(TNS) — A group of Palo Alto residents fighting a wireless provider’s plan to install 93 cell antennas on utility poles near homes has scored a partial victory.
The Palo Alto Architectural Advisory Committee, which advises the city’s Planning and Community Environment director on project designs, voted 4-1 on Dec. 7 to direct staff to work with Verizon Wireless to underground equipment for its planned cell antennas “to the greatest extent feasible.”
Verizon has applied to install 15 cell antennas in the Midtown, Palo Verde, St. Claire Gardens and South of Midtown neighborhoods, and plans to eventually erect a total of 93. Other wireless providers will likely follow with their own proposals.
Verizon said it needs to put up the new antennas to fill gaps in coverage and meet future demand.
A Verizon representative at the meeting offered four new designs that would address residents’ main concern about noise by eliminating backup batteries. That didn’t go far enough for committee Vice Chairman Peter Baltay, who recommended that staff make Verizon underground as much equipment as possible.
Noting that the city’s own policy calls for all utilities in neighborhoods to eventually be undergrounded, Baltay said the committee’s decision would set the standard for years to come. Antennas still would need to remain above ground to function properly.
“That’s a real win-win for everybody,” Baltay said. “Hopefully, we can streamline approval if everything is underground” and cell antennas are concealed as much as possible.
Jeanne Fleming, a member of United Neighbors, which is fighting Verizon’s plans, called the outcome “an important first victory.”
“Verizon’s playbook is to overwhelm cities like ours with dozens and dozens of applications and with bullying lawyers who threaten litigation whenever they don’t get exactly what they want,” Fleming said.
After working with Verizon on new designs, staff is expected to bring its proposal back to the committee early next year for possible approval.
©2017 the Palo Alto Daily News (Menlo Park, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.