New Wireless Antennas to be Installed in Dogpatch
By Yael Chanoff
Despite initial opposition from some Dogpatch residents, late last year AT&T received the go-ahead from the San Francisco Planning Department to modify an array of wireless antennas located on a Third and Mariposa streets building. The phone company currently has two antennas on the roof of the Copy World building, at 2001 Third Street. The Planning permit allows these to be replaced with up to nine panel antennas and associated equipment. The change is intended, in part, to improve wireless connections in the area.
Prior to approval the Planning Department received 20 emails from concerned residents, along with a petition containing 42 signatures, opposing the project. David Grossblatt, who lives across the street from Copy World, launched the petition drive. “The idea of nine antennas sounded very ominous,” said Grossblatt. He and other neighbors worried about health and financial risks, with concerns that “[antennas] can reduce the value of property if they’re visible,” Grossblatt said. “It was very grassroots,” Grossblatt said about the campaign against the antennae expansion
Grossblatt contacted the Planning Department’s Michelle Stahlhut, the project’s point person, who put him in touch with AT&T. A meeting of concerned residents was held on November 13, two days before the permit application was set to be heard before the Planning Commission. According to Grossblatt, the gathering was a success, with AT&T real estate specialists and scientists on hand to answer questions. “They definitely had a perspective,” Grossblatt said. “But I thought they were very responsive. They alleviated a lot of our concerns.”
For example, the group learned that a parapet style roof would hide the antennas from view, alleviating some concerns about property values. It also became clear how common these types of projects are. As the demand for data transmission increases, Stahlhut said, so too will installation of antennas. Modifying the arrays is a “continuous process for all of the major carriers,” she said. This is a “pretty common type of permit to come before the Planning Commission.”
The antennas will improve wireless internet access for AT&T customers in the area, improving access from computers, cell phones and other devices. AT&T customers who use smart phones will experience fewer dropped calls and faster downloads and text messages, according to AT&T spokesperson Stephanie Rosa. AT&T customers who use cell phones without wireless capabilities won’t see improved coverage.
The City requires wireless communication technology projects to be evaluated for expected radio frequency emissions by a neutral party, with findings submitted to the Department of Public Health. The engineering firm Hammet and Edison examined the Third and Mariposa streets proposal, and projected that it would result in a radio frequency of 0.52 milliwatts per square centimeter, or 8.8 percent of the Federal Communications Commission’s public exposure limit.
“AT&T customers are using their smart phones and wireless devices in a manner that has caused a 20,000 percent increase in demand over the past five years, and we expect it to continue to grow,” Rosa said. “So we’re working to upgrade the network in this area and throughout San Francisco.” The company still needs to obtain electrical and building permits, which could take several months. After that, construction can begin.
“All things being equal we’d rather they not be up, but that’s not the world we live in,” Grossblatt said. “We live in a world where everyone, myself included, uses wireless technology.”
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