Efforts by AT&T and the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club in Palo Alto to erect a 75-foot-tall cell phone tower disguised as an evergreen tree were stymied in November, when AT&T pulled out, citing the need for taller towers than permitted by the city’s height limit.
But many suspect a well organized ‘Stop the Fake Tree’ campaign, run by homeowners in Eichler’s Palo Verde neighborhood, and their non-Eichler neighbors, played a part in the decision.
The swim club hoped to use income from the tower for improvements. But many homeowners were concerned about radiation and aesthetics.
“Joseph Eichler would turn over in his grave,” neighbor Michael Jaret wrote, “and would never permit this non-profit club to create an eyesore in the neighborhood.”
A similar battle erupted in 2003 at San Mateo Highlands, an Eichler neighborhood, when PG&E proposed increasing the height of power lines—also dressed as trees. That plan died following neighborhood uproar.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, is rethinking its cell phone tower policy. Language that “discourages” their placement in residential areas could be strengthened, the planning director suggested, and the city could try harder to place them on public land.
Jaret says he and other neighbors continue to monitor plans for cell installations, including smaller “distributed antenna systems” that could be placed on power poles.