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Appeal Filed of AT&T Antennas Approval

An Albany resident has filed an appeal of the city Planning & Zoning Commission's Jan 17 approval of AT&T cell phone antennas on a San Pablo Avenue office building. The appeal says the antennas project would violate several regulations.

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:

  1. The building is non-conforming with height limits and therefore should be altered only for maintenance or residential use.
  2. The approved project lacks required screening.
  3. The project does not meet criteria for a 50-foot setback from residential property.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 

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See past Albany Patch coverage of cell phone antenna issues. 

Senior A. Titude February 01, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Aaarrrrgggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!
Robert Marshall February 01, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Ugh. Here we go again!!
Alan Eckert February 01, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Why didn't anyone show up at the meeting where it was being discussed? The committee approved it with no one there to speak in opposition, especially in light of the crowds opposed to it last year.
Sean Smith February 01, 2013 at 06:45 PM
So it goes.
Caryl O'Keefe February 01, 2013 at 10:05 PM
@Alan - people including Heike Abeck did show up at the P&Z meeting where it was discussed Jan 17. Heike spoke in opposition on 4 points, only 2 of which are in the appeal. Most of the others who spoke that night explitcitly supported this application. Some additional, relevant info on items 2 &3 of the appeal,info covered Jan 17 but not mentioned in the appeal. 2. screening - P&Z asked that proposed (south side only) paintable screening be removed for aesthetic reasons, finding that screening required by code was achieved there with vegetation and co-location. (AT&T said they'd put in more screening or leave it out, whatever P&Z wanted) 3. per code the 50' setback can be reduced if there's no perceptible noise or visual impacts from the reduction. The equipment less than 50' away is inside an office suite which is inside a commercial building. This appeal filing fee was $550, nonrefundable. Someone has plenty of money to spend to further delay this application.
Craig Westbrooke February 02, 2013 at 01:58 AM
Someday we will get Albany out of the stone age. Meanwhile I will string up my cans and string phone system and maybe a rug for smoke signals (except on spare the air days) Geez, its the same people holding the city hostage.
Peter Goodman February 02, 2013 at 05:18 PM
This is basically ARROW stuff. All these arguments are proxy issues, since the real issue for them - radiation - is by law not permitted to be a factor in the decision. Wearing tin-foil hats would be an easy solution, but I suspect that even if this appeal is denied ARROW will find another way of blocking this little bit of progress.
Jim Sanetra February 02, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Why not cancel your AT&T contract as Verizon has better service. I don't want my children exposed to more antennas near my front yard and also the neighbors preschool. Recent studies suggest that cell phones may cause health problems. Concerns about cancer and other health problems have spurred government agencies in six countries to issue warnings to consumers to reduce cell phone radiation exposures, especially for children. Yet the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration, two U.S. government agencies charged with oversight of radiation-emitting devices, have not kept up with recent research on cell phone radiation. The FCC issued its cell phone regulations setting maximum radiation limits back in 1996, based on recommendations offered several years prior to that by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an industry group.
dgies February 04, 2013 at 06:21 AM
I wonder what with the new city council makeup if this appeal isn't just throwing money down the drain. Could this just be setting up for a drawn out legal case?
David Sanger February 08, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Jim, I don't want to be forced to use Verizon. Are you prepared to pay me the thousands of dollars it would cost me? I think not. Anyway US federal policy is to encourage competition at the local level and the City has no right to impede that. Also your health concerns comments, which apparently are copied from a website, relate to handset radio waves not base stations which are thousands of times less.
David Sanger February 16, 2013 at 08:04 AM
The City Council meeting to decide on the appeal is next Tuesday February 19th at 7:30pm Here's the agenda: http://albanyca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?event_id=a31cec6c-c76a-1030-b4c5-84d7a9c8f15d and the staff report recommending that the Council approve a resolution denying the appeal and approving the project: http://albanyca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=62319&view=&showpdf=1 I hope everyone who supports better wireless service in Albany and wants to put an end to the endless delays on this project will be able to come to the Council meeting and speak.
David Sanger May 09, 2013 at 01:01 AM
You're a bit late Peter. The appeal was soundly rejected in February
Peter Goodman May 09, 2013 at 04:33 AM
Um, Patch weirdness alert. I wrote this comment months ago. And I believe it appeared months ago. Why does it pop up with today's May 8 date all of a sudden?
Dover May 09, 2013 at 05:20 AM
It's odd you would say that, Jim, considering that Heike has told us that she is quite happy with her AT&T service. One would think you would want your own wife to have the very best. Tsk, tsk. ;-}
Charles Burress (Editor) May 09, 2013 at 07:26 AM
Peter, that is strange. I found your comment had been suspended because it had been flagged by somebody or somebodies, so I reinstated it. But it shouldn't be showing May 8 as the date it was posted! I'll see if we can get this fixed. In any case, we're switching to a new platform in a few days, so hopefully this kind of problem will disappear.
Paul D May 09, 2013 at 03:01 PM
Can't this Abeck person be labeled a vexatious filer or whatever muzzle fits to knock this stuff off?

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