The City of Palo Alto, Calif., is investigating the resources and zoning ordinances needed to allow wireless facilities at electric utility substation sites, City Hall and on other city property.
“Staff is seeking council direction regarding allowing use of electric utility substation sites and the roof of City Hall for wireless communications facilities towers to support multiple providers,” according to the staff report. Some believe the city’s move is meant to provide an alternative to DAS deployment.
Currently the city only hosts three macro cell towers at fire station sites within Palo Alto and DAS on utility poles in city rights-of-way. On Dec. 6, 2011, the council approved an application for an initial 19 such DAS installations requested by AT&T in residential areas, and staff has subsequently approved an additional. AT&T has another 60 potential sites in various stages of the application review process. The deployments, however, have led to intense community opposition.
Lane Kasselman, AT&T spokesman saw no contradiction between the city’s efforts and AT&T’s DAS wireless build out.
“We think getting the ability to place infrastructure on city facilities is fantastic,” Kasselman said. “We applaud the city for doing it. We look forward to having it is an option. We need that and we need DAS. It is not an either/or question in our minds.
The number of smart phone users in Palo Alto is one of the highest in the country and usage is growing exponentially, he noted.
“Palo Alto is ground zero of the tech revolution,” Kasselman said. “Once we are done with this DAS deployment, there will be a need for more infrastructure, so the more siting possibilities the city can make available the better.”
The city’s staff also wants to look at ways to streamline the process, developing incentives for use of the city’s facilities, including a ministerial permit review process, favorable lease rates, and streamlined utility and encroachment permit reviews.
In 2011, a consultant concluded that nearly the entire city could be covered using antennas at the existing nine utility substation facilities. The city utilities department has also worked with Crown Castle Communications to further review market potential of the antenna sites and the design for the 75-foot to 125-foot antenna structures.
The move by Palo Alto would appear to be in line with an executive order signed by President Obama recently facilitating the deployment of broadband infrastructure on federal lands, buildings and rights of way, among other areas, particularly in underserved communities.