PV council accepts the inevitable on cell phone tower

Use permit granted by unanimous vote

It may be a faux tree, it may be a tasteful pole, it may even be an objet d'art, but a 50- to 55-foot cell phone tower will rise at the corner of Peak Lane and Golden Oak Drive in Portola Valley, on the same parcel that houses a 750,000-gallon water tank owned by the California Water Company.

Neighbors concerned about views, radio frequency radiation and seemingly uncared for landscape screening urged the Town Council last night (Oct. 13) to reject a conditional use permit application for the tower from T-Mobile West Corp. But with the federal government disallowing concerns about radiation and property values, and tipping the scales in favor of closing "significant" phone coverage gaps -- which T-Mobile asserts there is in Portola Valley -- the council had very little room to maneuver.

The vote was unanimous, with Councilman John Richards absent. The council had many factors to consider, but T-Mobile's evidence of a significant coverage gap, and a concurring finding from the town's independent analyst, made the decision more or less inevitable under federal law.

"I would place a heavy weight and a much higher priority on that (concurring) evidence," Councilwoman Ann Wengert said.

"Our consultant found a gap," Councilman Ted Driscoll said. "It's hard for me to see how we can prevail in litigation if our consultant is contradicting us."

Mr. Driscoll asked about a lawsuit. In such cases, T-Mobile transfers the case to a national law firm, said Paul Albritton of the San Francisco firm Mackenzie & Albritton, who was representing T-Mobile at the meeting.

Ms. Wengert noted that this case is likely to be just Round 1. "We are in the middle of a telecommunications revolution," she said. "Communications are not only changing, they're changing rapidly."

The tower doesn't have to be an eyesore, Councilwoman Maryann Derwin said. A Web search, she said, turned up towers that are windmills, water towers and works of art.

Asked for examples, Ms. Derwin, in an e-mail, recommended a search for Montjuic Communications Tower, which yields an image of a stunningly dynamic structure by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

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Like this comment
Posted by KCL
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Tree and flagpole towers can help disguise the tower. A few of those and other ideas at this link:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Dupi
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I hate to show my ignorance of cellular communications, but if this tower is placed in PV, does that mean we are all going to have to make a shift to T-Mobile from our current carriers?

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 14, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Please don't use one of those horrible fake trees. They are really ugly.

Like this comment
Posted by Gene
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Dupi -
No...having attended the meeting last night, T-Mobile is in the minority in terms of providing cell coverage for PV residents. This decision has nothing to do with forcing residents to accept any service other than the one they choose. There was a discrepancy in terms of whether there were "significant" gaps in coverage and the Council was derelict in not postponing a decision and seeking further facts and corroboration. The Council "wussed out" on this one. Apparently T-Mobile's "threats" carried some weight and scared the Council.

Like this comment
Posted by Ge
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

It was just pointed out to me that the Council had only 150 days to make a decision and they were beyond that time on an extension. Unfortunately it looks like timing was an issue that required a response. My apologies to the Council for not taking that fact into consideration. However, there is never enough time to make the wrong decision and T-Mobile's threatening and "bully-style" behaviour/demeanor should have prompted the Council to be more pro-active and responsive to the general community's concerns.

Like this comment
Posted by Gene
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 14, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Correction to a statement in the Almanac article, I believe the reference to the Cal Water tank should have read 750,000 gallons not 750 gallons.

Like this comment
Posted by KCL
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Joseph E. Davis,

You prefer the bare towers to the ones on the photos? They may not be lifelike but certainly they look better than a plain tower.

What is your suggestion?

Like this comment
Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Oct 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

Thank you, Gene, for that correction.

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Why not just forbid cell phones? More the "Peninsula" way and I loathe
seeing people talking on those things in public. Odd how those who use cell phones think that speaking loudly is pleasant for others.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm

"More the "Peninsula" way and I loathe"

Then it's a good thing you don't live here, isn't it?

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

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