe it's time for for an APP their smartphones that will report the radiation being received and transmitted by their phones.

Like this comment
Posted by No Towers
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Why don't we change the name of Palo Alto to Tower Alto since there are so many new cell towers planned for the City. This is old ugly technology. What are we going to do with all of those towers when other cities go with newer devices.

Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm

My opposition to AT&T placing antennas anywhere in Palo Alto is they should pay the City and the owner of the hotel an installation fee plus a monthly rental.

AT&T also have plans to place some 80 antennas on top of City owned utility poles and light fixtures. Palo Alto needs to make a good profit and rent the space on top of City owned property i.e. utility poles and light fixtures.

This money should then be used to finish under-grounding of all utilities in Palo Alto. Right now only about half the City has been under-grounded and it isn't fair to those of us who are left with ugly utility poles in our yards.

Like this comment
Posted by New Guy
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

As a new resident of Palo Alto, can anyone tell me if there are community groups that are putting pressure on local government to handle wireless development in an intelligent manner? Thanks!

Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Maybe someone more knowledgeable could answer my question here. Does each tower only help with reception for THAT wireless carrier? I have Verizon and a fairly old cell phone (don't know if newer ones are better) but I suffer from dropped calls unless I stand in my driveway. I have excellent reception in other cities.

As for the issue of lowering property values, this seems farfetched to me. But I assume the towers are unsightly, so I can see why people object.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I would guess antennas cannot be placed on top of City Hall because of the need for 24/7 access. But maybe they could be placed on top of the President Hotel. Or Channing House or Lytton Gardens? All probably could use the money.

With regard of the use of microwaves in smart meters to measure and transmit the use of electric consumption, the energy of microwave photons is about 1 million times too low to cause ionization. It was Einstein who pointed out in 1905 that microwave radiation is not ionizing. No ionization, no cancer.

It should be noted that the radiation emitted by a smart meter adds up to about one Watt when it's transmitting - typically only a few seconds a day. A cell phone may be used for minutes at a time and its power is usually more than one Watt.

Like this comment
Posted by Allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I welcome the addition of a micro cell on my street. If my neighbor who will be near the cell doesn't like it, they can put it on my roof. The radiation from a micro cell is micro -- small. I could not find the details and it would be great for ATT to publish them, but I would think that the WiFi router we have in our homes expose us to as much radiation as a micro cell site. But who cares. This is not ionizing radiation. It is radiation like in a microwave oven. It doesn't cause cancer, it heats the body. I like to say, if you don't feel not, you are not being harmed. I used to work with microwave radio folks. Bums used to sleep in the transmitter horns to stay warm. That is one reason they cover them, keep the bums out. PS. Can you say bums without being politically incorrect? The nice part about being me is I don't care.

Like this comment
Posted by exasperated
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm

When will this idiotic fear mongering stop? I'd really expect a more intelligent, rational response from Palo Altans.

This is as bad as the vaccination scare---a scare which cost lives.

It is life endangering to be unable to make an emergency call from a cell phone on 280. It is not life endangering to live near a cell tower or antenna.

I'm going to call AT&T and ask them to put a fake tree with an antenna in it on my property.

Like this comment
Posted by Lee
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:26 pm

How many of those objecting to the antennas have granite countertops in their kitchen?

OOOh, you should be scared. According to the EPA:

"When present, certain radioactive elements in granite will decay into radon, a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas which may be released from the granite over time. You can see in the diagram below how the decay of Uranium-238 (a radioactive element) produces Radon-222 gas:"

Rip out those countertops now before you are exposed to radiation or radon gas.

Like this comment
Posted by PolicySage
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:01 am

How does anyone expect a public good like wi-fi or cell phone service to be extended if the needed tech equipment is not allowed to be installed?

This carping NIMBY attitude is in reality a symptom of the self-centered malaise that is eroding the public good all over the country.

Like this comment
Posted by AT&T laughable
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Exasperated says "I'm going to call AT&T and ask them to put a fake tree with an antenna in it on my property."
Let us know what they say. I think you are just blowing smoke.
Like selfstyled PolicySage you want it in somebody else's backyard or in this case, through their apartments.
AT&T said they couldn't put the antennas on the office building 525 University because it would be unaesthetic. AT&T is always good for a laugh.

Like this comment
Posted by Karl
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 6, 2011 at 3:30 am

I'm confused. The headline says "Wi-Fi" antennas, but there is reference to maintaining a connection while driving on 280. One does not maintain a connection while driving using Wi-Fi. One uses a cellular connection. Are these really cellular antennas?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Chick-fil-A quietly starts delivering out of DoorDash kitchen in Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 31 comments | 4,058 views

Disposing of Disposables
By Sherry Listgarten | 24 comments | 3,062 views

By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 1,534 views

Differentiating Grief from Clinical Depression
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,141 views

Anonymous Sources: Facebook and YouTube suppressing important questions and discussion
By Douglas Moran | 20 comments | 1,017 views