AT&T has abandoned its plan to install a cell tower at St. Albert the Great Church in Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood after the church withdrew from the proposal, AT&T and church officials said.
The church informed the company Monday that it no longer wants to serve as the site of a 50-foot cell tower -- a project that has galvanized opposition from neighbors around the church. While Palo Alto Planning Director Curtis Williams gave the proposal for 1095 Channing Ave. the city's tentative approval, residents appealed the decision, prompting the city to schedule public hearings on the subject.
But the church's decision to withdraw from its negotiations with AT&T effectively kills the project before the hearings had even begun. The Rev. Matthew Stanley said the church decided to withdraw the application because of feedback from the neighborhood. He estimated that about two thirds of the residents near the church said they opposed the project, citing concerns about health effects and aesthetic impacts.
"We originally accepted the offer because we thought it would be a good thing to do to provide our neighbors with cell phone coverage," Stanley said. "But ultimately, the neighborhood didn't think it was a good idea."
Many of the arguments from the opponents, he said, were driven by emotion rather than logic. But the church ultimately decided that withdrawing the application is the best thing to do for the long-term "peace of the neighborhood."
"I think logic and reason did not prevail in the overall process," Stanley said.
AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman said the church's decision means the company would have to find other sites in the city for cell infrastructure. The company has consistently maintained that the new infrastructure is needed to meet the city's growing wireless-communication demand.
"Our customers' needs haven't changed so we'll continue to look for locations," Kasselman.
AT&T said in a statement that it is "hopeful that we'll be able to find alternative solutions for the hundreds of supporters that need wireless coverage in the area.
"We're disappointed by the decision of St. Albert's to withdraw from negotiations for new infrastructure which would have brought increased wireless network coverage and capacity to area customers," the statement said.
Planning Director Curtis Williams said the company notified the city on Monday about the church's decision to end its negotiations. Williams said AT&T officials notified the city that they would be sending a letter in the coming days to formally withdraw the application.
The proposal suffered a setback earlier this month when the city's Architectural Review Board panned the proposed design of the cell tower and asked the company to revise its plan and return with more information. Kasselman said the application withdrawal had nothing to do with any city decision.
The Channing Avenue proposal is one of several AT&T applications that have been going through the city's pipeline in recent months. The City Council last month approved a plan by AT&T to install wi-fi antennas on the balcony of Hotel President on University Avenue. The approval came despite opposition from the building residents, some of whom argued that the installation and maintenance of the new devices would intrude on their privacy.
Williams told the council earlier this month that the city expects more applications in the coming months. City officials are planning to hold a study session to review existing regulations and address the community's concerns about the new infrastructure.