News

Cell tower on verge of approval for Little League field

Architectural Review Board signals willingness to endorse controversial proposal

It took many extra innings, but Verizon Wireless is now poised to score the winning run in its long and controversial effort to install cellular antennas at the Palo Alto Little League field.

The city's Architectural Review Board signaled on Thursday morning its support for Verizon's bid to install a 65-foot light pole on the Middlefield Road field and to include three panel antennas on the pole. The board didn't vote on the project, opting instead to defer its decision until Oct. 16, the day after the city's Historical Resources Board weighs in. Even so, board members generally supported Verizon's latest proposal, the culmination of four years of revisions and negotiations.

The proposal has stoked passions in the surrounding neighborhood, with dozens of residents speaking out against it at Thursday's public hearing. Many argued Verizon's cell antennas would undermine the 62-year-old ballpark's historical status. Other opponents claimed the cell equipment would harm people's health and lower property values, arguments that cell-antenna foes have made against prior proposals by wireless companies.

In its proposal, Verizon stated it would replace an existing 60-foot-tall light pole with one taller and thicker. The current light pole has a 12-inch diameter, while the new one would be between 18 and 24 inches in diameter. Board members indicated that they would be more likely to support a new pole with a width on the lower end of this range.

While city planners have determined that the extra five feet of height would have only a minimal impact, many residents disagreed, with some calling it unsightly. Charlene Liao argued that the pole would be the tallest the city has ever approved and would harm the views from the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.

"It would set a dangerous precedent for the city, and as a result, we plead for you to hold it to a very high aesthetic bar," she said.

Sridar Jasti, who lives near the ballpark, said the new fixture would lower his property values.

"A cell tower in the neighborhood with this design is not aesthetically pleasing enough," Jasti said.

A petition submitted with more than 60 signatures proclaimed residents' opposition to the tower at a "historical site in the heart of our residential neighborhood."

Others disagreed and argued that the new equipment is badly needed to improve wireless reception. Resident Joseph Monaghan wrote in an email to the city that it is "an embarrassment that a world-class city like Palo Alto has such terrible wireless service."

Ken Allen, who lives near the ballfield and who serves on the city's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), said most of his neighbors support Verizon's proposal, even as he acknowledged a significant level of opposition.

"We think Verizon has bent over backwards to try to satisfy some of the concerns of the neighbors who are opposed, yet we still have some very vocal opposition," Allen said.

Verizon's plan has undergone several transformations since the company first proposed bringing cell antennas to the south Palo Alto site more than four years ago. The company had initially proposed a tower with antennas and cables concealed in a structure resembling a fake tree.

After city staff and residents panned the fake-tree concept, the company designed two light towers with antennas on one of them. Though that proposal did a better job blending into the ballfield, it was criticized by staff for introducing new lighting problems. The application was ultimately withdrawn.

Earlier this year, Verizon introduced a new proposal to replace two of the four existing light towers with new ones, with three antennas placed on top of each new tower. The proposal was later revised to replace one light pole with a 65-foot pole.

Board members offered some criticisms of the latest proposal Thursday, even as they indicated that they will likely approve it. Board member Alexander Lew called the ballfield "a pretty good location" for the cell equipment, which in addition to the tower includes a 442-square-foot enclosure for storing an emergency power generator. Lew and his colleagues requested more information about the equipment's colors. He also said he would favor a pole with an 18-inch diameter over the larger version. The latter design, he said, "looks pretty awful."

Chair Lee Lippert focused his comments largely on the enclosure and said the board needs to see "more building details, palette of materials and colors" before taking its vote. Board member Robert Gooyer offered mostly positive feedback and said he would support the project in its current iteration.

"I think Verizon has come a long way and has done many of the things the neighborhood requested," Gooyer said.

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:00 am

A cell phone is a radio that communicates with cell phone towers. If the phone is far from a tower, a stronger signal is required to enable the call. If the cell tower is close to the phone, the call can be made with a low strength signal. Which would you rather have if you are worried about human health? I would pick the weak signal strength, therefore more cell towers is better for health. Of course, if Palo Alto wants to ban cell phones, then there would be no health risk due to cell phones.


5 people like this
Posted by Yes to the Tower
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:31 am

I'm guessing that the two folks quoted in this article in opposition to the new cell tower, Charlene Liao and Sridar Jasti, enjoy the benefits of their cell phones. The irony is that the new tower is really just replacing/using an old light pole that's already there. Unbelievable that it's taken four years to install a new tower that adds only 5 vertical feet. Only in Palo Alto. We're all safer in emergency situations with more and better cell phone coverage. YES to the Verizon tower!


1 person likes this
Posted by Greenmeadow Dad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:50 am

This article failed to mention that this group of cell tower opponents are aggressively trying to get the ballpark designated a historical landmark so that PALL can't make any changes to the property at all. In fact, the decision of the ARB was delayed pending the outcome of that decision on October 15. These neighbors are trying to punish Little League for even considering doing business with Verizon, causing a non-profit to spend time and money defending themselves against this proposal when they all want to be out of the field teaching our kids about sports.


2 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

The signs in people's yards for the past 4 years are the real blight associated with this silly argument. If there is better cell-phone connection for our ever-expanding love of portable electronics, property values will INCREASE! Some of the "disguised" antennas are hilarious and I notice them right away. On top of an existing light pole on the perimeter of the ball field as a "regular" antenna will not even be noticed!


1 person likes this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:28 am

The opponents are talking about the cell tower undermining the historical status - there's no historical status currently so that's moot! There are some that complained about cell equipment harming people's health and lowering property values - well look around you at all the other cell towers and boxes all over town from other wireless companies but homes are still selling like hotcakes and property value have not been impacted one bit! What I am concerned about is during emergency situations like not being able to get a signal to call 911 or to report a crime or to call for help during other circumstances without having to walk out of your home (sometimes in the dead of night) walk two blocks down to get a signal!!! Unsightly road conditions, ugly signages, littering, poor landscaping will bring property value down - not cellphones getting better reception.


2 people like this
Posted by Yes-To-New-Cell-Phone-Towers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm

> What I am concerned about is during emergency situations like not being
> able to get a signal to call 911 or to report a crime or to call for
> help during other circumstances without having to walk out of your home

While this situation is probably not very likely, it's impossible to predict the future.

What this poster fails to see is that SKYPE (as well as any number of other packages) offers access to the telephone network for only a few pennies a minute, using your home Internet connection, and your computer.

Most computers are fully configured for sound, and video, these days. So, it's very hard to see why people who suffer from poor cellphone service at home would not:

1) continue to pay for a landline
2) obtain a SKYPE account, and use their home computer as a telephone.
3) buy a signal booster for their home.

Option (1) would work, even if there were a power outage.
Option (2) would work, except if there were a power outage.
Option (3) would require some testing, but would work except during a power outage.

UPS units would provide some power for a short time, during a power outage. Home generators would provide power in case of a grid power outage.

There really is no reason to resist allowing this site to have a cell phone tower. Those opposing it are demonstrating the kinds of craziness that has comes from people who would rather live in another century.


Like this comment
Posted by Not a Verizon shill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:32 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm

It's hard to imagine that a cell tower would look worse than the new Mitchell Park Library next door. Why not put the tower on it instead?


2 people like this
Posted by Yes-To-New-Cell-Phone-Towers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm

> how about installing one in your back yard or on your roof?

Not a bad idea if the cell phone tower owner is willing to pay for some sort of lease on your property.

> All the 911 talk is ridiculous.

Not ridiculous at all. Most Palo Altans work in the daytime. Really hard to find people at home during the daytime. Lots of people are here in their vehicles, going/coming/buying/partying .. so for them, have a solid signal can be important if they find themselves in some sort of trouble.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 2:12 pm

As for making calls while away from home, places like the library, schools, shopping centers, etc. all used to have payphones a decade ago and now they have all gone since nobody uses them. Except that quite often you need to make a call while away from home and if you can't get a signal you are stuck. It isn't just to chat but quite often an important call, someone ready to be picked up from somewhere, someone needing something important while you are at the store, checking in with a business meeting, etc. etc. all are important calls but not really urgent or emergency calls. Most calls are short and important, not emergency or long chats. Please let us have better service in Palo Alto.


5 people like this
Posted by Check Again
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 19, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I am wondering about the local media. Early this morning I read a piece in the Daily News that stated that the Ballpark Cell Tower was facing stiff opposition.

That is diametrically opposed to the article above. Who is correct, and who is deluded here?


3 people like this
Posted by Safeschoolspg
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Why expose these young children to radiation?
See this site for more.. safeschoolspg.org
or nacst.org The National Association for Children and Safe Technology

The World Health Organization classified cell tower radiation RF-EMF as a Possible Human Carcinogen in 2011 due to research showing increased brain cancer in those with highest cumulitive exposure. Scientists are calling for “more research” to understand the long term effect of daily exposure to cell tower microwave radiation. Many Doctors, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have stated that children are more at risk from this radiation and have called on the FCC to update current US exposure standards. RF radiation hazards from transmitting antennas can cause thermal and nonthermal and cognitive/psychological injuries. In addition, a 2012 GAO Report (GAO-12-771) recommended that the FCC update their current RF standards. The recent FCC submissions document Doctor’s statements that current US exposure standards are thousands of times too high to protect human health. Therefore even if cell tower radiation regulations are met there could be a serious risk to our childrens health.

Children have smaller bodies with developing nervous and immune systems and research has shown adverse effects on these systems after exposures. FCC standards were not based on radiation absorption into childrens smaller bodies. Cell towers increase the levels of RF-radiation children will be exposed to on a daily basis. Current FCC standards did not consider chronic exposure nor non thermal effects nor children’s vulnerabilities. The radiation levels from a tower are highest in the vicinity of the tower (meaning the school and nearby homes). A recent study detailed genetic damage in residents living in the vicinity of a tower adding to accumulated research showing that this radiation can cause damage to the nervous, immune and reproductive systems in addition to cancer risk.

The World Health Organization and respected medical organizations are all calling for more research. With the full magnitude of long term health effects still unknown we do not want to put our children’s future at risk. We want proof of safety.


2 people like this
Posted by ken
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Once it's in, it will be nearly impossible to get rid of it.

It will be utility infrastructure, and the local community will have zero input concerning future changes the operator may want. I imagine the FCC will be the decision maker, not Palo Alto.

It will likely expand in size/power output on top to accommodate more service in the future.

It will likely expand at the base to support the additional equipment on top.

Be careful what you wish for.

People concerned about 911 calls should never trust a mobile network and get a land line which is a more reliable solution.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2014 at 8:10 pm

There they go again with the radiation scare tactics. Combine that with the historical park nonsense, and what you have is desperation. There is no there, there.

Just build the tower, and get on to the future.


3 people like this
Posted by PA Weakly
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2014 at 8:52 pm

PA Weakly is a registered user.

Check Again:

I saw the same thing, but the weekly does not report "news," they advocate for their own views. The PA Weekly has never even tried to present a balanced report on these issues. Their reporters come to events and cozy up to the "side" they like.

Clearly the PA Weekly wants the cell tower - they have always presented a very pro-tower slant. Maybe they think it will help their business so more people can appease their ADD by staring at their phones nonstop and read their "news" (and up their advertising value).

It's so sad that people with no knowledge of the actual issues or reason for the strong opposition argue for something they will come to regret, but not until it is too late to do anything about it. And I'm not even talking about health concerns.




Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:11 pm

it is gross when people abuse historical designation process to further some personal anti-development agenda. It really hurts when there are legitimate designations because people assume it is just another case of NIMBYism. I just wish this was an AT&T tower going up.


3 people like this
Posted by PA Weakly
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm

PA Weakly is a registered user.

Ken:

Not only will it be impossible to get rid of, it will be next to impossible for anyone to stop more, and bigger and taller towers. The ballpark will become an antenna farm. It takes a lot of time and research to understand the federal laws that affect this controversy and not many bother to understand anything beyond their ADD need to stream information to their phone 24x7. [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by PA Weakly
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:24 pm

PA Weakly is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:48 pm

It will be interesting to see how long it actually takes for a decision to be made on this. It has only been 4 years so far


Posted by PA Weakly
a resident of Charleston Gardens

on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:29 pm

PA Weakly is a registered user.


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:52 pm

PA Weakly, you keep admonishing these people for not understanding the views, not understanding the argument behind the historical designation etc. Well....Can you share these arguments? I for one would like to understand what the argument IS for designating the park historical. I think we need to protect that park with whatever it takes - with the developers circling every inch of this town like vultures, its only a matter of time until some very greedy folks figure out its a prime location for - whatever - and start cooking up their scheme. And with a city council that can't bend over backwards far enough or fast enough for the developers, I think it sounds like a potentially good answer. But I'd like to understand the argument for.

Who controls that property anyway? I assume the board of the little league? And how easily penetrated is that board by interests of the developers agenda? What kind of restrictions prevent that park from getting sold and converted to luxury high rise 'affordable' (cough cough) housing?


Posted by PA Weakly
a resident of Charleston Gardens

on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:32 pm

PA Weakly is a registered user.


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2014 at 12:00 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by PA Weakly
a resident of Charleston Gardens

on Sep 20, 2014 at 12:30 am

PA Weakly is a registered user.


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


1 person likes this
Posted by Yes-To-New-Cell-Phone-Towers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 10:36 am

Try to declare this site as somehow “historical”, and therefore immune from being considered as a site for a cell phone tower really seems to be little more than the desperation of the few [portion removed] that have aligned themselves against this, and presumably, all, cell phone towers, and modern technology, not only here in Palo Alto—but everywhere!

If the site were to somehow be declared as historic, then it would behoove the good citizens of Palo Alto to insist that NO technology be allowed on the site. That would mean: no electricity, no cars, no gasoline powered mowing machines, and no cell phones or mobile computers, and nothing made of plastic.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Another engineer
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm

"Why expose these young children to radiation?"

Loaded phrases like that one, when discussing radio systems, are telltales of a writer who (a) knows nothing whatever about electromagnetics or health physics, and (b) doesn't wish to hear from anyone who does know these subjects, if the realities they'd hear threaten the anxieties they already cherish. Instead, you see the inevitable conjuring of googled abstracts or factoids that the anxious always use to support their rhetoric.

These people never choose that dark term "radiation" to describe sunlight or the warmth of a hug (where it's equally applicable -- more so, quantitatively, in fact), and they remain studiously unaware of the universe of other radio sources in those children's electromagnetic environment, many of which dwarf the importance of a few 60ft-high cellphone base stations. Literally thousands of sources produce measurable radio power everywhere in a place like Palo Alto (though the magnitudes involved are miniscule, compared with sunlight, hugs, etc.), and many of the strongest sources are completely out of the consciousness of people arguing about this topic (cell phones themselves, mobile devices, home wi-fi transcievers, distant TV and radio transmitters). If you're concerned about hypothetical medical effects of even extremely weak radio signals, then stop throwing around rhetoric, start questioning your assumptions and quantitatively evaluating sources. You'll soon find that a few 60-foot cell towers more or less are insignificant in the larger picture of electromagnetic environment, and way, way down on your priorities for concern. BUT, you also then won't be able to use language like "exposing children to radiation" on this subject with a clean conscience.


Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2014 at 8:05 am

Sparty is a registered user.

You cannot separate Palo Alto from histrionics. Look at the sign at Grocery Outlet. It is in no way worse than the telephone poles that line that part of Alma. Not to mention is its obscured by these same telephone poles until you are about a block away.

I'll take the sign over the trash bins left out all day outside the junky apartments on Alma


Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Professional
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Concerned Professional is a registered user.

Regarding the cell tower issue- concern is for historical preservation but there are also valid concerns regarding health effects especially for children. Electromagnetic radiation is not ionizing radiation so it doesn't break DNA bonds. Physicists are correct in this. Instead science has shown it affects calcium channels on the cell membrane and can cause dysregulation of cells in the brain, gonadal tissue, immune system, epithelial cells among others. It is an oxidative and inflammatory reaction with broad affects on metabolism and DNA. It may take years of exposure to see adverse effects. Advise reading up on this. "Overpowered" by Martin Blank is a good place to start. Katie Singers book "Electronic Silent Spring" is also an awakening. SaferEMR.org has all the latest research. After my research I support no towers on ball fields, schools, hospitals, libraries. France and Israel have just passed laws banning wireless in preschools and carefully monitoring cell towers and their placement. For our children's short and long term benefit I hope everyone will keep an open mind and read the independent science on this. Respectfully submitted.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 27, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Concerned Professional - If you choose to be concerned, be concerned about handsets pressed to your ear, not distant towers.


Like this comment
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Sep 28, 2015 at 12:05 am

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

@Slow Down:

Every person has a choice whether or not to press a handset (sic) against their ear. Those living near proposed towers have no such choice.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 28, 2015 at 11:29 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Be Kind PA - Have you heard of the inverse square law? Unless you live in the tower you are good. BTW, this is the definition of a handset:

hand·set
ˈhan(d)ˌset/Submit
noun
a cellular phone.
"many stolen handsets are believed to end up in Eastern Europe"
the part of a telephone that is held up to speak into and listen to.
noun: handset; plural noun: handsets


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

El Camino: Another scheme to increase congestion?
By Douglas Moran | 27 comments | 2,707 views

Salt & Straw Palo Alto to open Nov. 23
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,074 views

Trials of My Grandmother
By Aldis Petriceks | 2 comments | 1,344 views

Lakes and Larders (part 2)
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,078 views

Can we ever improve our schools?
By Diana Diamond | 5 comments | 216 views