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We are not against cell towers in general and like everyone else, we would like better wireless coverage in Palos Verdes.  We are against ugly, highly intrusive cell towers planted in the heart of every neighborhood in our community.  We will not tolerate the cheap, quick, and dirty “solutions” the cell tower installers have gotten away with in the past.  No more unsightly tower designs, poor workmanship, or invasive residential locations.   This is our community, we insist they respect it.

RPV Denies Two More Intrusive Residential Cell Towers

The Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission denied two new residential neighborhood cell towers in last night’s public hearings. Both sites (Camino Porvenir and Scotwood Drive) were highly intrusive and right in front of homes.

Camino Porvenir Cell Tower

Photo Simulation of Cell Tower ASG09 (Camino Porvenir) denied at last night’s public hearing

We are the product

The question we’ve been asked over and over is why Crown Castle (a cell tower company) would propose highly intrusive cell towers right next to people’s homes and so anger their customers. It’s a reasonable question but it’s based on a fundamental misconception. We aren’t Crown Castle’s customer, AT&T is their customer. What we are is their product.

Crown Castle is selling AT&T access to an affluent potential customer base (that is you and me).  We’re the shiny prize the wireless companies intend to sign up to very expensive long-term contracts.

Due to Palos Verdes’ demographics, our residents have a much higher disposable income than most communities.  AT&T (and the others) look at that and salivate. They think they are going to make a pile of money in the future selling us expensive “all in one” 5G data plans. Phones, tablets, automobiles, video streaming, “smart” appliances, and the like all connected under one integrated wireless data plan.

(As those pushing this “internet of things” vision keep telling us, it’s critically important that our refrigerator log onto the internet. They never explain why though.)

These data plans won’t be cheap, which is why we’re seeing demands to place these cell towers in nearly every Palos Verdes neighborhood while nearby less affluent communities such as Carson and Gardena are being ignored.

We are the product; and a very attractive product due to our income demographics. A neighborhood cell tower in Palos Verdes will have a much higher return on investment than in Carson (as an example).  The cheaper they can install it, the better still for them.

Most of us get by just fine with in-home wired internet (cable, DSL) and a wi-fi router.  It’s relatively inexpensive and gets the job done.  Why then would people switch over to a costly wireless data plan that will likely be on the order of three times more expensive?

Many people won’t, but some will due to the convenience of having all their connectivity in one account.  With our high disposable income, it’s much more likely to happen in Palos Verdes than less affluent communities.  This rollout appears intended to give AT&T a competitive advantage in a potentially very lucrative market.  We are the product, and Crown Castle has trotted out some pretty interesting legal interpretations that give the impression the City has no choice but to go along with it.

In our opinion, that’s why Crown Castle is demanding to place these in our Palos Verdes neighborhoods. It’s looks to us like a highly speculative business plan to corner the wireless infrastructure market in affluent communities. This same saga is playing out across the country in communities with demographics just like ours.

 

Crown Castle Isn’t Entitled to Do This

Unfortunately for Crown Castle, they aren’t entitled to intrusive, speculative deployments under either federal or state law.  Their legal bluster notwithstanding, they don’t have some unlimited right to place these eyesores right outside someone’s living room window.

If a proposed cell tower violates our city’s aesthetic requirements (appearance or location), the City can deny it under state law. Unless a cell tower is required to fill a “significant gap” in service and it is the “least intrusive means” of doing so, the City can deny the site under federal law.

Crown Castle has twisted itself into a pretzel claiming these standards apply and the City must approve these proposed cell towers. Fortunately, RPV has a strong wireless ordinance and the Planning Commission appears highly skeptical of what they are being told. Further, Crown Castle’s lawyers intimating legal threats during public comments hasn’t helped.

 

Who Controls Cell Tower Placement Going Forward?

Ultimately, this boils down to who will control the design and placement of cell towers in our community going forward, the people of Palos Verdes or the wireless industry.         We’ve seen what the wireless industry has planned and it hasn’t been pretty. It will only get worse unless the City takes a strong stand defending community aesthetics, neighborhood character, and our property values.

We can improve cell coverage in Palos Verdes without sacrificing community aesthetics.  That however, will cost these cell tower companies more money and they will only do so if it’s clear what they are currently proposing is unacceptable.

 

RPV Denies an Intrusive Cell Tower, New Ugly Sites Coming up August 30th

Last Tuesday we had our first Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission decisions under our new wireless facility ordinance.  The Commission did approve a relatively unobtrusive site on Los Verdes Drive near the golf course.

The Commission also denied a site in the Monaco neighborhood (Chartres Drive) on aesthetic grounds as Crown Castle proposed a 2 foot wide by 3.5 foot tall canister antenna atop a city street sign.  The Commission found its size and intrusiveness was not appropriate for a residential street (see the photo simulation below).  Note that the Planning Commission denied this site despite the fact staff recommended approval.  Crown Castle will likely appeal this to the City Council, we’ll keep you updated.

Monaco_Chartres

 

New Residential Cell Tower Hearings

There are three new residential neighborhood facilities scheduled for hearings:

When: Wednesday August 30th starting at 6 PM

Where: Hesse Park Community Room (29301 Hawthorne Blvd)  

Please note both the non-standard date and starting time to ensure those interested don’t miss the hearings.

ASG NO. 08: Across 30505 Calle de Suenos Drive

This is a residential neighborhood site and staff is recommending continuance (at Crown Castle’s request) until October 24, 2017 to address community concerns.  The hearing will not be opened to public comments unless the public specifically requests time to speak.  The staff report can be found here:

http://rpv.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&event_id=1051&meta_id=44982

ASG NO. 09: 30452 Camino Porvenir

This is residential site that incorporates a large antenna atop on existing streetlight pole.  This location is directly in front of homes on both sides of the street.  The antenna canister is large and prominent as can be seen in the photo simulation below.

Note that staff is recommending approval of this site despite its intrusive location, the fact that residential street locations require an exception as they violate our ordinance, and despite the Commission denying virtually the same antenna design last week on the Chartres Drive site.

In our opinion, this is completely unacceptable for residential neighborhoods as it will seriously degrade aesthetics and negatively affect property values of the adjacent homes.  To have such an intrusive site approved, Crown Castle must demonstrate the site is absolutely required and there is no feasible less intrusive alternative.  They have done nothing of the sort.  If you object to this site, it is imperative you attend the hearing and make your voice heard.

Camino Porvenir Cell Tower

We think it looks ridiculous.  We wouldn’t be surprised if Crown Castle next proposes a giant bouquet of flowers sticking out of the top to make it more “aesthetically pleasing”.  Why not?  It looks like a giant flower pot to us, or maybe a giant ice cream cone.  Either way, it’s clearly out of place and unacceptable.  We can pretty much guarantee Crown Castle’s corporate officers don’t have one of these monstrosities sitting outside their home’s front door.

The staff report can be found here:

http://rpv.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&event_id=1051&meta_id=44969

ASG NO. 32: Scotwood Drive adjacent to 29504 Whitley Collins Drive

This is another residential neighborhood site with the same flaws as that on Camino Porvenir in that it proposes an ugly and highly intrusive antenna that is out of place in the neighborhood.  While the location is arguably not as bad, the design is still unacceptable.  Again, staff is recommending approval of this site; residents that object or have concerns must attend the hearing and speak during public comments.

Scottwood Cell Tower

The staff report can be found here:

http://rpv.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&event_id=1051&meta_id=44978

We have real concerns that staff continues to recommend approval for sites that violate the residential street restrictions of our wireless ordinance.  If Crown Castle wants to place these sites in our neighborhoods next to our homes, they must develop designs that are all but unnoticeable.  Our ordinance isn’t meant as a starting place for negotiations but as the law.

Crown Castle is not entitled to invade our neighborhoods with these eyesores.  Any proposed designs must match existing infrastructure, what they are proposing looks ridiculous and is highly intrusive.  Our neighborhoods deserve much better.

 

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Cell Tower Update: First Public Hearings in RPV start July 25th

Things had been relatively quiet on the cell tower front in Palos Verdes but all that changed about a month ago.  Here we go folks, things are going to get exciting…

As you may have heard, Crown Castle’s AT&T cell towers will soon start public hearings in Rancho Palos Verdes. This will be the first time these sites have had public hearings in RPV as previously they were approved by City Hall without hearings. These hearings are now required under the RPV municipal code as a way to ensure transparency and public involvement in the approval process.

Crown Castle is still proposing the overwhelming majority of these sites in residential neighborhoods despite these locations violating section 12.18.200 of the RPV code. Perhaps you’ve seen the mock-ups in your neighborhood. Every one of these sites violates at least one aspect of RPV’s wireless ordinance and will require an exception to be approved.  Despite this, Crown Castle insisted on going forward with these site designs  and locations to public hearings.  They really don’t care about our community.  They are however, pretty sure they are going to make a pile of money here.

ASG33_6800_Chartres_phot_sim

Photo simulation of a proposed residential neighborhood site on Chartres Drive In Rancho Palos Verdes.  The site violates multiple aspects of the RPV municipal code and will require numerous exemptions for approval.  

The first two sites will be heard by the Planning Commission on Tuesday July 25th starting at 7 PM at the Hesse Park Community room. Anyone can address the Commission either during non-agenda public comments (for sites that aren’t on that night’s agenda) or during the hearing itself for sites being heard that night.

Two sites are slated for hearings:

  • ASG 10: Los Verdes Drive west of Avenida Classica: This installation proposes to replace an existing streetlight with a new streetlight hosting two antenna panels.        It also includes a large above ground equipment cabinet. This location is a local street situated between apartments to the east and the golf course to the west
  • ASG 33: Across from 6480 Chartres Drive: This installation proposes a new 14 foot pole with antennas where no pole currently exists. It also includes a large above ground equipment cabinet. The location is a residential neighborhood with five homes in close proximity, one home is only about 30 feet away.

This hearing will set the tone for future hearings so please try to attend if you have an interest in this issue. Anyone can speak, even if it’s not in your neighborhood.

Please keep in mind that under federal law, the City cannot deny these sites based on health concerns regarding RF emissions.  The Commissioners will have to disregard comments regarding health effects and can’t use it when making their decision.  Time is better spent on other issues.

The Commission can consider aesthetic impact, neighborhood compatibility, impact on home values, and noise levels from the equipment.

By the way, these sites can be quite noisy as they include two large cooling fans that run 24/7. There is an identical equipment cabinet already installed on the east side of Crenshaw south of Crest next to St. John Fisher Church. You can stop by and hear for yourself just how loud these will be if your neighborhood is planned for one of these sites. Also, the fans get louder as the temperature increases as they run faster.

installed_cabinet

Look for the cabinet on the lower right in front of Saint John Fisher on Crenshaw.  Stop by and listen to it on a hot day, it is LOUD.  This is the exact same installation Crown Castle wants to install in our quiet residential neighborhoods.  

We’ll keep this site updated with future hearing dates as they become available.

 

SB 649 Threatens Cities Rights to Regulate Cell Towers

California Senate Bill 649 is being heard this week in Sacramento.  Please contact your state representatives and make clear your opposition to this terrible bill.

Things have been relatively quiet in Palos Verdes for the past two months as Crown Castle rethinks some of the highly intrusive cell towers they had intended to plop right next to homes.  The sites as proposed were ugly eyesores; virtually guaranteed to detract from neighborhood aesthetics and negatively affect the home values of the nearby residents.

Fortunately, decision makers in both Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates decided to aggressively assert the city’s right to regulate these sites as allowed under both state and federal law.  Unsurprisingly, the wireless industry doesn’t like this.  They want quick and dirty cookie-cutter sites they can throw up as cheaply as possible.

Cell towers are a multi-billion dollar business and the industry is heavily lobbying Sacramento and Washington to strip municipalities of their right to regulate these sites.  The latest attempt in California is Senate Bill (SB) 649, being heard this week at the state capitol.  SB 649 will override municipal authority to apply common sense local planning review to cell towers.

hall of shame7

An existing dreadful cell tower on a Monero Drive cul-de-sac in RPV, it is only 30 feet from the residence.  This site never should have been approved but it was put in place prior to RPV’s comprehensive wireless facility ordinance.  SB 649 derails the City’s authority to prevent ugly cell towers like this from multiplying throughout the residential neighborhoods.

We need your help to let Sacramento know this unacceptable.  They tried this last year when Assemblyman Mike Gatto attempted to push through a bill stripping cities of the right to regulate ugly and intrusive cell towers.  That bill died in committee after an outcry from concerned residents and the municipalities themselves.  We’ve shown before that the wireless industry can be stopped.

Sacramento needs to again hear from concerned residents.  Also, please urge your city government to contact our local state senators and legislators and voice opposition to SB 649.  In Palos Verdes, our state representatives are:

  • Assembly: Al Muratsuchi, 66th Assembly District, (310) 375-0691   contact (link)
  • State Senate: Ben Allen, 26th Senate District, (310) 318-6994   contact (link)

If you are outside of Palos Verdes, you can find your state representatives here (link).

Giving the Wireless Industry Free Reign in our Cities is a Terrible Idea

We’ve documented the really ugly and highly intrusive cell towers installed before Rancho Palos Verdes implemented its comprehensive wireless facility ordinance (link).  This is what cities can expect with the wireless companies calling the shots.  It isn’t pretty.  Now imagine one of these eyesores in front of your house.

We’ve documented how Crown Castle misstated the size and intrusiveness of RPV’s proposed cell towers using misleading photo simulations (link).

We’ve documented how Crown Castle misstated the applicable law in wireless facility applications in both RPV and PVE (link).  We also documented how Mobilitie was playing the same games and was formally taken to the woodshed by the state of Minnesota (link).

We’ve documented the mistaken technical claims made by the wireless industry that lead municipalities into thinking they can’t deny a proposed cell tower (link).  We’ve also shown how they’ve changed their story when confronted on these claims.

We’ve shown how the wireless industry used lawsuits and legal threats to intimidate cities.   We documented how they went for broke in 2016’s T-Mobile et al vs. San Francisco and suffered a historic loss before the California Court of Appeals (link).  The court made clear cities maintain the right to regulate these sites despite the wireless industry’s attempts to twist the clear language of state law.

Don’t Let them Change the Law and Handcuff Cities

Now the wireless industry is trying to change state law despite the fact they’ve shown over and over they can’t be trusted to deal openly and fairly with cities.  It’s a terrible idea but it has huge amounts of money behind it.  Our representatives need to hear from the people, please contact Sacramento today and voice your opposition to SB 649.

 

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Palos Verdes Estates Affirms Neighborhood Church Cell Tower Denial

Great news, the PVE City Council unanimously affirmed the Planning Commission’s denial of this highly intrusive site at their Jan 24th meeting.  One Councilman summed it up well when he commented how this site seemed to be a test case of the City’s authority; if the City accepted a cell tower in front of this historic church then seemingly nowhere in the city would be off limits.  (For more on the Neighborhood Church check out this post here.)

neighborhood_church_cell_tower_mock-up

Proposed cell tower mock-up on the grounds in front of Palos Verdes Estates’ historic Neighborhood Church

A resident (who will remain nameless) wryly suggested that in addition to the Neighborhood Church Crown Castle might next propose replacement of Neptune’s trident with one of their cell towers.  This famous fountain in Malaga Cove Center is another local icon so it’s apparently fair game too.  Believe it or not, the fountain is actually located in the Public Right of Way according to the L.A. County Assessor’s Office, so we figured we’d help out with the required photo simulation just in case it’s being considered.

neptune_cell_tower

An omen of things to come?  The 5G future we must all enthusiastically embrace according to those who plan on making a lot of money installing cell towers.

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Crown Castle Appeals Neighborhood Church Cell Tower Denial

You would think that a corporation demanding to place nearly two dozen cell towers in a community might do some research regarding local sensitivities.  Apparently, that’s not considered “value added” activity by Crown Castle.

As we’ve discussed at length, this arrogant, out-of-state corporation decided they were going to place highly intrusive cell towers within our neighborhoods whether we liked it or not.  No one asked them to come here.  They’ve trotted out every trick in the book to bully our community into accepting these cell towers, including false legal claims, misleading site documentation, and highly deceptive engineering analysis. We’ve meticulously documented this garbage and posted on some of it here.

Based on the hard work of many Peninsula residents in exposing these tactics, the Palos Verdes Estates Planning Commission has started to say “no” to Crown Castle’s highly intrusive cell towers.  The first cell tower denial occurred in October after eleven straight cell towers had been approved by the Commission. .It’s not like the City hasn’t given Crown Castle a fair shake.

Denial and Appeal of the Neighborhood Church Cell Tower

This proposed cell tower was just too much.  Crown Castle insisted the cell tower and its large equipment cabinet must be placed directly in front of an iconic local landmark, the Neighborhood Church in Malaga Cove.  Supposedly, no alternate locations preferred by the City were acceptable; Crown Castle simply dismissed them all as “infeasible” without providing a shred of objective evidence.

The Commissioners rightly told Crown Castle they needed to look elsewhere, particularly in light of the flimsy and contradictory evidence Crown Castle submitted to justify the site.  The Commission voted unanimously to deny the cell tower at the October 2016 Planning Commission hearing.

neighborhood_church_cell_tower_location

The Neighborhood Church located on the scenic bluffs of Malaga Cove.  Note beautifully maintained landscaping and absence of power lines or above ground utilities.  Proposed cell tower location is directly in front of the church grounds, plainly visible, and completely unscreened.

neighborhood_church_cell_tower_mock-up

Mock-up of the proposed cell tower and associated equipment cabinet in front of the Neighborhood Church.  Note that the cabinet is missing the required electric meter so the actual installation will be even larger than shown.  Also note the total absence of screening and prominent placement in the scenic landscaping.

Crown Castle’s sense of entitlement apparently knows no bounds.  Rather than accept the will of the community and seek an alternative, Crown Castle is appealing the cell tower denial to the City Council.  The hearing is scheduled for January 24th, and we will provide more details once available.

In a likely attempt to intimidate our community, the appeal was filed by outside legal counsel rather than the familiar Crown Castle employees involved in the deployment to date.  It seems that resistance will not be tolerated.

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Crown Castle’s Coverage Map Games

This post gets into technical details regarding existing AT&T coverage in Rancho Palos Verdes.  In it we show that a recently submitted Crown Castle coverage map has a 30 dB discrepancy (that’s off by 1000 times as decibels are logarithmic) that erroneously depicts existing coverage being much worse than it actually is.  This continues a very troubling pattern in Crown Castle’s submissions.  We’ve tried to make the technical aspects readable to the layman and put the legal implications in context.

 The Importance of Propagation Maps

Rancho Palos Verdes’ comprehensive wireless facility ordinance requires applicants provide propagation maps depicting existing, proposed, and combined/existing proposed wireless service.  Propagation maps are sophisticated computer simulations that depict signal levels and cell tower coverage over a wide geographic area.  They are an industry-standard tool used to assess wireless service coverage.

att_palos_verdes_propagation_map

AT&T propagation map example, submitted to the City of Palos Verdes Estates in October 2015.  Note continuous coverage levels shown over a wide area.  (As an aside, this map was found to have significant errors as it omitted coverage from numerous existing small cells.)

Cities require propagation maps for good reason.  Proposed cell towers are often highly intrusive as the industry wants cheap sites, usually resulting in “cookie cutter” designs in highly prominent locations.  Fortunately, states allow municipal regulation of cell towers, including those in the public right of way.  In our state this power derives from the California Constitution which reserves for municipalities vested police powers to regulate these sites (see this post regarding  T-Mobile et al vs San Francisco, 2016).

Often highly intrusive cell towers are proposed for speculative reasons or to give a wireless carrier a competitive advantage.  Based on all we’ve documented that certainly could be the case for much of Crown Castle’s Palos Verdes deployment.  Cities are under no obligation to approve such sites.  Under federal law, municipalities may deny a cell tower if it is not required to close a “significant gap” in service OR if the cell tower proposed (i.e. design/location) is not the “least intrusive means” of doing so.  Cities protect themselves by requiring propagation maps proving the site is truly needed.

The cell towers installers don’t want municipalities challenging their proposed cell towers.  Any challenge can result in delays, increased costs, and could ultimately result in denial of the proposed cell site.  They like the good old days, such as back when Rancho Palos Verdes used to rubber-stamp these cell towers.  Our post on the proliferation of ugly towers in RPV (here) shows what happens without a strongly enforced ordinance.  The propagation map requirement was one of many long-needed reforms implemented to get this problem under control.

Coverage map games

Enter the coverage map games.  If the cell tower installers can create the impression that a significant gap exists (i.e. existing coverage is terrible) then cities will likely think they have no choice but to approve the site.  RF Engineering expertise isn’t commonplace, and few cities have the experience to challenge such claims so they usually go unquestioned.  Fortunately, we have both the experience and the required test equipment to scrutinize what we’re being told.  We documented multiple Crown Castle coverage map discrepancies in an earlier post here, and in every case the errors we found understated the actual existing coverage.  As we’ve seen over and over, Crown Castle’s “errors” almost always seem to be in their favor.  It certainly doesn’t seem random.

It looks like Crown Castle’s string of “lucky” errors continues, as their recent submittals have brought us a new gem. This is for site ASG53, proposed for the corner or Granvia Altimira and Monero right next to the Palos Verdes Estates city line.  We’ve seen this site before and it’s always been questionable as it’s only 800 feet away from an existing AT&T “macro” high power cell tower.  Here’s the existing coverage map they submitted.

crown_castle_asg53_alleged_significant_gap

Crown Castle coverage map submitted to Rancho Palos Verdes depicting an alleged “significant gap” in coverage.  Map is a public record.  Note it looks nothing like the Palos Verdes Estates propagation map shown above.

Right off the bat, it’s got lots of problems:

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