Anatomy of a Terrible Cell Tower

On AT&T’s behalf, Crown Castle has proposed some really awful cell towers for Palos Verdes.  The designs are so bad, we can’t think of any reason other than greed and sloth.  Fortunately, RPV has a strong new wireless facility ordinance to protect our city’s aesthetics from low-ball bidders and lazy engineering.  Going forward, AT&T might want to take a closer look at who they partner with.

Proposed site on Verde Ridge Road

This site is proposed for the heart of a residential neighborhood directly in front of two homes.  As we’ve seen from Crown Castle before, they don’t accurately show the installation size in their photo simulations so we’ve added outlines showing the true size.  Note the poor photo resolution and that the simulation is missing all cables.  The street sign moved up the pole 16 feet in the air is a nice touch.

Crown Castle terrible cell site.png

Photo simulation of proposed residential neighborhood site on Verde Ridge Road in Rancho Palos Verdes.  Red outlines show actual antenna size and protrusion.  RF Cables and proposed electrical power conduit are missing from simulation.

This eyesore is proposed in the heart of a residential neighborhood, despite the fact RPV’s ordinance prohibits these locations unless required to prevent an effective prohibition of service.  That’s going to be tough to show, particularly since it’s close to an existing ATT macro site.  The site justification documentation submitted so far hasn’t been impressive, and it’s directly contradicted by prior submissions.

Crown Castle residential neighborhood cell tower.jpg

Aerial view of proposed site and surrounding area.  Note heavy residential character.

Impact on Home Values

Due to insane coastal California real estate prices, Zillow states the two homes shown behind the proposed cell tower are valued at 1.5 million dollars each.  Now think about what happens if this eyesore is built how and where Crown Castle wants.  Pretty much no one wants a highly intrusive and ugly cell tower next to their house.  If the residents try to sell their home, it’s entirely realistic they will lose 5% or even more of their home’s value.

As to home value, would you buy a house with an intrusive cell tower in the front yard when you could get another in the same beautiful neighborhood without it?

That 5% home value hit just turned into a 75 thousand dollar loss for these residents, yet they didn’t make a dime from the cell tower.

Here’s a look at the “plans” for the site.  As we’ve commented before, the industry only seems able to hire really terrible draftsmen.  The drawing is not to scale, and the size is distorted.  Important features such as cable routing is missing entirely.  No dimensions are shown for the height of the added equipment other than the antenna.  This was the only view submitted so it’s impossible to see how far the equipment actually protrudes from the pole.

Crown castle shoddy drawing

Plans are not drawn to scale and are extremely misleading.  Mast arm and luminaire is shown ridiculously oversized making the new equipment look smaller by comparison.  Pole-mounted equipment is too low on pole.  Antenna width is actually 19” but it’s shown as barely wider than the 6” pole.  Calling this amateur hour would be charitable.

A Planner’s opinion

We asked a City Planner from another area for his opinion on the submitted drawing package and site design.  His comments just focus on design and don’t even get into the fact that this site has no business in a residential neighborhood.

Here’s his quick take:

  • The plans don’t show what I’m sure would otherwise be exposed cabling.
  • Many folks who work in wireless think the Commscope ION units are an outdated and poor design.
  • The logos on the equipment are completely unacceptable and plans should have prominent notes on cover sheet and elevation sheet that logos would be removed.
  • Better yet, equipment this large needs to be placed underground or an integrated base and pole.
  • The plans note downtilt brackets. This means an ugly design with a lean forward on the antenna. This is unacceptable and newer panel antennas have electronic downtilt ranges that are usually fine (so the antenna is truly flush to the pole; and not a deceptive photo simulation that doesn’t meet reality with the back of the antenna and brackets visible).
  • They should consider a small (~12” diameter, 32″ tall) integrated radome design above the pole instead.
  • RF warning sticker should face out toward street and only be placed right below the antenna. Not on the electric meter. No larger than 4 inches wide by 6 inches wide, black and white (no bright colors). Size of sticker must be noted on plans clearly.
  • The resolution on the photo simulations is unacceptable.
  • Crown Castle brand ID stickers need to be small and on the underside of the cabinet. If Crown wants to tout themselves as infrastructure they don’t get to advertise.
  • Crown and SCE need to work on wireless smart metering and remove the need for a graffiti glass bubble meter to be added to the pole.
  • Equipment should always be on the side of the pole running opposite to the direction of the travel lane. On the westside of the pole on an east-west running street, so the equipment is less noticeable as you travel by car or walking in the direction of traffic toward the site.
  • The plans do not even clarify that cabling will run inside the pole. They need to. Otherwise you’ll be unpleasantly surprised.

So there you have it.  Even if this cell tower was proposed for an appropriate location such as an arterial roadway, it requires extensive work to make it aesthetically acceptable.  And there’s no cherry-picking here.  This site is no exception, virtually every single one of Crown Castle’s proposed “designs” is this bad, with most in the heart of residential neighborhoods.

The City absolutely has this right to regulate cell tower design and deny non-compliant sites under “least intrusive means” (federal law), “time, place, and manner” (state law), and RPV’s wireless facility ordinance.  You can be certain that we will ensure it is enforced to the fullest extent.

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