"Is there an example that one could go look at?" Commissioner Jerry Pentin asked, wondering aloud whether Pleasanton would be the first to erect this exact type of mono-pine tower.
Mark Lobaugh of Complete Wireless Consulting, representing Verizon, told the Planning Commissioners that one of the faux pines could be seen in Auburn.
Verizon has applied to erect a 65-foot cell tower, disguised as a pine tree, in the city-owned pump station facility in the northwest corner of Koll Center Parkway, adjacent to I-680 and Arroyo del Valle.
Verizon states that the tower is needed for coverage in the neighborhoods of Highland Oaks, Oak Hill, Foothill Knolls, Laguna Oak, Valley Trails and Del Prado as well as businesses in the area. The application was made in September 2009.
Residents from the neighborhood immediately north of the arroyo have been protesting the tower with letters and appearances at Planning Commission meetings, saying the cell tower would have a negative visual impact on their homes.
"I can see a park-like view of the arroyo," said Gerri Gire of Corte Monterey, noting its abundance of trees, birds and frogs. "I look at the changing leaves and think how lucky I am to live by the arroyo."
She said that if the 65-foot cell tower were erected in the proposed location it would appear more like 85 feet because of the way it would be situated.
"When you're right in front of it, yes, you're going to see it," said Lobaugh. "But it's the Cadillac of the mono-pines. ... We spent hours with staff coming up with the color. It's going to be a stealth structure that will hide the antennas."
The city retained a wireless expert, Peter Fruchawka of Accord Communications, to give his opinion on whether Verizon could achieve its coverage goals at another location but he reported that he did not have enough technical information from Verizon to perform an adequate analysis. Such data from wireless companies is often guarded, city staff noted.
Complete Wireless Consulting has said it could only move the tower about 10 feet south of the proposed location, due to existing underground utility lines. The Pleasanton Utilities Department concurred.
"This is the ideal location," said Lobaugh. "If we don't go here, I'm not sure where we will go."
He added that Verizon has a maintenance crew that would visit once a month to fix branches and needles that may have fallen.
The applicant provided photographs taken from the trail behind the homes on Corte Monterey to show that the faux tree would be blocked by real trees.
"I see trees with leaves that look like they'll fall off," Commissioner Kathy Narum said. "Is it possible to plant trees around the faux tree so we'll be less likely to see it in the winter?"
Commissioner Pentin suggested that a city landscaper evaluate the trees from the arroyo and advise them on what the view will be in the winter.
The Planning Commission voted 4-0, with Arne Olson absent, to continue the matter until Nov. 10 so that city staff can respond to questions and the applicant can provide photographs of a faux pine identical to the one proposed.