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.