An Open Letter to the Wireless Industry (Part 1)

We received a thoughtful inquiry on our contact page from someone within the wireless industry asking as to what these companies could do to foster community acceptance of wireless infrastructure (that is, cell towers).  That email prompted this open letter, which we hope the industry takes to heart.

This will be a two-part post.  At the risk of being perceived as overly negative, we’ll start with the DON’Ts and follow up with the DOs in our second post.   In our experience, the behavior of the wireless industry has been nothing short of shameful and has absolutely poisoned the relationship with residents.  No amount of good deeds will change this dynamic if the behavior listed below continues.

DON’T lie to city staff or residents

Far and away the number one item on the list is to stop saying things that aren’t true.  The level of duplicity we’ve seen from the wireless industry in our community has been a shocking eye opener.  False legal claims, misrepresentation of intentions, brazenly misleading technical statements, and deceptive site documentation appear to be the norm, at least from what we’ve seen in Palos Verdes (link).  You can’t get away with this anymore with informed citizen involvement.  One of the main reasons we put this website online was to share what we’ve learned with those in other communities.  Based on the feedback received, others are finding it helpful.

It may work to sneak through a site or two, but these tactics will be exposed in a big rollout such as Crown Castle’s 60-site cell tower network being pushed in Palos Verdes.  Once exposed, you will lose all credibility and nothing you say will be believed, not even stuff you think is true.  Not only that, you will lose what little public support you may have had at the start and greatly reduce the chances of approval for your project.  People don’t like being misled and City decision makers don’t like having their intelligence insulted.  Accept the fact that your project will never be popular and lying in an attempt to ram it through will make things much, much worse.

DON’T arrogantly demand an entitlement to Right-of-Way access

It’s pretty clear you think your “public utility” facade entitles you to place these wherever you please in the Right-of-Way (ROW).  You preach it with the evangelical zeal of a true believer but just saying it over and over doesn’t make it true.


Our photoshop of PVE’s famous fountain hosting a cell tower.  It’s in the ROW so they are entitled to do it right?  Actually no.  The right to occupy the ROW in California is limited and subject to city police powers.

Quoting court decision excerpts out of context doesn’t change the central fact that your right to place these sites is limited and cities retain police power to regulate them.  There’s a reason you lose lawsuits (Sprint vs. Palos Verdes Estates, Crown Castle vs. Calabasas, T-Mobile et al vs. San Francisco to name a few here in California).  The Calabasas court flat out said you were making the law up when you tried to overturn that city’s cell tower ordinance:

Petitioners (Ed: Crown Castle) concede that that the City can regulate aesthetics, but that a wholly discretionary CUP (Ed: Conditional Use Permit) blind to the existence of a vested right of access to the right-of-way is unlawful.  Petitioners suggest the ordinance could be lawful only if it provided for a ministerial review of aesthetics “that properly presumes the preexisting right of a telephone corporation to use its streets”.

Petitioners cite no authority for the proposition, and the court is aware of none.

Your legal threats can be intimidating to city staff that usually don’t live in the city and don’t want any chance of a lawsuit on their watch.  But they infuriate residents and City Councils, particularly once they are exposed as arrogant, strong-arm tactics with little actual support in law.  About the only thing worse than a liar is a bully.

DON’T try to sneak in sites behind resident’s backs

cell approved 1

These things started showing up all over town without any notice or explanation, sort of like the pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Across our community you ran underground fiber optic lines up to most of these proposed sites before telling the public about your plans.  You demanded the right to do this despite city objections and warnings that there was no guarantee your antenna sites would be approved.  You thought you could get the network backbone in place before the public realized what was going on.

In Rancho Palos Verdes, you showed up at the first residential neighborhood site and started tearing up the sidewalk and installing the foundation for a brand new streetlight topped with an 18 cubic foot antenna canister.  A 9 cubic foot cabinet was to be attached to the pole reaching twelve feet into the air.  The structure would be nearly 30 feet tall and dominate the view along this quiet underground utility cul-de-sac.  You did this work under the guise of installing a “mock-up” with no advance notice to residents.  Your subcontractor lied to nearby homeowners when asked what they were doing.  Fortunately, our City Council intervened and put a stop to this manipulative nonsense.

Your response to the City’s action was a threatening legal letter demanding the city approve all sites within 30 days.  It further infuriated residents and had the opposite effect of what you intended.

How could you possibly think this was an effective method to get your project in place?  Did you think RPV residents were that stupid that they wouldn’t notice these ugly eyesores sprouting like mushrooms on their quiet residential streets?  Your plans were exposed and your deployment ground to a halt before the very first site was in place.  The fact that you thought this would work shows us exactly how much respect you have for our community.

DON’T pit neighbor against neighbor

You offered to “work” with residents in Palos Verdes Estates who objected to having a cell tower plopped in front of their homes.  Residents, without specialized legal or technical knowledge, accepted your offer in good faith.  Your “solution” was to move the cell tower next to another neighbor’s home who wasn’t present at the meeting.  The entirely predictable result had longtime neighbors squabbling with each other, increased tension, and a loss of camaraderie on this residential street.

Residents were surprised by this turn of events but somehow we doubt you were.  The industry would much rather have neighbors fighting with each other rather than united in opposition to your self-proclaimed right to invade their quiet residential street.  Thank goodness the Planning Commission ended this charade by denying the site as incompatible with the neighborhood.

These tactics undermined our community’s trust and we don’t think you’ll get it back anytime soon.

DON’T propose cell towers in residential neighborhoods

hall of shame7

The new normal according to those who make money installing cell towers

Virtually every tactic discussed above stems from the fact you plan to muscle in these cell towers right next to our homes.  We get it; it’s cheap and easy for you.  You think the 5G future is going to normalize these eyesores on our streets, sort of like fire hydrants. No different than the 21st century equivalent of the corner mailbox, you might say.

We view them differently.  These are cash cows for you; they provide a steady stream of revenue and the cheaper you can throw them up the more money you will make.  Residents receive no financial compensation despite the fact these sites are a terrible nuisance.  Your shoddy designs are ugly and prominent with no screening whatsoever.  Your equipment contains large and noisy cooling fans that run 24/7 despite the fact most PV neighborhoods are extremely quiet.  Most important, these sites kill property values.  Would you buy a home with an obvious and highly intrusive commercial telecommunication facility a few dozen feet from the front door?  Yet residents are supposed to suck it up and accept the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in what is likely their biggest investment.  Of course these unfortunate homeowners don’t receive a dime in compensation from you.

We understand it will cause you more work to perform the honest, old-fashioned engineering needed to locate these sites away from homes.  Guess what?  We don’t care, that is your problem not ours.  No one asked you to come here; you showed up and demanded access to our Right of Way.  In public hearings we have repeatedly demonstrated that you ignored less intrusive locations that would provide suitable coverage as they were inconvenient or cost you more money.  You aren’t entitled to place these eyesores wherever you like and you aren’t entitled to perfect coverage.  If you expect to place these in our community then we expect you to do your job and design minimally intrusive sites located away from homes.

DON’T make up technical claims

You’ve probably gotten away with this for a long time as most cities don’t have the expertise to challenge your claims.  That’s one of the reasons we put this site online, we do have the experience and we wanted to document what we’ve found.  It hasn’t been pretty as we’ve shown arbitrarily changed service metrics, omitted existing sites from coverage maps, cherry-picked frequency bands, and submitted data that appears to be grossly in error.

Many of your poorly-maintained existing cell towers haven’t been upgraded to operate on available frequency bands, then you disingenuously point to this absence as justification for new sites!  Your attempts to hand-wave away these discrepancies come off as self-serving and technically shallow, and undermine any claim that you actually know what you’re talking about.  Frankly, it looks like amateur hour to those of us who are professional engineers and are accustomed to a disciplined engineering environment.

Android App

One of many great apps that easily checks claims regarding existing coverage.  It displays the info your Android phone collects and uses in making network cell connection decisions. Cost: $2.  Root the phone for even more info.

The days of needing a $50K spectrum analyzer and a highly compensated “expert” to check your claims are over.  An Android phone with a $2 app allows a tech-savvy resident access to important network parameters and the ability to document cell IDs, active frequency bands, RSRP, and RSRQ of existing coverage.  If the phone is rooted, even more info is available with other apps.  The advent of highly capable software-defined radios enables 90% of that $50K spectrum analyzer’s capability for only a few hundred dollar investment.  Checking your claims is now within the bounds of sharp residents with a technical background.  If you lie about this stuff, there is a pretty good chance it’s going to be exposed.

As to “independent experts” hired to assist cities, you better being doing this stuff yourselves as it’s your job to find these discrepancies, not that of the residents.

DON’T claim your motivation is anything other than to make you money

It’s insulting and ultimately hurts your cause when you make claims that you are motivated to “serve the community”, “improve emergency communications” or “upgrade critical infrastructure”.  Residents know you wouldn’t be giving our community a second thought except for the fact you plan on making a pile of money here.  No one believes you are motivated by any sense of public service; claiming to be so undermines your credibility.

Acknowledge that your presence in our community is first and foremost a business opportunity, nothing more, nothing less.   That business opportunity can be mutually beneficial for both you and the city’s residents if implemented in a thoughtful and coordinated manner.  To date we’ve seen nothing of the sort.


Along these lines, part 2 of this post will deal with the DO’s of how to implement such a deployment in a thoughtful and coordinated manner.  Unsurprisingly, it consists of early resident involvement (not just paid staff who don’t live in the city), a clear description of the goals and objectives, aesthetically-pleasing and screened tower designs, and a concerted and diligent engineering effort to locate sites away from homes and outside of neighborhoods.  In other words, common sense city planning.  We should have part 2 up soon.


Like this post?  Click here to go to our home page for more.

Leveling the Field, Holding the Cell Tower Installers Accountable

This blog has had a huge increase in web traffic over the last month and thanks to all who took a look.  Based on metrics we receive, most of the traffic came from outside Palos Verdes likely from civic groups and even municipalities themselves.  It’s clear there is a real demand for knowledge and it’s no surprise to us.  Knowledge is the key to fighting intrusive cell tower installations.

To be blunt, the wireless industry’s business model counts on uniformed residents and intimidated municipal staff.  Few people want a commercial telecommunications facility near their home, let alone in their front yard.  The industry and its sympathizers count on opposition ignorance to maintain the false impression that there is nothing they can do.  Our first-hand experience has been with Crown Castle, a multi-billion dollar cell tower corporation headquartered out of Texas.  By most accounts it is representative of industry behavior.

The key to protecting your city and your neighborhoods is knowledge.  You fight these tactics by exposing and documenting every discrepancy, every false claim, every exaggeration, and every deception.  Trust us, there is no shortage and this is the stuff that influences municipal decision makers and makes or breaks lawsuits.  We’ve included a sampling of our findings in Palos Verdes below and we really doubt things are any different in other communities.

The long list of “discrepancies”

With that preamble, let’s get to the list.  This isn’t meant to be exhaustive but to give those interested a taste of what we’ve found digging into Crown Castle’s submissions, installations, and tactics on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  They can’t demand everyone else follow the rules then completely blow them off themselves.

All of this has been meticulously documented; much of it has been submitted to the corresponding municipality.  The rest is available as needed if things get ugly in the future.  Some of it has been discussed on this blog previously and we’ve provided links in places.  Some we are holding close to the chest.  Whether these discrepancies were intentional is really irrelevant, this stuff is damning even if its cause is just plain old incompetence and carelessness.

Site Drawings and Documentation

  • False photo simulations that show proposed installed equipment much smaller than actuality (link)
  • Prominent equipment and cables missing from photo simulations
  • Distorted, not to scale drawings showing proposed equipment too small (link)
  • Distorted drawings that show the existing infrastructure (e.g streetlights) out of proportion thus making the proposed equipment look smaller by comparison (link)
  • Prominent equipment and cables missing from drawings (link)
  • Contradictory drawings, discrepancies between equipment sizes shown on different pages of submitted plans
  • Site plans missing key required elements such as existing and proposed utility routing and adjacent land use

Site Technical Documentation

  • Changing service metrics resulting in a 20 dB drop in “existing” coverage map levels without a corresponding shift in service target levels (RSSI to RSRP) (link)
  • Different “required” service levels in Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, PVE is 10 dB higher than RPV without rationale (link)
  • Wildly inconsistent “existing” service coverage maps submitted between Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes despite both showing the same geographic area (link)
  • Missing known AT&T-owned sites in submitted “existing” network facility maps (link)
  • Missing known AT&T-owned site coverage in “existing” service coverage maps
  • An “existing” coverage map submitted as 1900 MHz service that actually depicts 2100 MHz
  • Cherry-picked worst-case coverage maps from a single frequency band (out of four active bands) misleadingly portrayed as representing “existing” coverage
  • Incorrect antenna orientation shown on proposed facility maps
  • Service coverage maps alleged to depict “proposed” coverage modeled with only one of the two site antennas active (link)
  • Wrong antennas used in RF Emission reports thus reporting inaccurate values

Questionable Legal Claims and Behavior

  • False legal claims that new sites fall under “Section 6409” and thus can’t be denied by the city (link)
  • False claims that a 90 day shot clock applies to brand new sites
  • Misleading statements regarding a municipality’s right to regulate these sites under PUC Section 7901
  • Misleading claims regarding the existence of a “significant gap” based on cherry-picked frequency bands and incomplete coverage maps (link)
  • Underground installation mock-ups using unnecessary intrusive ventilation stacks to make the city-preferred option look unappealing (link) (link)
  • Excessively large and 75% empty ground-mounted cabinets claimed as required after Rancho Palos Verdes rejected pole-mounted equipment (link)
  • Excessively large antennas claimed as required in Rancho Palos Verdes despite using antennas one-third the size in Palos Verdes Estates (link)

Site Approval and Community Engagement Tactics

  • Repeatedly failing to provide residents timely notification for public hearings
  • Construction crews misleading residents when queried as to what they were doing (link)
  • Installations and work performed beyond that authorized by the city
  • Permanent installations constructed as the “mock-up”, then leaving it in place for months longer then required when not immediately approved (link)
  • Underground fiber installed throughout the city before a single antenna installation was approved despite city objections and concerns (link)
  • Failure to provide alleged analysis for alternate locations despite promises to do so (link)
  • Failure to involve AT&T in public hearings or resident meetings despite requests to do so

Issues with Existing Installations

  • Installations on utility poles in violation of CPUC General Order 95 Section 94.4 (safety and reliability regulations) (link)
  • Highly intrusive cable routing and extremely poor workmanship on existing sites (link) (link)
  • Amateurish paint jobs using hardware store spray cans resulting in fading, streaks, uneven coverage, and overspray (link)
  • Existing installations that are far more intrusive than depicted in submitted photo simulations (link) (link)
  • Existing installations that don’t match submitted drawings

Why all this matters

Pretty interesting list, huh?  For those of you still wondering why all this matters we recommend you spend a little time reviewing Verizon vs. Fairfax County (E.D. Virginia, 2015) (available here).  Verizon sued the County after it rejected a cell tower installation under its wireless facility ordinance.  It’s a recent case that’s highly relevant as it discusses LTE technology, a cell tower installer middleman, lousy documentation, and unsubstantiated technical claims.  The court found for Fairfax County on all counts and absolutely shredded Verizon on multiple fronts.  Similar to T-Mobile et al vs. San Francisco, it was a total wipeout.

The court had some really interesting things to say.  First off, the court openly rejected Verizon’s standing in the case as a cell tower installer middleman was the applicant.  The court also questioned the depth of Verizon’s involvement as virtually all the work was done by the middleman with Verizon seemingly out of the loop.  Does this sound familiar?  It sure ought to.  AT&T has been completely absent from the Palos Verdes cell tower project.

Crown Castle repeatedly makes claims allegedly on AT&T’s behalf, yet AT&T itself has been nowhere to be found in this whole fiasco.  This despite the fact the PVE Planning Commission has now twice requested greater AT&T involvement.  The Commission has requested both an AT&T presence at the hearings and in meetings with residents.  Neither has happened.  We don’t blame AT&T as we wouldn’t want to be directly involved with this debacle either.  Unfortunately for them, the Fairfax County decision shows Crown Castle’s failure to engage AT&T could be really problematic.

Next, the court took Verizon to the woodshed for poor documentation, conflicting claims, and a general making-it-up-as-they-went-along approach.  The court outright rejected Verizon’s “expert” claims regarding location requirements and lack of feasible alternatives as lacking substance.  The court praised the citizen group for their detailed records and documentation, and painted a sharp contrast to Verizon’s behavior.   Déjà vu, anyone?

The court also tackled the issue of minimum LTE signal levels.  Verizon’s expert stated under oath that the required LTE signal level for indoor coverage was -95 dBm RSRP, 20 dB (100 times) lower that Crown Castle’s current claim in Palos Verdes Estates.  Despite this, the court still found there wasn’t a significant gap even at these low levels.  (Side note: We now have an AT&T engineering report from another jurisdiction where AT&T states the minimum LTE signal level is -96 dBm RSRP directly contradicting Crown Castle’s “required” signal claims in Palos Verdes on their behalf.  Stay tuned.)

In short, Verizon went in unprepared with sloppy documentation, arbitrary technical claims, and an argument from authority.  They lost because the County and residents had done their homework.


Knowledge is power as they say, and in this case it’s certainly true.  The wireless industry counts on you being uninformed and intimidated.  It doesn’t take much digging to bring down the whole house of cards.

Like this post?  Click here to go to our home page for more.


Palos Verdes Cell Tower Hall of Shame

Update (9/17/2016): This is one of our most popular posts.  We’ve promoted it in honor of Thursday’s huge win in the California Court of Appeals.  The court fully upheld municipal regulation of cell towers despite three cell tower companies (T-mobile, Crown Castle, and Extenet) ganging up and attempting to overturn San Francisco’s comprehensive wireless ordinance.  It was a historic loss for the wireless industry, and solidified the important findings of Sprint vs. Palos Verdes Estates (9th Circuit, 2009).  We’ve posted T-mobile et al vs. San Francisco here.

Prior to January 2016, Rancho Palos Verdes had essentially no cell tower regulations.  As you would expect, the carriers and cell tower installers abused the situation to their advantage and things got completely out of control.  The same can happen if a city has a good ordinance but it isn’t enforced.  Consider this a cautionary tale.

We’ve previously written regarding the astronomical number of cell towers in Rancho Palos Verdes, and how most were thrown up in the cheapest and sloppiest manner possible.  There was no attempt to minimize intrusiveness, screen sites, or architecturally match them to the existing structures.  In addition, there was no attempt to collocate sites or otherwise minimize the number of installations.

Here’s a map of all cell sites in the Public Right of Way (PROW) in RPV.  The interactive versions can be found online here.  (The site loads slowly, ten seconds or so.)  This map does not include sites on private property or public property that is not part of the PROW.

rancho palos verde cell tower map

Map of sites in the PROW in RPV.  Different colors represent different service carriers, yellow means there are multiple sites at a single location.

The map is pretty incredible, particularly with Crown Castle claiming ATT alone needs 30 new sites, most located within the heart of residential neighborhoods.  Here’s a breakdown of the current status:

  • Over 140 cell sites in the PROW
  • One cell site for every 300 residents
  • One cell site for every 115 homes
  • One cell site every 61 acres
  • 10.4 cell sites per square mile
  • More than 50 new sites pending or proposed (that we know of)

RPV’s new wireless ordinance (link) will ensure sites meet comprehensive design, architectural compatibility, and location requirements going forward.  As a reminder to why RPV needed a new ordinance we’ll highlight (lowlight?) some of our favorites here.  With 140 available, there are plenty of bad examples to choose from.

 The new ordinance poster child

ugly crown castle cell tower 1

This is on Hawthorne Blvd at the entrance to Hesse Park.  It is one of the nicest parks in the city and this sits right outside the City Council chambers.  Fortunately, the City Council saw it every time they pulled into the parking lot and was continuously reminded why RPV needed a new ordinance.  It was just a bus stop sign at one point.

 ugly crown castle cell tower 2

Same site next to Hesse Park with no screening whatsoever.  Note cable workmanship.  Note there is still another bus stop sign post right next to it that for some reason was not consolidated.  The box now has a giant “Radio Frequency Hazard!” sticker on it.

Welcome to Rancho Palos Verdes, home of the ugly cell tower

ugly crown castle cell tower 3

“Welcome to Rancho Palos Verdes” on PV Drive South right at the border of San Pedro. This is what visitors entering our city from San Pedro first see.  Here’s a close-up.

Crown castle workmanship 2

Aside from being really ugly, there is lots else going on here:

  • Crown Castle increased the antenna size but the cables didn’t reach so they just stretched them across unsupported (black wires from pole to antenna bottom)
  • It could have been flush mounted to pole above cables to be less intrusive instead of extended out on long cross arm
  • Violates CPUC General Order 95 (safety and reliability regulations) Section 94.4 as it’s too close to the cables

Continue reading

Crown Castle’s Untrue Legal Claims

We’ve had this blog online since May.  In the last twelve weeks we’ve documented numerous troubling aspects of Crown Castle’s cell tower deployment in Palos Verdes.  So far we’ve covered:

  • Misleading photo simulations that show equipment smaller than actuality, and are missing important components entirely (here)
  • “Not to scale” drawings with equipment size distorted and appearing smaller than actuality (here)
  • Sneaky tactics apparently intended to keep residents in the dark about the coming cell towers until the last minute (here)
  • Cheap and lazy designs with no regard for aesthetics or property values (here)
  • Questionable “mock-ups” that make more expensive configurations preferred by the city look far more intrusive than they really are (here)
  • Awful workmanship on existing sites, particularly with cable routing and “spray can” paint jobs (here)
  • Existing installations on utility poles that violate CPUC safety and reliability regulations (here)
  • Completely unsupported claims that anything other than the cheap installation they had already planned was “infeasible” (here)
  • Misleading and highly questionable technical claims regarding existing coverage and an alleged “significant gap” (here)

It’s quite a list, and as you can see from the links, we’ve posted plenty to back it all up.  You might think there isn’t much more to cover.  You’d be wrong.  Fortunately, we like to write and it looks like we’ll have plenty more opportunities.

 False Claims Regarding Section 6409

In 2012, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act.  Buried deep within the act was gift to the wireless industry, no doubt payback for campaign contributions.  It’s known as section 6409 and it significantly limits a city’s regulatory authority with regards to modifications on existing sites.


Definitely not an “existing wireless tower or base station” despite Crown Castle’s claims.

In short, a city cannot deny permission to modify an existing wireless tower (built specifically for antennas) or a base station (a structure that houses licensed wireless equipment) provided the modifications don’t exceed certain size limits.  Section 6409, and the subsequent FCC rulemaking that clarified some terms, make it unambiguously clear that it only applies to existing sites.  There is no confusion or controversy on this.

Crown Castle is attempting to deploy 22 new sites in Palos Verdes Estates and 26 new sites (so far) in Rancho Palos Verdes.  As we’ve stated before, many are in the heart of residential neighborhoods, most of those are right in front of homes.  All of these are brand new sites; none of them are “existing wireless towers or base stations” under Section 6409.  It’s crystal clear, section 6409 does not apply to these sites.  The City has the full right to deny these sites on aesthetic grounds under both state and federal law.  Crown Castle apparently wants city staff to think otherwise.

Attempting to Exploit City Ignorance of the law

As we’ve discussed before, Crown Castle seems to have a bad habit of exploiting the fact that city staff aren’t experts on the law.  One of Crown Castle’s prior entities, Newpath Networks of California, had virtually raised this to an art form.  In one of the most egregious examples, they buffaloed the city government of Davis, California into believing their 37-site proposed cell tower deployment was exempt from Davis’s wireless ordinance.  They did this by disingenuously claiming only CPUC could regulate the sites under newly passed regulations.

After public outcry, Davis wised up and revoked the permits that had been issued under false pretenses.  Newpath sued, and lost.  The whole ordeal caused such a stink that CPUC actually vacated the regulations (GO-170) that Newpath had abused.  If you check out press accounts of the debacle you’ll find at least one Newpath name very familiar to those following the current Palos Verdes deployment.

With that sort of history from their subsidiaries, it’s no surprise Crown Castle is at it again.  In this case, they are trying to insinuate that these brand new sites fall under Section 6409 and thus the city can’t deny them and must approve them..  Of course it’s blatantly untrue, and in our opinion, it’s a telling sign of corporate character.

 False Section 6409 Claims in Palos Verdes Estates

Palos Verdes Estates requires a site justification for new proposed cell towers.  The justification provided by Crown Castle was a joke, mostly copy and paste claims of legal entitlement without any real justification for each of the highly intrusive sites proposed.  Under a section entitled “Applicable Federal Law”, they trot out some interesting claims regarding Section 6409 (full document here):

Crown Castle false 6409 claim 1

Note the area highlighted in the red box in particular, as the audacity of their claims is truly breathtaking.  First they claim this a “qualifying collocation facility” which is blatantly false.  This was from a brand new site application in lower Lunada Bay.  The same language is included in all the new site applications.

Next they claim, “an argument may be made that the Project qualifies for ministerial approval under the Spectrum Act”.  An interesting choice of words, “an argument may be made…”

We agree that an argument may be made; a disingenuous, deceptive and utterly false argument seemingly intended to mislead city staff into thinking they have no choice but to approve these sites.  For those who aren’t up on legalese, “ministerial approval” means “a statutory mandate without exercise of personal judgment or discretion”.  Completely false but not surprising in the least based on what we’ve seen from Crown Castle.

 The same false claims in Rancho Palos Verdes

Under RPV’s new comprehensive wireless ordinance, applicants are also required to prepare a site justification and to specifically state the applicable laws that apply.  Here’s an application excerpt submitted by Crown Castle for a brand new installation proposed for a residential streetlight (full document here).

Crown Castle false 6409 claim 2

Knock us over with a feather, they again misleadingly claim Section 6409 applies.  Of the 26 newly filed brand new sites submitted to RPV, they’ve wrongly claimed section 6409 applies in about half of them.  They also incorrectly claim a 90 day shot clock here rather than the correct 150 day shot clock, but we’ll leave that for a future post.

Note above where RPV requires a description supporting their selections in Exhibit A, here’s an excerpt of what was submitted (full document here):

Crown Castle false 6409 claim 3

It’s the same copy and paste claims of section 6409 applicability we saw over in PVE.  Check out the big bold “may not deny, and shall approve“.  Since section 6409 doesn’t apply this is completely irrelevant and utterly shameless.  Note in the red box that here they omitted the ridiculous “an argument can be made…” stuff probably realizing they wouldn’t be able to get away with that weasel wording again.

We obtained RPV’s notice of incomplete application (it’s a public record along with the other documents shown here) as we wanted to ensure the City called them out on this garbage.  We were gratified to see that not only did RPV’s legal team conclusively state Section 6409 did not apply, but they had this to say regarding Crown Castle’s copy and paste claims of entitlement:

Applicant should appropriately limit the scope of its responses to the questions presented.

That looks like lawyer talk for calling BS to us.

What this says about Crown Castle

It seems to us that Crown Castle thinks this is some sort of game.  They act as if it’s just fine to allege claims of legal entitlement that aren’t true in the hopes that the city will accept them without question.  To date it’s probably worked far more often than not, as we doubt most cities have the legal expertise to challenge this stuff.  There seems to be no downside for them as the only thing that happens if they are caught is that they are told to go back and fix it.

We’ve meticulously documented this to inform Palos Verdes residents, as a resource for those in other communities, and also to ensure it’s not forgotten in the event this whole mess turns ugly.  Palos Verdes residents can be assured we will double-check every single claim of legal entitlement, site intrusiveness, or technical feasibility.  Crown Castle has shown over and over that their statements can’t be taken at face value.

Like this post?  Click here to go to our home page for more.

Crown Castle’s Bad Plan for Palos Verdes (part 1)

This is the first of of two part series that details our objections to Crown Castle’s proposed cell tower deployment in Palos Verdes.  This post will focus on the installations and locations themselves.  Part 2 will dig into Crown Castle’s behavior and tactics in trying to get these cell towers approved.

Are we NIMBYs?

We’ve been very critical of Crown Castle’s plan to place about 60 poorly-designed and highly intrusive cell towers throughout Palos Verdes.  We’ve also raised objections to proposed invasive residential neighborhood locations without any real justification.  We’ve received solid support from the community.  We’ve also received positive feedback from others outside Palos Verdes interested in our fight.

Of course you can’t please everyone, and we’ve heard from a few scattered critics.  The complaints seem shallow and uninformed, without a much substance and a dose of name-calling thrown in for good measure.


NIMBY!  The invective is often used to denigrate those who raise legitimate questions regarding an ill-conceived project.  It’s usually intended as a derogatory insult without having to do the hard work of actually rebutting the points raised.

Rather than let others characterize our motivation, we’ll save them the trouble and set the record straight.  Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve seen and documented regarding the cell tower situation in Palos Verdes.  We think it’s unacceptable, and the more people know about it, the better.  If that makes us NIMBY’s then so be it.

Ugly, cheap designs with no regard for our community’s aesthetics

Most of Crown Castle’s proposed sites for Rancho Palos Verdes wouldn’t pass muster in an industrial zone, yet they are being shamelessly proposed for our beautiful residential community.

crown castle ugly cell tower

Residential streetlight installations call out two antenna panels, each over six square feet in size (50” tall by 19” wide).  They are highly intrusive and don’t come close to matching the architectural character of our neighborhoods.  Comparable deployments in other cities somehow manage to use antennas one-third this size.  Crown Castle has provided no justification for the huge antenna panels.

Ugly pole mounted equipment is proposed throughout RPV, despite the fact our new wireless ordinance requires such equipment be located in underground vaults.  The smallest boxes are 9” wide by  9” deep, being bigger than the 7″ diameter streetlight pole.  The equipment extends 12 feet up the pole.  It also include an industrial-sized electric meter and breaker box also mounted to the streetlight pole. A 2.5″ wide electrical conduit will run externally to the electric meter.  Top it off with two exhaust fans that run 24/7.

(upper right) Crown Castle cell tower partly installed on Silver Spur Drive.  The same design is proposed for residential neighborhood streetlights but with even larger antennas!  These antennas are 49″ by 12″, more recent submissions include antennas that are 50″ by 19″, more than 50% bigger than shown here.

Are these guys for real?  Did they really think peninsula residents would accept this?  Based on RPV’s past history of rubber-stamping these sites they probably thought they could get away with it.  Not any more

Highly invasive residential neighborhood locations

We think we’re safe in saying that few people would willingly accept a for-profit telecommunication facility right next to their home unless they are making money off it themselves.  Yet the majority of Crown Castle’s cell towers are proposed for residential neighborhoods.  Of course residents won’t be getting a dime.  Unfortunate residents will however, be stuck with an ugly and highly intrusive commercial cell tower next to their home for at least ten years (the legal minimum permit duration).

cell tower next to homes

A Sprint installation on Monero Drive in RPV.  The new normal if Crown Castle gets their way.

Not only will nearby residents not be compensated, but property values will almost certainly drop.  There is a significant portion of home buyers that will not consider a house next to a cell tower.  Simple supply and demand tells us that with fewer willing buyers, home prices go down.  Consider the financial impact of an entirely realistic 5% decrease in your home’s value.  Now consider it’s happening only because a multi-billion dollar corporation with no stake in our community wanted to save a few bucks.

Continue reading

The Saga of Miraleste Hills

Crown Castle recently put in a cell tower within the Miraleste Hills residential neighborhood of Rancho Palos Verdes.  Unfortunately, the site was approved prior to the tough wireless facility ordinance passed back in January, so it wasn’t held to RPV’s new stringent design and location requirements.  It is however, a shining example of what we’ve come to expect regarding tactics and workmanship.

Let’s start with the photo simulation Crown Castle submitted and posted at the location in lieu of an actual physical mock-up.  (Note – real mock-ups are required under the new ordinance.)  This was at the corner of Crownview and Highpoint in RPV back in August-September 2015.

Miraleste Hills 1


Here’s a reproduction of the photo simulation that was obtained from the drawing package submitted to RPV.  Note the poor resolution, you would think a multi-billion dollar corporation could afford something better.  The Kodak Brownie I had as a kid took better pictures than this.

Miraleste Hills 2

As to the design itself, it’s not great, but it’s not as awful as some in RPV.  Residents didn’t have an actual physical mock-up to review and the picture didn’t look terrible, so no one formally objected during the 30 day comment window.  That’s not too surprising, people are busy and they believed what they saw in the picture.  They were in for a rude surprise.

Continue reading