The Ventilation Stacks (part 2) – Scare Tactics

Note: This is an update to an earlier post, for part 1 see here

You may remember we previously discussed the need for ridiculous ventilation stacks allegedly “required” to place wireless facility equipment underground.  The Palos Verdes Estates municipal code requires undergrounding, as does the new Rancho Palos Verdes wireless ordinance.

cell tower scare tactics

The underground vault mock-up looked awful, and was used as justification to allow above ground equipment cabinets.  In part 1 we pointed out that the ventilation stacks weren’t actually required and were a ploy to gain acceptance of the cheap, installer-preferred above ground cabinets.  We showed an existing Sprint site in RPV without stacks as evidence.

At the joint PVE City Council/Planning Commission meeting held on 6/8, one of the Commissioners alertly questioned why a photo shown of an existing underground installation in Torrance didn’t have ventilation stacks.  The answer was less than satisfactory, something along the lines that the installers preferred the stacks to flush mounted grates.  There was also some vague comments regarding noise made by the required sump pump.  Let’s just say the Council members and Commissioners looked skeptical and leave it at that.

There was good reason for the skepticism.  First off, what the installers prefer should have little bearing on what is actually approved.  As is plainly evident, the installers want the cheapest, easiest, and quickest installation with little regard for aesthetics or neighborhood compatibility.  Frankly, they don’t live here and view our city as a money-making opportunity, nothing more, nothing less.

Second, as explained in part 1, the massive ventilation stacks were almost certainly a ploy to make the underground vault look unattractive.  Even if for some unknown reason the above ground stacks were needed, they could have been much smaller to accommodate the minimal airflow requirements.

Third, the argument regarding the sump pump noise was a red herring.  The sump pump would automatically operate only when water was sensed in the vault.  The flush mounted grates could have been slightly elevated on a small mound (just an inch or two high) to ensure sprinkler runoff didn’t enter them.  Thus the pump would only be active during heavy rain, something that isn’t all that common in Southern California.  Ninety-nine per-cent of the time the pump would be off, unlike the the cell tower equipment which runs and makes noise 24/7.

Last, Crown Castle has used the flush-mount vents many times in the past when cities require them.  Here is an excerpt of the engineering drawings for one such installation in Montecito, this was a Crown Castle installation for Verizon.

vault with flush grates

Utility vault with flush ventilation grates from Crown Castle’s Montecito deployment complete with sump pump.  Source: County of Santa Barbara Planning and Development (link)  (hat tip: Paul)

If it sounds like BS it probably is.

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