Verizon cell tower gets green light from Danville commission

Planners approve faux tree proposal in 5-2 vote Tuesday evening

Verizon Wireless has received the go-ahead to build a new cell tower designed as an imitation tree off Lawrence Road in Danville.

The town's Planning Commission approved the plans for the 60-foot faux monopine tower in a 5-2 vote Tuesday, capping its contentious public debate about the unmanned telecommunications facility that the wireless company said is needed to improve service in the area.

"We can't think myopically about what serves our specific area, even if you do have adequate coverage now, as difficult as that is," commissioner Lynn Overcashier said during the nighttime meeting at the Town Meeting Hall. "Because of the level of evidence that I've seen tonight, I don't see adequate findings to deny (the project)."

Commissioners Andrew Verriere and Archie Bowles cast the dissenting votes following the discussion that featured a one-hour presentation from town staff and Verizon representatives and another hour of public debate.

"The cons (of the proposal) present a huge negative impact on the impact on the peace, tranquility and quality of life in your town. Your community. Your backyard. There has to be a better solution," Lawrence Road resident Jim Richards said in opposition to the cell tower.

The discussion Tuesday included nine citizen speakers, all in opposition of the plan, and nine other Danville residents who registered opposition but chose not to speak.

Opponents cited concerns such as radiation exposure, noise and negative impacts on area property values. An online petition opposing the tower remains active, with 385 supporters as of late Thursday afternoon.

Construction of the cell tower, which will begin as soon as building permits are issues, will take less than two months, according to Verizon representatives.

The commission's decision is subject to a 10-day appeal period, according to town spokesman Geoff Gillette, who said no appeal had been filed to the Town Council as of Thursday morning.

Verizon's project, originally proposed to look like a slim pole, was redesigned as an imitation tree earlier this summer.

The faux monopine, which will be 60 feet tall, will include "tapered branches on top and additional branches on the lower level to help screen the antenna pole," according to Crystal De Castro, town project planner. It will also be painted a non-reflective green and dark brown so that it will blend in with surrounding trees.

"I know there are people who object to these faux trees," commissioner Paul Radich said, "but in this case, what I've seen presented to me is aesthetically pleasing."

The commission is requiring Verizon to also plant real trees on the property to "soften the aesthetics" of adding the tower to 1455 Lawrence Road. The faux tree will sit on a 1,000-square-foot leased area at the rear end of the property, which also contains a home and Breton's School for Dogs & Cats.

The new unmanned tower is needed to improve cell service to those on or around Lawrence Road, and it would aid the workload of current surrounding towers, which Verizon said will reach maximum capacity within 12 months, according to company officials.

The project is a matter of being proactive instead of reactive, according to Radha Sharma, California real estate manager for Verizon.

Research presented by Sharma showed that cell phone data use has doubled annually since 2012 and is expected to grow another 650% by 2018. Those figures, in conjunction with a national survey done by the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, show the area's growing need for improved service, Sharma added.

Verizon looked at other locations to place the tower. but deemed those alternatives unworkable. Another option that Verizon took into consideration was the implementation of small cells -- equipment that can be added to existing utility poles to increase signal.

Michelle Ellis, project manager for Verizon consultant firm Complete Wireless Consulting, said small cells would be "useless" given the area's demands, explaining that they are a better option for areas with a greater number of users crowded into a smaller area, such as San Francisco, as this equipment provides massive boosts in connectivity with a very small radius.

Verriere suggested lining Lawrence Road with small cells, but Ellis reasserted that it would not serve the entire target area.

Vierrere also expressed concern about the tower's height, but that is an issue, Ellis said, that cannot be remedied, with 60 feet being the minimum height required to maintain a clear path in all directions within the target area.

"The height (requirements of an antenna) varies based on (surrounding) terrain," Ellis said. "When you're in a valley, you need something a little taller to get over the changes in terrain."

Some residents were also worried that the antenna would increase noise in the area, causing the nearly 200 dogs in the boarding facility to bark more often.

"I am concerned about the potential increase in noise from the Breton dog kennel," Lawrence Road resident Denise DeFazio said. "We have learned to tolerate the loud barking from the kennel but are worried, with the installation of the cell tower, the noise will increase."

In response, Ellis pointed to the six-foot chain link fence, complete with privacy slats, that will surround the tower. Also, she said maintenance visits would occur no more than once per month and would take place only during normal business hours.

As far as the noise emitted from the facility itself, Ellis contended that the electronic vibration of the tower will produce a buzz at a volume less than that of a refrigerator.

All concerns voiced Tuesday eventually came back to property values. Residents said they were worried that radio frequency waves produced by the tower, as well as other issues voiced, will deplete the value of their homes.

Commissioner Kerri Heusler argued there is no evidence supporting that fear.

Local jurisdictions cannot deny wireless communication facilities based on potential health effects from radio frequency emissions because such emissions are federally regulated, according to De Castro. A third-party radio frequency report determined the project complied with maximum allowable exposure limits regulated by the federal government.

There were also questions raised by citizens and commissioners regarding Verizon's effort to seek public feedback about the tower.

The telecommunication company contended it sent out a text message asking surrounding Verizon users if they feel they would benefit from the placement of a tower on the desired location.

Those messages, however, reportedly were not sent to some Danville residents, including those who live on Lawrence Road.

"The texting campaign is a sham," resident John Kim said. "As a Verizon customer, I have five lines of service in Danville. I did not receive any texts from them." His concerns were immediately seconded by fellow Lawrence Road resident Yue Chen.

Verizon outside counsel Paul Albritton contended that leaving out Lawrence Road residents was an oversight, adding that Verizon would gladly include those users in another text campaign if that was deemed necessary.

The campaign, which included users from Danville to Livermore, received 624 positive responses, according to Albritton, and only 14 responses were to the contrary.

The public comments were followed by a 10-minute discussion of the Planning Commission, where commissioners Verriere and Bowles voiced there concerns.

The other five commissioners, who would go on to vote in favor of the project, praised the residents in attendance and Verizon for its willingness to work with the city to come up with plans that best served its residents.

Kalama Hines is a freelance contributor for Editor Jeremy Walsh contributed to this story.

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Like this comment
Posted by Yue Chen
a resident of Danville
on Sep 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

Verizon stated that the town of Danville is an important customer. Yet, a year after the initiation of the project, Verizon still propose the exact same plan, which will not be able to serve the area in the long term.

The world we live in today is the world of blooming technologies. The newer and better, and less intrusive technology does exist. Just because the focus of Verizon is not on Wifi, it should not limit the town of Danville to receive the greater and newer service, which will result happier and satisfied residents.

I know the project is approved, but I truly feel that our city deserve better, a better technology to serve the town departments, and our residents.

Many buses has wifi hot spots on them, why can't our city vehicles? Please read the following article to learn about wifi, and how other carriers focus on customers' needs, and reduce customers' cost rather than just focusing on making the profits. Wifi and some newer technology will replace cell tower in the very near future.

Web Link

Cell tower technology has been around for some time, and it is at its last stretch before it gets replaced. Verizon is focusing on the cell towers because it had spend billions of dollars on it, and the ship may be too big to turn. However, the town of Danville should not settle for such 2nd class technology just because we are a loyal customer of Verizon. Verizon should not make Danville and its residents to pay for its huge bills. Even though there may not be other carriers approach us for other solutions yet, the town of Danville needless to settle on the cell tower technology, which they know will not stay for long.

The trade off between this 2nd class technology and the possibilities of damaging the health of our residents and our future residents is none comparable. As we are patiently waiting for the scientists to find out the impacts, we are letting ourselves living in the unknowns not for a top notch technology, but for a 2nd class technology. Just like a doctor prescribe a medicine to a pregnant woman to take daily, and also states that it is good for you but it has one millionth chances to have a defective baby. Would you still take it? After this project is approved, there will be other cell towers proposed in Danville and San Ramon. Living in the backyard of Silicon Valley, are we really going forward with the cell towers, which have been replaced in some of the developing countries?

The technology should be used to benefit our residents, which I believe this has been the original idea of improving 911 calls and other services provided by the city departments. Our people will be very disappointed to see the town of Danville settle with the implementation of an older technology because it was blind folded by the carrier.

Like this comment
Posted by yue chen
a resident of Danville
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:15 am

Future Smartphones Won’t Need Cell Towers to Connect

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Mimi
a resident of Danville
on Sep 25, 2015 at 3:11 pm

This is the second or third mention of a Verizon text message campaign that I've seen. I have four Verizon phones in my household nearby and not one of us got a text inquiring if we support an additional tower. Maybe they missed more than Lawrence Rd....

Like this comment
Posted by dmom
a resident of Danville
on Sep 28, 2015 at 7:56 am

Lawrence Road is not the place to install a Verizon tower. The road is surrounded by hills on both sides and is a canyon. That is why the tower has to be 60 feet tall. Towers belong on hillsides where they can provide good reception to a larger area. I also think its a shame that now the city is allowing towers to be built right in the middle of neighborhoods, next door to homes and schools. What happen to protecting our rural environments?

4 people like this
Posted by miSFit
a resident of Diablo
on Sep 28, 2015 at 1:54 pm

...but then Ms Breton doesn't make thousands of dollars every month from Verizon by leasing her property for the cell tower! Culture of Care?!? Where? Just pure greed. What a shameful neighbor.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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