Club Heads off Tower in THEIR Back Yard

In an email to its members, the Eichler Board of Governors admitted that it was concerned about a business next to the club erecting the very same tower next to its facility that it wants to erect near our homes.  Check out this statement from their email:

“Another motivation for pursuing this project was to head off the possibility of a tower being erected just over the fence from us at a business on East Meadow Circle, where we would have all the visual impact and concerns from some about ambient radiation exposure, yet gain no financial benefit.”

Board of Governors, Eichler Swim and Tennis Club, November 15, letter to members.

See entire letter to the members of the board below:

Dear Eichler members:

As promised, here is the letter from with detailed information about the proposed cell tower at Eichler Club. This is a complex issue with many aspects to consider before coming to a final conclusion.

We would like to thank our members for their support of all of our efforts as a Board. Even those who disagree with us on this particular proposal have by and large done so in a civil and respectful manner. We value and respect everyone’s input and look forward to hearing from you.

Please watch your mailbox for a hard-copy survey to fill out and return.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Eichler Swim and Tennis Club Board of Governors
Lynn Magill, President
Tess Byler, Vice-President
Jean Hsia, Secretary
Clive Hallatt
Holden Jessup
Tracey Wycoff

DECISION PROCESS
We first received an introductory letter from a representative of Trillium Telecom, AT&T’s site location company, last April. The letter stated that the representative was seeking a lease with a business in the area for locating a cellular communication tower and associated equipment. Letters were also sent to the businesses around East Meadow Circle, behind Eichler. As a board we agreed to follow up to see if this made sense for our property.

There are several advantages to the Club and the surrounding neighborhood. For the Club, income from the project would be a significant benefit:

The initial figure we were given for the lease is $20,000 per year for about 500 square feet of space, but that is a starting point for negotiation. We believe we can increase that. There would also be annual increases built in.
We can get a “community upgrade” from AT&T, which is basically a signing bonus, allowing us to have funds immediately to put to use for capital improvements. This could be $15-$20,000.
Over the course of a 5-year lease, for example, this could be worth $140-$150,000 to the Club.

Given the sparse AT&T coverage in this area, we felt that this would provide indoor service to a radius of 0.7 miles from the Club. Attached are maps showing local AT&T coverage now, and what it would be with a tower in this area. A tower in this neighborhood would also improve local 911 cell phone coverage.

Another motivation for pursuing this project was to head off the possibility of a tower being erected just over the fence from us at a business on East Meadow Circle, where we would have all the visual impact and concerns from some about ambient radiation exposure, yet gain no financial benefit.

NEIGHBORHOOD IMPACT
Our first choice for the tower location was behind the back tennis courts in the unused strip of land between the courts and the commercial property behind us. However, AT&T’s engineer rejected the location as being too close to several extremely large Eucalyptus trees clustered together just over the fence. The trees would interfere with one sector of the signal. We started considering other locations, and finally settled on an area along the back tennis court fence, about 26 feet in from the property line on the side closest to Greer Road. We could still house all the equipment in the original preferred location, just not the tower itself.

Our neighbors on Greer Road are separated from our property by Barron Creek, a right of way for utility trucks and an easement totaling about 45 feet. The distance from the nearest neighbor’s back fence to the base of the tower would therefore be about 75 feet. Within the easement is a line of utility poles as well as a row of tall pine trees. We believe that if the tower were visible at all from our neighbors’ property, it would be just the tip above the antenna.

Likewise, the view from Louis Road to the proposed tower location would be impeded by our building and other trees. We feel that the tower would be less visible to people living in the immediate area than it would have been if it were located behind some of the businesses on East Meadow Circle that don’t have buffer zones between commercial and residential property. Attached is a map of the area as well as a satellite view, which shows both residences and businesses.

We would prefer that the proposed tower location be moved back to the area behind the back tennis courts. The Board has tried to talk to the owner of the commercial property behind the club about taking down the Eucalyptus trees, but he has not returned our phone calls. This is not simply so we can put a tower there, but because we are concerned about the safety of these trees. They are very top heavy and sway precipitously in a strong breeze. Eucalyptus trees have shallow root systems, and therefore fall over easily, and large branches tend to drop with no advance notice. There are power lines on Eichler property which are very close to these trees. Another concern is that the trees drop leaves and debris across our property, creating a mess to clean up and frequently causing our tennis players to slip. Attached is a photo of these trees and power lines.

The City of Palo Alto will not force the property owner to take down the trees, as they currently appear to be healthy, but we feel that he would significantly reduce his liability by doing so. In addition, we may be able to get AT&T to bear some or all of the expense if he agrees to remove and replace them with shade trees more appropriate to this setting.

SAFETY
Naturally, our first question as Board members when we considered this project was: Is it safe?

There is an enormous amount of material available on the internet to support any position one might have on this topic. We have been referred to many different sources of information by members and neighbors, but relied on FCC guidelines for assurance that we would not be endangering our members, neighbors or local school children with this installation. There is an FAQ on Radio Frequency radiation from the FCC available at http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety/rf-faqs.html, as well as a page specifically devoted to cell phones and cell towers at http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety/cellpcs.html.

The American Cancer Society has taken the position that cell towers pose a minimal risk to humans: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/cellular-phone-towers. And a recently completed study by the Imperial College of London found no link between cell towers and childhood cancers: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=117453

This would be a low power antenna, designed to fill in a particular service area that currently has little or no AT&T coverage. Radio frequency exposure from this antenna would be thousands of times below FCC recommended limits and contribute negligibly to the whole spectrum of electromagnetic radiation which people readily accept for themselves and their children from wireless networks, cell phones, PDAs, cordless phones, high voltage power lines, household appliances, vehicle mounted radio transmitters (such as those used by radio and TV stations) and so on.

A concern has been raised about the proximity of Palo Verde Elementary School. It has been stated that the Palo Verde Elementary School is within 600 feet of the base of the proposed tower. While the southeast corner of the school property (near the dumpsters) is about 600 feet away, the school is quite large and the kindergarten area is almost an additional 500 feet away. Since the antenna would be 60 feet up, the distances are larger still. This may not reassure anyone who is already afraid of having a cell tower anywhere near the school but we feel that any discussion about this issue should at least start with the basic facts.

Note also that all schools in the area all have wireless networks and many children who carry and use cell phones.

HOW WE WOULD USE THE PROCEEDS
Eichler Club is not cash-strapped or desperate for money. We would like to build up our Capital Maintenance Account to where we can fund short and long term capital projects without having to increase dues to meet those needs. Any income we get from sources other than member dues would be put directly into the Capital Maintenance Account and saved for improvements to the Club facility.

Some non-members have suggested that we increase our membership in order to generate additional revenues. This is a large undertaking which would probably involve changing our Conditional Use Permit as well as getting a 2/3 vote of approval from our member families. Even if our members would support taking this step, it might not have any practical effect. Due to the slow economy, our waiting list is shorter now than it has been in many years and many prospective members opt to go to the bottom of the list when their names come up as they are not yet ready to join. The Board does not feel that this would be a desirable step for the club to take at this time.

ATTACHMENTS
Coverage map now and with a tower at Eichler
Map and satellite view of businesses and residences in the area
Photo of Eucalyptus trees and power lines

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