AT&T's proposal to install antennas on 19 utility poles throughout Palo Alto has received the green light from the city's planning department.
A week after the city's Architectural Review Board voted to support the company's controversial plan, the planning department sent AT&T a letter approving the installation of the equipment. The Dec. 16 letter from Current Planning Manager Amy French states that approval will become official in 14 days unless an appeal is filed.
The AT&T proposal is the first phase of a larger plan, which calls for about 80 antennas. The company has consistently maintained that the equipment is necessary to meet the heavy demand in the city. Many residents have opposed the proposal, arguing that AT&T's proposed equipment is unsightly and disruptive.
After hearing from both sides, the ARB voted 4-0 on Dec. 8 to approve the plan and added a long list conditions designed to minimize the visual impact of the new equipment. This includes planting trees to cover up the equipment and using colors that make the new antennas less conspicuous. AT&T had already agreed to change the design of the antennas, reducing the number of antennas on each pole from two to one.
The company will also be required to test the radio-frequency level and the decibel level of the new equipment to make sure they don't exceed city regulations.
Opponents of the plan have until the end of this month to appeal the approval. At the ARB meeting, several residents urged the board to reject the plan and called on the city to come up with a "master plan" for cell equipment throughout the city.
Ben Linder, who spoke at the meeting, said the city is "considering a tactical approach to what is actually a very strategic and long-term problem."
"I'm worried we'll end up with five carriers, each wanting 20 poles to cover the city of Palo Alto," Linder told the board.
If the approval is not appealed, the company will have a year to begin construction on the new installations.