News

Palo Alto awash with cell-tower proposals

City Council considers revising regulations for wireless-communication facilities

Palo Alto residents concerned about the recent flood of cell-tower and antenna proposals should have plenty to complain about in the months ahead as applications continue to flood in.

The subject, which became one of the city's hottest issues earlier this year, will take center state tonight (Monday, May 16), when the City Council considers the city's existing regulations for wireless-communication facilities and possible ways to improve the vetting process.

According to a new report from the city's Planning Department, the need for wireless-communication services is "rapidly increasing" because of capacity demands for data transmittal in the famously high-tech city. Palo Alto is currently processing five cell-tower applications, including a monopole, a "faux tree" antenna, and three modifications to existing facilities, Current Planning Manager Amy French wrote in the report.

She also noted that AT&T has proposed installation of nine "distributed antenna systems" (DAS) on existing utility poles in Palo Alto. These systems typically require shorter poles than traditional antennas and produce lower radiofrequency emissions.

"These installations are smaller and in some ways less intrusive than a larger monopole, but may still have visual impacts," French wrote. "Many more DAS applications are anticipated to be submitted for City review by AT&T and others."

Cell towers became a subject of major controversy earlier this year when a group of residents in Crescent Park rallied against AT&T's proposal to install a tower at St. Albert the Great Church (the company ultimately pulled its application). On the other hand, AT&T succeeded last month in obtaining the city's approval to install new wireless antennas at Hotel President on University Avenue despite protests from dozens of Hotel residents who feared the new antennas would impact their privacy and, quite possibly, their health.

Given the recent brouhaha, the City Council will devote most of its meeting Monday night to discussing the various issues around the recent applications, including the city's existing wireless facilities and ways to improve the review process.

These proposals include requiring applicants to submit a map illustrating coverage gaps and explaining how the new facility would fill these gaps; requiring applicants to explain why they can't "collocate" the new facilities on existing poles; and more information about radiofrequency emissions from the proposed facilities.

The council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by iphony
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2011 at 9:45 am

Blame the iphone for all these antennas. Thank you Steve Jobs.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

Why is this so controversial? This is a welcome (needed) infrastructure improvement to our community - paid for by private companies

Can people please focus energy on other things that will help make our community a better place to live - instead of trying to hold things back?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2011 at 9:56 am

This is Silicon Valley. We love and want all our gadgets (which we help to invent). There is nothing strange about wanting to be able to use them.

Very soon, if not already, house prices will be affected if phone coverage is poor or non-existent. Disclosures have to be made to potential buyers. This is now essential infrastructure.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2011 at 10:17 am

The world of mobile communications is rapidly changing the way that we do almost everything. Medical care/delivery will be one of those areas where cell phones/smartphones will be the platform for an almost unimaginable array of new care capabilities.

The following letter was sent to the Palo Alto City Council with links to short videos about this emerging field of technology--

----
Subject: Increasing Use of Cell Phones For Medical Delivery

Elected Council Members:

So-called “smartphones”, which are a fusion of telecommunications, display technologies, and computing technologies are pushing the frontiers of every aspect of our existence. While the mobility allowed for people to communicate when not near a fix-station telephone is obvious, the possibilities for the use of, and collection of, “data” are beyond simple enumeration. With over 4B people in the world now using cell phones, the opportunities to deliver health care has not gone unnoticed to technologists. The links below, to short video segments, provide ample insight into the work on-going, as well as provide a glimpse into the future of low-cost medical care/delivery:

Eric Topol: The wireless future of medicine
Web Link

George Whitesides: A lab the size of a postage stamp
Web Link

Innovative Medical Imaging on a Cell Phone
Web Link

Medical Information on Cell Phone: For emergency use
Web Link


Increase Signal Coverage Needed

With the examples provided, it must be obvious to all that the expansion of medical care at the personal level needs ever-greater signal coverage and bandwidth, to allow for data needs of the people everywhere, including Palo Alto, to be able to access back-end data servers which will provide anything from map information to find a nearby restaurant, to a medical database, and on-line physician’s care, be it human, or automated.

Faster Cell Tower Approvals

Palo Altans needed their government to be a facilitator of greater cell phone signal coverage, and reliability, where possible—not an inhibitor of private sector technology deployments, as it has been traditionally. The Council is encourage to direct Staff to reduce the delays in the application approval process for cell phone services, as well as not devise new impediments that can slow down the advances of the cell phone service industry.

Cell phones are replacing landlines as many people’s main communications channel. The council can no longer ignore this fact. People not only depend on cell phones for convenient communications, but also for 911 service, and soon, for personal medical care and the delivery of various services—such as monitoring for strokes and heart attacks. Having service throughout all of the San Francisco Bay area is clearly the goal here. Palo Alto needs to do its part, by insuring that the cell phone service providers are able to install transmitter/receivers in town as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your time considering this information


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2011 at 10:18 am

Cell Phone Medical Videos (Part II)

Seems one can only post four links per message)

Engineers Harness Cell Phones for Medical Imaging, 4/29/08
Web Link

Cell Phones as Mobile Medical Labs- G.1440
Web Link

Track Your Medical Needs With Your Cell Phone
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2011 at 10:31 am

The strange (but not surprising) thing is that the article was clearly written to pump up controversy and bring out the opponents. Would be nice to get the news without so much bias once in awhile.


Like this comment
Posted by Karl Ronn
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2011 at 10:33 am

Just get on with fixing the cell reception issue. The quality of the service here is about the worst in the nation.


Like this comment
Posted by Cell Divison
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

Can't wait for the crazy of the crazy league to crawl out of the woodwork to attend the meeting wearing their aluminum foil scull caps.

A few months back we were accosted by a woman scared that a proposed tree form cell tower would fry her brain and cause the kids at Palo Verde Elementary to all get cancer. She had no scientific evidence detailing any facts supporting her position that the cell tower could cause harm (just "facts" obtained on the internet)...she was also unable to conduct a civil conversation on the matter.

Good luck having a rational conversation with these whacko folks.

The problem is...this small loony fringe...will impact improving wireless services to the vast majority of us who live in Palo Alto.




Like this comment
Posted by iphony
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2011 at 11:28 am

The problem is not the signal quality in Palo Alto. The problem is that residents are buying cell phones with defective antennas. Can you say "death grip"?


Like this comment
Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on May 16, 2011 at 11:36 am

In SF some company is going around and putting cellphone receivers on telephone poles without permission, hoping no one sees them and they will get some form of prescriptive easement. They are round cannisters about 14 inches high by 8 inches round (guess). Beware of illegal activity in your neighborhood.

Perhaps we should worry about medical damage to the brains of all of us from these devices which have no long term research history????. We already have groundwater polluted by semiconductor companies. Who knows whether the cancer clusters here and in Marin are derived from living styles which have gotten out of control?


Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Southgate
on May 16, 2011 at 11:52 am

Many of our singles and young families are using cell phones as the one and only phone service in their lives and homes. Therefore, the quality of service needs to be dependable. Having just returned from another metropolitan city where cell towers were occassionally spotted, my daughter commented, "Seriously, this is what all the fuss is about....you will hardly notice it after the first week."

I can't even use my cell phone without standing in the street. Please take care of this problem, it is not safe if you need your phone and can't get reception.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2011 at 11:56 am

> I can't even use my cell phone without standing in the street.

This is a common problem. It might pay to look into purchasing a repeater, which will make cell phone use better at home:

Web Link

Prices vary ..


Like this comment
Posted by iphony
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm

If you are worried about cancer, quit using cell phones. You are exposed to much more radiation from the cell phone antenna that you place right next to your head.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Thanks, Wayne for posting all the info.
The question is will our council see the issue for what it is or will they once again put their tails between their legs and kowtow to vocal NIMBYists, who do not provide any facts for thier claims


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The council is prohibited by law from considering health effects, therefore it gets into debates whether a 1 square foot intrusion into a 50 foot height limit is objectionable. I propose we make the 50' limit refer to habitable structure and let the FAA worry about other taller structures.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

There was a very interesting meeting held by AT & T at the Cubberley Theater a couple of months ago where many in the audience were opposed to the proliferation of cell towers in PA and very few in favor.

I hope all those who oppose cell towers attend the meeting tonight because they had some very good arguments as to why their numbers should not be increased.


Like this comment
Posted by Flat Earth Fred
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm

A new tower was installed around the corner and my cats started ignoring me. Also, my dog howls whenever someone comes near the front door. I've also noticed round bare patches in my lawn.

Oh yes, my kids ignore my requests to clean their bedroom, my tax bill is higher than last year and it rained on Sunday. Occasionally, my ears ring...and I get hot flashes.

All of these are clearly attributable to the cell tower.

I'll be a the City Council meeting with my foil lined beanie.

Wake up Palo Alto.

Remember....even paranoids have enemies....


Like this comment
Posted by paneighbor
a resident of University South
on May 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Haiku:


The PA Weekly
continues its biased assault
against my cell phone.


Gennady Sheyner
panders to NIMBYs while we
get no reception...


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Ludington
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Our phones don't work well in Palo Alto - this is a disgrace.

If there's any danger at all, it's from the antenna in your phone, NOT cell towers.
They are not visual pollution.

Please, let's get some reception around here. Approve them all.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm

The City is about to approve the installation of some 80 antennas on top of existing utility poles throughout the City. I had always thought that most of the poles were owned and operated by the City's Utilities but I have recently learned that many of the poles are owned and used jointly by both AT&T and the City's Utility Service.

AT&T wants to use these poles to install their 80 antennas. Where there are not poles available they will use street lights.


Like this comment
Posted by Carlito Waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2011 at 6:20 pm

It is interesting to hear all the NYMBYsts of Palo Alto, they have their own self-righteous excuses against everything that benefits the majority, whether the issue is Cell Towers or High Speed Rail.

Most likely in a major earthquake, the cell phones or any other wireless communication device would render useless, still for an emergency scenario like that, nothing beats the good old land line telephone, that is why I still keep mine.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm

One issue that hasn't been mentioned is the noise factor. Each one of these cell towers will emit a constant humming sound. I hope I won't be living near one of them but I hope all the people who are complaining about the NIMBYism will have the constant humming sound penetrating their bedroom at night.


Like this comment
Posted by Wing Nut, Luddite, You Name It
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Call us whatever name you feel makes you superior to those of us with common sense. That won't convince us luddites that putting a cell tower in your backyard is good for your health. I'm sure those of you who so desperately want cell towers located near you are probably the same ones that assured everyone smoking and asbestos were safe and ridiculed those who opposed them for health reasons. Instead you smoked to your heart's content and the rest of us who endured second hand smoked ended up worse off than you. The worst of it is, is that you don't mind exposing your children either. It's outrageous that with such a highly educated populus in Palo Alto, so many educated folks lack common sense.


Like this comment
Posted by World Health Organization
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2011 at 10:57 am

The World Health Organization released a report today saying that cell phones likely do cause cancer, but the problem is the handsets, not the towers. If you want to save yourself, then ditch your cell phone. Besides, if more people do that, then the need for more ugly cell phone towers goes away. And think of all the money you will save by not having to write a check every month to your cellular company.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 31, 2011 at 11:12 am

Poster posing as the WHO states:"The World Health Organization released a report today saying that cell phones likely do cause cancer"

Not true.
In fact here is what the report actually says:""the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."

"Could be some risk" and "likely do cause cancer" are two very different statements.


Like this comment
Posted by we are doomed
a resident of Stanford
on May 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Time to ban the possession and usage of cell phones within the city of Palo alto. We are all in danger. we are endangering our children. Woe is us!!!! Tear down the cell phone towers. Make the installation of land lines mandatory. We are all going to die of cancer!!!!! Maybe Wing Nut, Luddite, You Name It with the help of Tru Love can lead the campaign against the scourge of cell phones.
Woe is us. We are doomed


Like this comment
Posted by WING NUT LUDDITE
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2011 at 1:38 am

Those of you hanging on to the hope that cell phones and cell towers are perfectly safe are disillusioned. If you can flat out deny the World Health Organization's conclusions, then you truly are more ignorant than previously thought.

Web Link

(CNN) -- Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

So if a cell phone is a carcinogen, what do you think that makes a cell tower, genius?

ENOUGH SAID


Like this comment
Posted by we are doomed
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 1, 2011 at 6:29 am

Okay WING NUT LUDDITE, let's look at some of the points from your article:

"The type of radiation coming out of a cell phone is called non-ionizing. It is not like an X-ray, but more like a very low-powered microwave oven."
So are you getting rid of your microwave also???

"The Wireless Association added that WHO researchers "did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies.""
Interesting. So no new research.


"Finally, cell phones emit the most radiation when they are attempting to connect to cellular towers. A moving phone, or a phone in an area with a weak signal, has to work harder, giving of more radiation. "
A good argument for more cell towers.

Finally your comment:
"So if a cell phone is a carcinogen, what do you think that makes a cell tower, genius?"
shows how little you understand about cell phones and cell phone towers.
You know what they say in science you give enough of anything to a mouse and it will cause cancer. Why harp on cellphones, what about all the other things that cause cancer.


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

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