AT&T Mobility has returned with a new application to install cell phone antennas and radio units on top of the same San Pablo Avenue building in Albany for which a previous application was rejected last year by the city.
The new AT&T proposal goes before the city's Planning & Zoning Commission Thursday night. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers at Albany City Hall.
City staff recommends approval of the application, according to a staff report prepared for the meeting by City Planner Anne Hersch. (The report is attached.)
The building already has a Sprint wireless facility, installed in 1997 before Albany adopted its wireless facility regulations.
AT&T proposes to add nine "panel antennas" and 21 "remote radio units" on top of a three-story office building at 1023 San Pablo Ave., the staff report says.
The antennas will be concealed behind two plastic structures on the roof, while the radio units will be hidden behind the building's parapet, according to the AT&T application. The installation's equipment room, including a power plant with battery rack, would be placed inside the building on the first floor, the application says. (The application is attached to this article.)
A previous application filed in 2008 by AT&T to put antennas on the building was denied last spring by the planning commission. Staff had recommended approval. The denial was appealed to the City Council, which voted 3-2 in July to uphold the commission's decision based on findings that the proposal violated city regulations and code requirements.
AT&T sued the city over the denial 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 "specifically prevents a jurisdiction from denying the application request as a result of radio frequency or health concerns," the staff report notes.
AT&T and supporters of the antennas argued that Albany's AT&T service suffers because the company does not have any cellphone antennas in the city. The nearest ones are two-thirds of a mile away at 1255 Eastshore Freeway in Berkeley and 1.2 miles away at El Cerrito Plaza, according to the staff report.
Opponents expressed fears about placing the antennas in an area where many families live and urged that the company pick a different location further away from residents.
Opposition to cellphone antennas in a number of communities has been grounded in large part in health fears but waged around issues that are contestable under the law.
The commission had ruled that the AT&T plan would have violated city rules on structures on rooftops.
One issue was the allowable square footage on the roof, given the existence of a "penthouse" structure already on top of the building. The current AT&T proposal would largely demolish the penthouse structure, which "will eliminate roof-top coverage issues," according to the staff report.
City staff also asked AT&T if it would agree to a pause in the federal court lawsuit pending the outcome of the new application. But AT&T declined the city's request "and both parties are proceeding with litigation," the staff report says.