News

AT&T pushes for lots of small 4G antennas

To feed the city's data hungry smart-phone users, the case was presented to the City Council Tuesday for installing a network of relatively small cell antennas atop Mountain View's utility poles.

AT&T and ExteNet Systems pushed for the "Distributed Antenna System" in the city's residential neighborhoods Tuesday at a City Council study session. The companies propose numerous low power 10-watt antennas, which stick up a few feet from the top of utility poles. They would be spread throughout neighborhoods, rather than on the large monopoles that might be rejected by the city and neighbors for aesthetic reasons.

AT&T's Randy Okimura said that among the area's tech savvy residents with smart phones, the "demand for data is insatiable." Data use among AT&T customers has increased "8,000 percent" since 2007, he said. "We are just trying to meet the needs of our customers."

Bill Stevens of ExteNet Systems, a utility company that leases antennas to service providers, said what he hears from cities is "make it small, make it less obtrusive. DAS allows for that."

Council members had mixed reactions.

Ronit Bryant described the idea as taking already ugly utility poles and "loading them with equipment. I would definitely prefer one big pole. Saying this is the least ugly thing we can do is an awfully sad way to move forward. This is not trying for the best solution; it is just going for the easiest and quickest way."

"I think we should ask the neighborhoods what they want," Bryant said. "There may be more people who think like me."

City staff members say they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of applications for cell towers in recent years, with 65 received since 2009. There are now cell towers on 64 sites in the city. However, there are areas not covered: all of Shoreline Park and much of the Monta Loma and Rengstorff residential neighborhoods, city staff reported in the study session Tuesday.

Staff reported that there would be a "significant" public benefit in allowing DAS. But it would require a change to the city's zoning ordinance to allow additional utility pole height, which the council could approve as early as September. DAS applications would still be subject to a design review permit and public hearing process.

A representative from Verizon had a different view on DAS, saying that the technology was less able to penetrate buildings than more powerful cell towers and monopoles. He added that utility poles could quickly become ugly with all of the boxes of equipment that may be necessary. While AT&T houses much of that equipment in central offices, Verizon does not, he said.

"If a neighborhood really needs it, then neighborhoods can choose," said council member Laura Macias.

Mayor Jac Siegel agreed. "We have 14 different neighborhoods. Ask them, see what they want."

Siegel urged the city to be flexible because the technology was rapidly changing, and cell companies were already considering newer technologies as it implements the latest. He also suggested the city allow cell antennas atop the police station's large monopole, "unless there's a security reason" not to do it.

Member Tom Means said he saw no problems with allowing cell antennas in Shoreline Park. Others weren't as supportive. "I don't really think there's a need right now to put poles in the park," said member Margaret Abe-Koga. "Can we put poles on the top of the (Shoreline Amphitheatre) tent? Make it look like a circus top." City staff said they had been curious about that as well.

Options for Shoreline Park, which may not have consistent coverage for calling 911, include cell antennas on PG&E lattice towers, which would require ground level equipment cabinets and access for service trucks.

"At this point, staff's position is to be very protective of parkland," said Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli. "If a proposal came in for Shoreline Park, we would say no."

Council member Mike Kasperzak suggested the city allow a cell antenna on top of the Rengstorff House at Shoreline Park. "I'm not really kidding about that," he said, adding that it could help fund Rengstorff House-related activities.

Macias and member John Inks also said they supported using city property for cell antennas to raise funds for city services. Three already exist on city property, including one at the Rengstorff Avenue fire station and two on Shoreline Amphitheatre parking lot light poles. The city receives $2,500 a month for each one.

Comments

Posted by Utility Poles not here forever, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jul 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Certainly better to reuse existing ugly structures than putting new ones up. However, these poles won't be here forever; as houses get rebuilt in the neighborhoods, utilities go underground and over time we might not need these poles anymore. What happens to the antennas when the utility pole is no longer required?


Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm

"The city receives $2,500 a month for each one"

Hell, for that, I'll put one on my chimney. Where do I sign up?


Posted by Trent, a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2011 at 11:38 am

Are there any antennas on the city hall building? There is quite a bit of space available there.


Posted by Chupacabra, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I'm with USA!
At $2,500 a pop I'll take as many as they can fit on my roof.

"I think we should ask the neighborhoods what they want," Bryant said. "There may be more people who think like me."

Sounds a lot like, "I haven't a clue as how to govern anything. Let's leave it all up to consensus. Then I'll be totally useless."


Posted by Dom, a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Can't they just put them on the same poles google is using?


Posted by James, a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I have to turn off 3G when I get home because a signal won't penetrate the walls of my house. DAS won't help that. Towers don't have to be ugly - they're making them look like trees now. Add a few more "trees" to the area and I'd be happy. A link to some "trees" - Web Link


Posted by tommygee54, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm

All I know is that we need something to improve cell phone signals. Like James above, as soon as I get on my grass, then into my house and into my backyard my cell phone signal (at&t phone) disappears. I should just give up my cell phone or switch to another provider. But we need antennas on San Pierre Way for sure...


Posted by Steve, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 8:14 am

I vote for a small number of mono-poles. The technology is changing quickly, and it's easier to change a small number of big things than hundreds of small things that will be unsightly. Besides, I suffer the biggest problems inside buildings (for example, my home), and DAS won't help me as well.

As for asking every neighborhood, that's stupid. You are our elected representatives -- figure it out and make it happen!


Posted by Brian, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Actually, asking the neighborhoods is not a bad idea. They should look to their constituents and act accordingly.


Posted by IJDGI, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Wow, is this the same Ronit Bryant who basically told the ~75 neighbors from the Cuesta Park area to 'sit down and shut up' when they wanted to talk about the proposed cell-tower in their neighborhood? Now she wants to "ask the neighborhoods what they want?" Is this because it will affect her neighborhood rather than just someone else's? When the Cuesta Park neighbors wanted to talk, she told them they had 'a lovely neighborhood and a beautiful park' and that they should be happy with just that. But then, I guess the most telling quote of that evening came from her. "I don't get it, I just don't get it" said Ronit Bryant.


Posted by Chupacabra, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Brian,
Then we'd still have segregation and non-sufferfage for women.
The majority isn't always right.


Posted by Rick, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm

We get almost no signal from AT&T in Rex Manor. Got a free micro cell from AT&T to fix my problem. Google doesn't work through trees etc. Does Verizon work here??


Posted by maguro_01, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 15, 2011 at 2:25 am

A line-powered wire phone used to be part of the recommended earthquake kit around here as the exchange buildings had generators and the phone network was more reliable than the power system.

Presumably those days are gone. For a while the cell system was considered somewhat robust, but that's likely gone too with the proliferation of antennas. We know that in a disaster texting is the way to communicate since other services will be overloaded. We would need some way of charging cell phones in a prolonged power outage.

So the system will now be less robust in a general disaster, but more robust for local minor outages as smaller areas would be out? Does local government pay attention to such issues? If not, who does?

ps - My apologies as I've asked before. I live on Central Ave between Moffet Blvd and the Stevens Creek Trail entrance. What neighborhood is that?


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