ALBANY -- Plans by AT&T to install cell phone antennas on a San Pablo Avenue building have encountered another obstacle after a resident filed an appeal challenging the Planning and Zoning Commission's Jan. 17 approval of the project.

The appeal will be heard by the City Council at a future meeting.

The appeal is the latest battle in a nearly five-year fight over the antennas proposed for installation on a building at 1035 San Pablo Ave. AT&T has modified its proposal several times and at one point filed a lawsuit against the city.

The proposal approved last month would have AT&T lease space within the building to house its supporting equipment. A rooftop penthouse would be removed.

The penthouse, which had been offered as a place to house the equipment in a previous proposal, makes the building nonconforming with Albany's building codes and that fact led to the rejection of the previous proposal.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-0 to approve the new proposal (Commissioner David Arkin lives near the proposed site and recused himself).

However, Heike Abeck filed an appeal on Jan. 30 that cites five points:

  • That because the building is nonconforming, it can only be altered for maintenance or residential purposes;

  • That the antennas won't be screened, which violates city code which requires screening;


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  • That the installation is not set back 50 feet from residential property lines and the equipment could affect neighbors with noise or other negative impacts;

  • That due diligence wasn't done on alternative sites;

  • And that the city has not done city code-required biannual testing of radio frequency radiation from existing cell antennas.

    Some of those issues have been discussed already, in particular clashes between proposal supporters and opponents over whether alternative sites have been thoroughly explored. AT&T has maintained they have, arguing that the 1035 San Pablo Ave. site is the best site for the antennas. Abeck noted in her appeal that the U.S. Department of Agriculture owns property in Albany and has expressed potential interest in hosting antennas.

    "Further negotiations for the USDA site are needed; there is no justification for approving the site at 1035 San Pablo if the site can be located at the USDA facility," Abeck wrote in her appeal.

    U.S. law states that radio frequency issues cannot be used to deny antenna siting. Only standard zoning requirements may be used.

    "We've been working with the city to meet the city code for years now," said AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman. "Our newest application had significant scrutiny on it from the Planning Commission and it won unanimous approval. Residents in Albany need this infrastructure, they need this coverage. People want their mobile devices to work, they want their data to move quickly. AT&T has to build this in Albany, we're going to do whatever we need to do to make it happen. We're committed to our customers in the area."