The quashed an appeal by AT&T Wireless on Monday night to overturn a planning commission decision earlier this year to to mount new cell phone antennas on a rooftop on San Pablo Avenue.
and , along with , voted to uphold the planning commission's decision, while and voted against it.
"It's unfortunate that after four years of AT&T working with the city and community, the council decided to deny Albany residents improved wireless access. In the coming days we'll be reviewing all of our options. We remain committed to providing Albany with the great wireless access it deserves," said Lane Kasselman, AT&T spokesman, via email after the meeting.
Another AT&T representative, Stephanie Rosa, would not comment Monday night on whether AT&T plans to file a lawsuit against the city in light of the decision, but said the company will "review all of our options in the next few days."
AT&T had argued that its application, for 1035 San Pablo Ave., could be approved within the city's zoning code, but the planning commission ruled, ultimately, that there wasn't enough room on the building's roof given the city's rules about rooftop coverage.
Wile, Atkinson and Lieber agreed with the commission, which voted 3-1 in May against the application. (One member of the panel had to recuse himself due to proximity.)
On Monday, AT&T representatives submitted a new plan they said would have allowed them to build their antennas, and remove part of a penthouse structure on the roof, which would have left more room on the building's roof than currently exists.
Mayor Javandel said he would have considered this a reasonable solution to the problem.
said she would have liked to give AT&T another chance to reduce the rooftop clutter further to bring the application into compliance with the city's code.
But other officials said it was too little, too late, and that AT&T had had plenty of time to come up with a project that would have been in compliance with the code.
About 10 members of the public spoke against the application, while four spoke in favor of it.
Those in favor said Albany residents and businesses deserve better service, and that health concerns about cell antennas have been shown to be overblown.
Those against the application said the city should not overlook the municipal code to cater to the wireless giant, and that nearby neighbors, and their children, should not have to shoulder the burden of more antennas looming over them.
(Sprint already has a wireless facility on top of 1035 San Pablo Ave.; the city's wireless ordinance directs applicants to "co-locate" wireless facilities when possible, but also describes dense residential areas as the least preferable location for new facilities, say opponents of the application.)
Lieber, along with several members of the public, said AT&T should investigate building its wireless facility on top of Albany's , and further away from a dense residential neighborhood.
AT&T has said that the USDA has, up to this point, not been cooperative with the company's attempts to investigate whether the site would work and that, further, antennas would need to be built taller on top of that building to reach consumers further east, where the company hopes to close a coverage gap.
Javandel said that, given the challenges faced by the city in recent years in convincing the USDA to agree to cede some of its land for , he wasn't hopeful that officials there would readily agree to the construction of a wireless facility on its roof.
Lieber said AT&T simply hadn't tried hard enough to open up a dialogue with the USDA, and that he himself had written to about whether Zhang would consider cell phone antenna applications; Zhang's response, consisting of eight questions, was included in the materials available to the public Monday night.
Javandel countered that, rather than answer questions posed via email by Lieber, Zhang had responded with a long list of questions about what a wireless project might entail.
"The USDA dodged your questions and asked a lot of other questions back instead," said Javandel. "They might eventually be answered..."
Click the "Keep me posted" button below this story for updates on cell phone issues in Albany. Read more on Albany Patch about the AT&T application here.
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