Usually if your city lets a mobile carrier put up a cellular tower across the street from you, you could show up at meetings and maybe file a lawsuit. Today’s antenna opponent takes much more direct action.
Angered resident ends 17 years of free service he created for the City of Palo Alto
by Sue Dremann, Palo Alto Weekly Staff
Stephen Stuart, a Palo Alto resident who has provided the City of Palo Alto with a free connection to the Internet for 17 years, gave notice on Tuesday (March 29) that a nonprofit organization he works with, Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), will sever the city’s connection in two weeks.
The decision is a consequence of the planning department’s conditional approval last week of a 50-foot cell tower, to be erected across the street from Stuart’s home. The permit is scheduled to be considered by the Architectural Review Board on April 7.
Stuart maintains the planning department chose to ignore city laws when it approved the AT&T tower. City planners have said they have little legal leeway to deny the permit and cannot under federal law deny the permit on the basis of radiation levels, so long as those levels are within federal guidelines.
But Stuart and his wife, Tru Love, said that the city is misreading the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and ignoring ordinances it has in place that would protect residents.
"This is not a threat. This is not a punishment. This is the consequence of the city not enforcing its laws," Stuart said.
Okay, I am going to do my dangdest to ignore that this guy’s wife has a stripper name and I won’t make any comments about the 50 foot pole going up across the street. Bwahaha!
This is the neighborhood in question; Stuart’s house is marked with the little blue icon, and the church/school property is across the street with three red-roofed buildings, parking lots, and playing fields. The tower will be in the west end of the church sanctuary itself, disguised as a steeple with a cross atop it (see AT&T’s render at right, taken from the back of the church).
A large group opposed to the tower is trying to stop it the conventional way. Stuart one-upped everyone by pulling the plug to teh internetz.
It’s an interesting situation. How many cities had someone set up a free service for them and then after 17 years, “Hey, that antenna across the street sucks, I’m shutting off your tubes.” According the article, Stuart is giving the city 2 weeks to find another service. He is also cutting off the Palo Alto Arts Center, but not the schools or the other cities in the consortium.
Even if the city were to deny AT&T’s permit, Stuart said he would not reconnect the city.
When the city failed to exercise its own laws, "it discouraged people from investing in the city. I have invested my time. I’m done," he said.
Not explained in the article or in this one by the SJ Mercury News is why the nonprofit ISC agreed to Stuart’s demand that Palo Alto city offices be cut off, and in only 14 days, to boot. The notification was sent by ISC’s Director of Business Operations Laura Hendriksen, not by Stuart. Several commenters on the PAO website suggested these actions could endanger ISC’s 501(c)3 status.
Meanwhile, Palo Altans had best gets used to cellular antennas at houses of worship. Unlike Los Altos Hills, where residents can put up multiple cellular towers in their front yards, in Palo Alto it’s the religious sites that erect profitable ziggurats. Watch the fur fly as T-Mobile (soon to be acquired by AT&T) puts in a 65-foot tower, disguised as a tree, at Congregation Etz Chaim in South Palo Alto.
Stuart may be miffed because he doesn’t see moving as an option. He and his wife bought their Channing Avenue house in 2005, and built a new house on the site which was completed in 2009 (photo above).
The couple claim the tower will reduce property values. Given the number of commenters complaining about terrible AT&T service in Palo Alto (blue pushpins in map, right, show current AT&T cell towers, red circle shows the neighborhood), it may actually increase them.
Meanwhile, AT&T wants to erect 80 Distributed Antenna Systems in Palo Alto. These smaller antennas would be mounted on existing utility poles. The city has not responded to this proposal yet.