A new front opened Wednesday in the prolonged bureaucratic battle over whether AT&T can install cell phone antennas on a San Pablo Avenue office building in Albany.
On Jan. 30, Albany resident Heike Abeck filed an appeal of the Jan. 17 Planning & Zoning Commission approval of an application by AT&T Mobility to install antennas on the roof of a three-story office building at 1023 San Pablo Ave.
The appeal is expected to bring the issue to the City Council.
The commission's approval followed earlier rejections of AT&T's first application for the project, filed in 2008. The planning commission rejected that application last year, and when the appeal of that decision landed at the City Council, the council too turned thumbs down.
The commission decisions on both applications, and the council's decision on the first application, revolved largely around technical issues of conformance with zoning and building standards, such as height limits and amount of allowable rooftop structure.
Abeck's appeal lists five objections, which are attached to this article. Here is a summary:
- The building is non-conforming with height limits and therefore should be altered only for maintenance or residential use.
- The approved project lacks required screening.
- The project does not meet criteria for a 50-foot setback from residential property.
- The project site lies in the city's "last-preference zone" for cell phone antennas, and AT&T failed to show that other sites are not possible, particularly the USDA facility on Buchanan Street, located in a higher-preference zone.
- The city has not conducted required measurement of Radio Frequency radiation from other cellular sites to make sure that federal standards would not be exceeded.
The building already has Sprint wireless antennas.
AT&T has no antennas in Albany, and a number of its customers have complained about poor service. Opponents of the AT&T plan say the antennas should be further away from residential areas.
AT&T sued the city over the denial of its first application in federal court in August, alleging that the city improperly applied its regulations and that the decision improperly considered health concerns. The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 forbids denying cell phone antenna because of health concerns.