Searching for better reception for its clients, Verizon Wireless hopes to install a 65-foot tower disguised as a pine tree in a city-owned pump station facility off I-680 in the northwest corner of the Bernal Corporate Business Park on Koll Center Parkway. But neighbors of the business park are objecting.
"The fake tree will take away from the quality look of our neighborhood," Gerri Gire of Corte Monterey told the Planning Commission on Sept. 22. "They said it was not visible to the neighborhood, but it is visible to the neighborhood."
Neighbors also stated that the proposed cell tower raises health fears. Pleasanton has an ordinance that cell towers may not be located within 300 feet of a school or a park and the neighbors interpreted that to mean a health danger. Several women stated that their children play near the arroyo between their neighborhood and the business park so it should be treated like a park.
Planning Manager Janice Stern clarified that the 300-foot regulation, which is unique to Pleasanton, is strictly for aesthetics, not due to health issues.
"We have towers on schools and parks all over the state," said Mark Lobaugh of Complete Wireless Consulting Inc., which would install the tower for Verizon.
Lobaugh first applied for approval with the city in September 2009, noting that it would provide coverage for the residential neighborhoods of Highland Oaks, Oak Hill, Foothill Knolls, Laguna Oaks, Valley Trails and Del Prado.
After several site visits and meetings, the city sent out a notice regarding the proposal to neighbors, who responded with concerns about visual impact, health effects and the subsequent impact on their property values.
At the meeting, city planning staff asked if the applicant could look at the T-Mobile tower located in the business park farther away from the neighborhood and see if the two wireless services could be combined. Lobaugh said this is not an option.
"We started our search for a site one-and-a-half to two years ago," said Lobaugh. "We spent a lot of time looking at various sites. We thought it was the ideal site. It's completely ringed by trees."
He noted that designers had gone to great lengths to make the tower resemble a "mono-pine" that would blend in with the landscaping near the freeway as part of the existing tree canopy. He also said that the city's pump station facility site has room for Verizon's ground equipment.
"We have a backup diesel generator. We need it onsite," said Lobaugh. "We have a pretty robust footprint."
"I know it will generate revenue (for the city) and I'm sure that's appealing but it is not what we want," Nancy Wedge of Corte Monterey told the commissioners.
The Planning Commissioners had questions about how the mono-pine would look although the applicant provided some simulations.
"I am not satisfied with these visuals," said Commissioner Kathy Narum. "It's not about how it looks on the freeway. It's how it looks in the neighborhood."
She also requested a diagram showing the area the cell tower is being erected to cover.
"I would like some concrete reasons why other buildings wouldn't work," she said.
Commissioners also requested close-up photographs of the proposed faux tree, and asked the applicant to evaluate the southeast building in the business park. They gave the applicants 15 days to provide the following:
* Written evaluation on how far south on the site they could move the tower;
* Additional photo simulations taken from the arroyo between I-680 and the homes on Corte Monterey;
* More photos of what the mono-pine tower would look like; and
* An evaluation of wireless coverage available from the immediate building to the south of the site.
The matter was continued to the Planning Commission meeting of Oct. 27.