Town Square

Cell tower proposal gets weak reception

Original post made on Oct 4, 2008

Planning Commissioners sent a clear message to T-Mobile: you may not place wireless antennas on the McDonalds building at the Bernal-Valley-Stanley intersection.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 25, 2008, 3:15 PM


Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Oct 4, 2008 at 11:37 pm

This Planning Commission vote is another example of what they tried to do with the ATM machine at the Comerica branch in the Kolln building, that is, find a reason to reject something simple based upon some kind of ideology that a majority on this commission seem to embrace. It's puzzling what that ideology is.

The PW article does not explain much about this city ordinance that prohibits "sensitive populations" from being within 300 feet of a cell phone tower (or does the ordinance prevent cell phone towers near existing "sensitive populations"?). But later, the article talks about "vulnerable populations". From the this I conclude the city must have legislated some fringe-thinking ordinance based upon fear of "EMFs" causing disease in "vulnerable" populations. Consequently, the commission felt they found the hook with which they could stab to death the cell phone tower proposal.

There are two things about this that fly in the face of simple logic.

First, a very high voltage buried cable crosses the creek at the nearby bridge, passes more or less under Beth Emerek with its day care facilities and ties into the PG&E distribution station. Also, note that the PG&E distribution station lies right next to the property that may in the future have "vulnerable populations", according to the commission.

So, this cell phone tower is somehow more threatening to "vulnerable populations" than the high voltage line and the electrical distribution complex, all of which already lie within about 300 feet of the maybe-in-the-future "vulnerable populations". (Side note: if EMF's are so threatening, why doesn't Pleasanton have a similar ordinance in this regard for the high voltage line and the distribution station? Why does the temple's day care center practically lie on top of the high voltage line? The fields from high voltage overhead and underground lines far exceed the field strengths in the vicinity of cell phone towers.)

Second, these maybe-in-the-future "sensitive populations" seem to exist only in the minds of the commission members who voted down the cell phone tower. The owner of the property clearly had no opinion of that future possibility and the commission seemed to be standing in his place.

But more basically, think about the logic that is being used here. I can think of a common ordinance that many cities have that can be used as an example. Many cities have ordinances where within a few hundred feet of a church or school, they deny businesses the right to sell alcohol. So, imagine there is a vacant lot across the street from a business that wants to sell beer, for example. They are turned downed because someone thinks maybe a school or church might be built in the future on the vacant lot! On top of this, add that there is no evidence that such an event is likely. That's unfair.

I doubt that there is a legal right for a government body to use ordinances that prevent offending uses close to an existing property use in the reverse sense that this commission has done. There are no existing "vulnerable" populations in the vacant property across the street and the commission is exceeding their authority in this denial.

Posted by Jerry, a resident of Oak Hill
on Oct 5, 2008 at 3:31 am

Little secret for all the EMFer's - guess what's buried in the ground or hanging on the poles on your street.

Buried cables or overhead wires carrying 12kv or 21kv of electricity.

Posted by Kim, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:15 am

I like that the commission is considering all potential public safety considerations but I agree with Frank's logic.
I am sensitive to architectural ascetics and I don't think the tower is ugly, after all.... it's already a McDonalds.

Frank auf der Mar, hummm...... that explains the rabid property rights sensitivity.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 2:06 pm

I couldn't find any reference to "sensitive populations" or "vulnerable populations" in the municipal code. Where are these phrases coming from? What I did find was reference to "sensitive land uses" which means residential, parks, schools, major streets, etc.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown
on Oct 5, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Do you want to feel afraid for the future of Pleasanton? Attend a Planning Commission Meeting...
"Major entry way into the city..." Ahh yes, the beautiful Stanley corridor, that of self storage yards, railroad debris, power sub-stations, unfinished buildings, and the like. A McDonald's with an additional nine feet in height would ruin everything!
"Visible from recreational areas such as Shadow Cliffs..." Shadow Cliffs is literally a pit filled with water. Nothing is visible from Shadow Cliffs except the sides of the pit! It's nearly a mile away from the McDonald's anyway! The only recreational areas where it might be visible from is the BMX park, and the top of the water slides. Something tells me your typical BMX'er and waterslider are already well aware that a McDonald's is close by.

Posted by Planning?, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Oct 5, 2008 at 6:01 pm

In Pleasanton "Planning" has become an oxymoron. What they really do is "stopping" pretty much everything. In another thread there is discussion of why more business don't come to downtown. I know one of the big issues is the time and money it requires (obvious fee's), and not so obvious costs for potential new businesses. Planning has become a huge obsticle for doing business in Pleasanton. I understand safety issues are a concern, but how did we all survive without every little detail of or lives being legislated in the past. Guess we were just lucky.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Lydiksen Elementary School
on Oct 5, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Regarding who "legislated some fringe-thinking ordinance," why not ask Becky Dennis who is the one who introduced the ordinance in 1998? Or Sharell Michelotti, who voted for it? I was at the city council in May 1998 when they did that.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Avila
on Oct 5, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Planning fees are the least of the problems of attracting corporations to Pleasanton.

Ever since hundreds of the nation's newspapers (except strangely, the local press) reported on the fraud occurring at Peoplesoft in Pleasanton and the Department of Justice federal investigation and the outcome
Web Link
unfortunately, the address of "Pleasanton CA" is tainted. High tech and software companies don't want a Pleasanton address. Customers, private sector and government-related, who have dealt with high tech and software companies, feel nervous dealing with Pleasanton companies because of what happened.

It is similar to how Enron tainted Houston TX and now businesses do not want to locate in Houston because of it.

One bad company who does something very wrong and ends up in a scandal can make the entire town it was located in tainted for years and years. That is just the way it is. The whole town is associated with corruption even though the corruption was actually carried out by a few. Very sad, but true.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Does anyone even know which ordinance? There is no mention of "sensitive" or "vulnerable" populations in the municipal code. I believe this article is written in such a way that it is inadvertently giving the wrong impression of what the "300 foot" ordinance is about.

The basic premise is instead of restricting development based upon EXISTING land uses, the out-of-control Planning Commission is restricting something based upon "what-ifs". They've gone all backwards in their thinkin.

There's a great Hungarian folk tale about "what-ifs". A daughter starts crying one day. The mother asks why. The daughter says she's crying because there's a block of salt stored in the rafters above the table and she is concerned that one day she'll get married, have a baby, and be changing a baby's diaper on the table and the block of salt will fall and kill the baby. So the mother starts crying too. They're both bawling their eyes out and the father comes in to find out what the commotion is all about. The daughter explains the problem. The father tells them he must leave. He has to go out in the world and find three other idiots before he can return.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 7:22 pm

"Well," the man said to them, "I don't know if there are two other fools in this world who would be your equals! I am going now, and I'll keep on going until I find two fools like you. Is this a reason to cry?"

Posted by RememberMcKinleyPark, a resident of Downtown
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:12 pm

I agree that frank must work for Comerica. Maybe Stacey works for Cingular, Sprint or T-Mobile. If I can find the law in the municipal code to which Mrs. Pelletier refers (in the first try), it looks like Stacey is searching the wrong document (maybe of a Hungarian city??).

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:26 pm

From the article: "A city ordinance that prevents "sensitive populations" from within 300 feet of a cell tower put commissioners over the top on upholding the appeal."

There is no such phrase "sensitive population" in the municipal code. Try again.

The Planning Commission's thinking is totally backwards. What they've done is no different from denying a business a permit to serve alcohol because a church _might_ be built next door, even though there are no plans for a church.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Thank you Jack-Lydiksen, you greatly narrowed the search on the city's web site to find this ordinance. By actually reading the ordinance for yourself, you can clearly understand what the PW is talking about regarding "sensitive" and "vulnerable" populations. Otherwise, much is left up in the air about what the heck was talked about where the words in this ordinance gave a majority on this Planning Commission some kind of comfort that they voted fairly.

I posted the entire ordinance at:

Web Link

The file may take some time to download since it is 2.2 MB in size. If you can't download here, go to the city website and download Ordinance 1743.

You should note that the vote was unanimous. Ayala, Dennis,Michelotti, Pico, and Tarver. The ordinance is a comprehensive 33 page document that regulates cell phone facilities. The implied issue about EMFs and "sensitive populations" is found under the Locational Standards.

The relevant part of this ordinance can be found on page 9. Look at B.3.a through B.3.e.

The limitation of 300 feet applies to "existing or approved residences within ....", "existing or approved public schools, private schools, child care centers,....", "neighborhood parks, community parks, or regional parks....", "and existing or approved senior care/assisted living facilities...".

Please take note of the very important words EXISTING OR APPROVED. No such facilities defined in 3.a through 3.e are EXISTING OR APPROVED for the property in question.

Clearly, the Planning Commission exceeded their authority in denying the cell phone tower by citing what this ordinance regulates. You can't claim fairness by saying a proposed use would theoretically violate a hypothetical, non-existing or non-approved future use of a neighboring property. T-Mobile should appeal this decision to the full council in order to get a fair decision. This Commission is not capable of being fair as evidenced by this decision.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:43 pm

If you found the code regarding the 300 foot buffer zone (note lack of "sensitive populations"), then you'll notice that it specifies 300 feet from EXISTING or APPROVED "sensitive land uses". It says nothing regarding "maybe in the future someone will create a sensitive land use next door".

Posted by Tim, a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:45 pm

There was a steering committee made up of residents that put forth recommendations for the ordinance a long time ago. They were, for those who are new to Pleasanton (like Stacey, obviously a newcomer to Pleasanton) as follows :

Brenda Weak, Joan Tenbrick, Lisa Castillo, Janine Kenk, Peter Maushardt, Sandy Reles, Karen Vernetti, Michael Kelsh, John De Melo, Brad Hirst, Mark den Broeder, Ron Kane, Cindy Mackey, Mark Smith, Mary Smith, Steve Cole, Brit Miller, Pat Sausedo, Renee Perko

Why don't you contact one of them instead of spouting off about it on the forum? Or contact the city?

Now that the school district has passed on the 20 acre site near Valley/Stanley and the Neal fiasco has occurred, the former Home Depot proposal site would be the only one left on the east side to accommodate a school site. If the cell tower is put at McDonalds, the former Home Depot proposal site can never be 1) a school 2) a private school 3) a child care center 4) a church with a child care center and 5) a facility providing services to seniors/assisted living, 6) residentially zoned, 7) a park, 8) a regional park.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Like I said, I think the article is written as to inadvertently give the wrong impression about what the ordinance was about. A "sensitive population" sounds like those people who get sick from radio waves and line their walls with foil. That's not what the ordinance was about.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:49 pm

HAHA dude! Newcomer? I grew up here! I'm a product of PUSD. Hey, look out! Your kids just might turn out like me!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Oh yea, let's rezone the Home Depot site for a "sensitive land use", which sits right next to a large PG&E substation!

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Tim, I've lived here going on thirty years. Don't tell me what I or anyone else should do before we write in this forum. Why don't you read my post about EXISTING and APPROVED uses and what the ordinance in question says. Then, explain to me your legal theories about hypothetical future uses of property.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 8:57 pm

The City can only really restrict such things based upon existing or approved land uses. You can't restrict based upon hypothetical uses otherwise you can get sued. That is why the ordinance specifically uses the words "existing" and "approved".

Now it would be nice if someone could invent cell antennae that don't need to be so large.

Posted by Tim, a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 5, 2008 at 9:13 pm

frank/Stacey - You are looking at only part of the ordinance on 18.110.050 Locational Standards when you cite 'existing and approved.' The other part of the ordinance which you seem to not be able to find is that *future uses* of adjacent parcels to a cell tower placed in Pleasanton are restricted in relation to the 300 foot buffer.

See 18.28.040 Conditional Uses A District
See 18.40.040 Conditional Uses O District
See 18.44.090 Conditional Uses C District
etc. etc. etc.

The east side specific plan that has been talked about for years and hopefully will address what will become of the former Home Depot site.

Posted by Tim, a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 5, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Oh, I read the above threads and thank you Becky Dennis and Sharell Michelotti for making this part of the Municipal Code.

And if the site is rezoned public/institutional, I am grateful no cell tower will be placed at McDonalds. Thanks to Becky and Sharrell, Pleasanton Municipal Code 18.56.040 indicates that if a cell tower were placed at the McDonalds and the site would be rezoned across the street to public/institutional, convalescent hospitals, convalescent homes, senior care/assisted living facilities, parks, playgrounds, private schools, nursery schools would not be an option at the former Home Depot site.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Oct 5, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Thank you Tim for pointing out how creating an ordinance that restricts a particular use of property in the vicinity or EXISTING or APPROVED uses, that the ordinance then needed to deal with the quid pro quo where somebody comes along and says they want a conditional use permit, like to put in a day care facility near a cell phone tower in an Agricultural district, Commercial district, Office district, etc. Well, you can't say a cell phone tower can't be put near an existing day care facility and turn around and later on grant a conditional use permit for a day care center in an office district near an existing cell phone tower without severely undermining the legality of the original ordinance.

That's just common legal sense.

But to use this as a basis to deny cell phone towers where no existing or approved use exists is not fair, and probably illegal if tested in court.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Oct 5, 2008 at 9:49 pm

By the way, why are Tim and others seemingly obsessed with rezoning or obtaining conditional use permits for Frank Auf Der Mar's property. Is this a communist thing or something? You don't own it, he does!

Posted by ????, a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Oct 5, 2008 at 10:01 pm

mmmm, Tim writes like he is one of the Planning Commissioners defending his vote.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 10:02 pm


You seem to be missing the part where the proposed Home Depot site is not zoned public/institutional. Who wants to live next door to a PG&E substation?!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Go Planning Commission! Guardians of property owners' interests for hypothetical uses!

Posted by Michelle, a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 5, 2008 at 11:00 pm

With the $700 billion government bailout to purchase bad mortgage-backed securities, I'm interested why certain Pleasanton residents are worried about defending telecommunication industry giants to have a divine right to put cell towers wherever they want when cell phone reception is hardly a pressing national crisis.

The WorldCom scandal was one of the ones that started this nationwide economic downturn. And now if that is not enough, the telecom companies want to pop up a tower everywhere you look.

Telecommunications companies scamming the people and the government, banks failing, people losing their homes through foreclosures--those are important issues, not this.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 6, 2008 at 8:28 am


I think you're missing the point. It is about fairness. How can we expect to be treated fairly by the law when we have a Planning Commission that is looking for an excuse to deny fairness to a business because someone decided they don't like cell phone towers hidden in cupolas in McDonalds? It isn't supposed to matter if the applicant is a telecommunications company, a property owner, a soccer mom, or a polka-dotted person. I mean, just say that they can't place the tower at that location because it is right next to Stanley, a major road, which apparently constitutes a "sensitive land use" per the ordinance instead of making up hypothetical unplanned and unapproved "MAYBE IF we rezone" land uses on the Auf der Maur property.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 6, 2008 at 8:55 am

BTW, you should add to your list "people living on credit (debt spending)".

Posted by Bill, a resident of Rosepointe
on Oct 6, 2008 at 9:13 am

I'm not losing sleep over the denial of Home Depot by the City Council. I'm not losing sleep over the denial of another cell tower (now THAT is a compelling need-brings a new spin to the word "fried food.") I'm not losing sleep over the denial of the big mall by Ruby Hill.
But I am disappointed that in downtown, businesses that do not even generate sales tax (banks), are taking over spaces that are prime retail locations, which used to have businesses in them that generate sales tax. The banks there are just there, but do not increase the foot traffic downtown nor make it downtown a compelling destination to visit during the day. Livermore is doing a much better job in attracting shoppers downtown. A major retail complex at the Stanley corner would be detrimental to downtown business if remaining retailers decide to relocate there. You think that the empty storefronts now are a problem, think about what it could be like in the future.

Posted by Misnomer, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Oct 6, 2008 at 1:39 pm

I think it is a mistake to think or assume that everything Livermore is doing is not only right but in fact working. Livermore's downtown continues to have much more vacancy (granted they do have more space), but also much turnover in businesses. Some of the "hot new places" like the fondue restaurant are already gone! From what I hear a little bit of success has already begun to make it much more difficult for new businesses in Livermore. I am seeing just as many long term businesses go away in Livermore as are happening in Pleasanton.

Nothing against Livermore, but I was always taught in business to worry more about your customers than your competition.

Posted by KEN, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2008 at 5:57 pm

got henry?

Posted by KEN, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2008 at 5:57 pm

got henry?

Posted by Fan of Fondue, a resident of Livermore
on Oct 6, 2008 at 8:04 pm

As of Saturday night, Simply Fondue was alive and well in downtown Livermore. Just 'cause Pleasanton lost Kolln Hardware, don't be spreading rumors about our end of the valley that aren't true.

Posted by B, a resident of Downtown
on Oct 7, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Thank goodness. I wanted to try that restaurant that out. Glad it is still there and hope there are no cell towers on top of Simply Fondue. Keep up the good work Planning Commission.