AT&T Wants to Install Two Fiber Optic Cabinets on the Hill
Last month, the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) heard arguments for and against the installation of surface-mounted fiber optic cabinets at two locations on Potrero Hill. If approved, the cabinets will be installed on the sidewalks at 502 Missouri Street and 1870 20th Street. AT&T, the cabinets’ owner, met with little opposition at the hearing, but a few people expressed disapproval of the proposed installations.
“It’s a burden on the property owners,” Deb Dolezal told DPW staff, AT&T representatives and other hearing attendees. Dolezal was representing the 1501 20th Street/508 Missouri Street Homeowners Association (HOA), which opposes the cabinet planned for Missouri Street. According to Dolezal, the HOA objects for three reasons: it will attract graffiti, it’s a public safety hazard, and it’s an unfair easement burden on the homeowners.
AT&T said it could add a polymer to the cabinet to make cleaning it easier. But Dolezal said that despite any efforts to make the cabinet graffiti resistant, it will still have to be washed. And she asserted that vandals can create graffiti in other ways, such as scratching and attaching stickers. Dolezal also pointed out that 502 Missouri Street already has one AT&T cabinet.
According to Alex Krasov, AT&T public affairs manager for Northern California, the company takes responsibility for cleaning its cabinets. Krasov said AT&T personnel will wash cabinets during normal maintenance. Graffiti can also be directly reported to AT&T or by calling 311 to have a message sent to the company.
Dolezal said the cabinet would be a safety hazard because it would create more shadows in the immediate area, where homeowners walk their dogs at night. Besides the existing cabinet, there are two trees outside 502 Missouri Street. And, Dolezal asserted, the cabinet is an unfair easement burden because the area in which the box would be placed already has public amenities that the neighborhood has to maintain, such as the other cabinet, a light pole and a garbage can. Neighbors prefer to occasionally clean the area themselves, rather than wait for the City or AT&T to maintain it. “We want to create a good neighborhood feel,” she said. Lynn Fong, DPW’s surface-mounted facility program manager, confirmed that adjacent property owners are responsible for maintaining green spaces, which in this case consists of the two trees and the area surrounding them.
Tony Kelly, representing the Potrero Boosters, also opposed installation of the two cabinets. According to Kelly, when AT&T first introduced the idea of cabinets, the company told the Boosters it would forgo locating the objects in the community if there was any opposition. Kelly said there are 28 protests against the 502 Missouri Street cabinet. “How many is enough?” Kelly asked the hearing officer.
Kelly said there are 10 protests against the cabinet planned for 20th Street, though DPW could only confirm nine protests. Kelly suggested that the cabinet planned for Missouri Street be placed on Daniel Webster Elementary School property. There’s ample opportunity on that site, Kelly said. AT&T sent only one notice to the school district to inquire about placing the cabinet on district property; Kelly criticized AT&T for a lack of effort. “That’s fairly lazy,” Kelly said. He encouraged more diligence on the part of AT&T.
The cabinets would bring fiber optic technology to the existing copper equipment on the Hill. Unfortunately, there’s no way to combine the two cabinets into one, as one meeting attendee suggested. Tedi Vriheas, AT&T external affairs representative, acknowledged the 28 protests against the 502 Missouri Street cabinet, but said AT&T has a database of thousands of people who want the new technology. She said that the 28 people opposed to the installation didn’t speak for the 400 or so the cabinet would serve. “This is the best location for the cabinet,” Vriheas said. She asked DPW to approve the company’s installation request.
DPW made no decisions at the meeting, but will notify interested parties of its verdict via the mail.
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