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.