Proposed six-story-tall cell tower camouflaged as a pine tree goes to Pleasanton planners tonight

'Faux pine' tower would be installed next to Bernal Corporate Park, I-680

The Pleasanton Planning Commission is expected to decide tonight if a contractor for Verizon Wireless can install a 65-foot-tall cell phone tower next to Bernal Corporate Business Park.

Commissioners showed signs of frustration at their Oct. 27 meeting as they tried to envision the "faux pine" cell tower that Verizon Wireless wants to build.

"Is there an example that one could go look at?" Commissioner Jerry Pentin asked, wondering aloud whether Pleasanton would be the first to erect this exact type of mono-pine tower.

Mark Lobaugh of Complete Wireless Consulting, representing Verizon, told the Planning Commissioners that one of the faux pines could be seen in Auburn.

Verizon has applied to erect the six-story-high tower, disguised as a pine tree, in the city-owned pump station facility in the northwest corner of Koll Center Parkway, adjacent to I-680 and Arroyo del Valle.

Verizon representatives said that the tower is needed for coverage in the neighborhoods of Highland Oaks, Oak Hill, Foothill Knolls, Laguna Oak, Valley Trails and Del Prado as well as businesses in the area. The application was made in September 2009.

Residents from the neighborhood immediately north of the arroyo have been protesting the tower with letters and appearances at Planning Commission meetings, saying the cell tower would have a negative visual impact on their homes.

"I can see a park-like view of the arroyo," said Gerri Gire of Corte Monterey, noting its abundance of trees, birds and frogs. "I look at the changing leaves and think how lucky I am to live by the arroyo."

She said that if the 65-foot cell tower were erected in the proposed location it would appear more like 85 feet because of the way it would be situated.

"When you're right in front of it, yes, you're going to see it," said Lobaugh. "But it's the Cadillac of the mono-pines. ... We spent hours with staff coming up with the color. It's going to be a stealth structure that will hide the antennas."

The city retained a wireless expert, Peter Fruchawka of Accord Communications, to give his opinion on whether Verizon could achieve its coverage goals at another location but he reported that he did not have enough technical information from Verizon to perform an adequate analysis. Such data from wireless companies is often guarded, city staff noted.

Complete Wireless Consulting has said it could only move the tower about 10 feet south of the proposed location, due to existing underground utility lines. The Pleasanton Utilities Department concurred.

"This is the ideal location," said Lobaugh. "If we don't go here, I'm not sure where we will go."

He added that Verizon has a maintenance crew that would visit once a month to fix branches and needles that may have fallen.

The applicant provided photographs taken from the trail behind the homes on Corte Monterey to show that the faux tree would be blocked by real trees.

"I see trees with leaves that look like they'll fall off," Commissioner Kathy Narum said. "Is it possible to plant trees around the faux tree so we'll be less likely to see it in the winter?"

Commissioner Pentin suggested that a city landscaper evaluate the trees from the arroyo and advise them on what the view will be in the winter.

At its last meeting, the Planning Commission voted 4-0, with Commissioner Arne Olson absent, to continue the matter until tonight's meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

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Like this comment
Posted by Scott
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Nov 9, 2010 at 8:54 am

This is a must for Pleasanton West side homeowners and students attending Foothill. Cell coverage is so bad, most of our neighbors must go outside to find open space to gain limited cell coverage for all providers. Its concerning when an emergency is taking place and you can't obtain service. Having this Faux cell tower trees near your home near increase it's value.

Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Rosepointe
on Nov 9, 2010 at 9:44 am

An example of a tower intended to look like a tree can be seen on the right within a mile of the Sunol turnoff as one comes into Pleasanton from the south on I680.

Like this comment
Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Nov 9, 2010 at 9:58 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

That tower south of town is one ugly tree. I always wonder why there isn't another tree for miles. I would prefer a 65 foot statue of Jesus with prongs in his outstretched arms. It could be painted with seasonal colors.

Like this comment
Posted by Hardly noticeable
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2010 at 11:05 am

I believe there is a cell tower disguised as a tree just west of 680 near Danville.
You can barely tell, and then only if you are already aware of it, mostly just because it is not the same exact color, or maybe reflection, as real trees nearby.

Why can't they get a picture of that one?

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Posted by Michael Leonard
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Nov 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Michael Leonard is a registered user.

I can't believe the statements in the article. Those towers are everywhere if you look for them. If the commissioner has not seen one that shows you how well the disguise works. I guess some people in Pleasanton don't use cell phones. I'd like to see the tower go up. We need better coverage. And to the people who say their view is going to be hurt, sorry, but Pleasanton isn't a little ranch town any more and the tower is going in a business park not your front yard.

Like this comment
Posted by Rosie
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I think that putting up this tree is a great idea. We can never have too many trees in Pleasanton to keep it green and pretty!

Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 9, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Downtowner is a registered user.

I personally don't mind the faux tree, but I don;t understand why they don't just put the antenna on top of one of the office buildings in Bernal Corporate Center (Koll Center Drive), which is right next to there. Cell towers on office buildings are completely routine and should not even require planning approval.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Nov 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Who cares what it looks like. If it looks like a tree, at least it blends in. The cell coverage in that area is so bad. Phone calls get dropped. Please put one there.

Like this comment
Posted by tango
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Nov 9, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I guess cell towers are needed. ,but the one on south 680 on the east side of the freeway looks like someone forgot to put the top on the tree. To make it more convincing , someone needs to finish the tree.

Like this comment
Posted by Wineman
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Nov 9, 2010 at 9:08 pm

This cell tower has been needed for 5 years. Coverage is unobtainable in houses in Laguna Oaks all the way down to Castlewood Country Club. I called Verizon about it years ago and raised it to a second level complaint, with no relief given. Cell towers have been SUCCESSFULLY disguised as trees for at least 10 years, the most notable and early example being those placed 10 years ago on the east side of Hi-way 101 just south of the Sonoma County border, in Marin county. I'm sure other examples abound in the Bay Area. The people who oppose this are just faux science, uneducated, stick-in-the-muds who don't want change and dream up "visual impact" reasons to oppose things.

Like this comment
Posted by another Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I heard that the reason we don't have an ATT tower to correct the huge problem with dropped calls was because Ruby Hill residents didn't want to see it! As far as I know - We ALL would like sufficient towers to handle the calls we make, regardless of where we live.


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