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.
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.