Mixed signals on antenna plan

Three atypical T-Mobile antennas slated to sit atop the roofs of a few buildings in North Beach have city officials and neighbors asking for extra scrutiny of the plans.

T-Mobile operates 212 of the 722 antenna sites in The City, which are shared among cell phone providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Since the company said its service is spotty around the North Beach and Telegraph Hill area, it applied to add three antennas that would measure approximately 5-feet tall and sit on rooftops within a one-block radius of each other.

“It’s not just about making phone calls and exchanging text messages. These days, it’s the transfer of data especially for a technologically savvy San Francisco,” T-Mobile spokesman Rod Delarosa said.

The antennas will be moved at least 6½ feet away from the perimeter of the rooftops, making them highly difficult to see from the ground.

Members of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers neighborhood association, which has existed since 1954, said despite the inconspicuous locations of the towers, the group wants city planners to perform what is formally called a discretionary review.

“It’s the public’s only way to say, ‘Wait, wait, wait just one second,” Telegraph Hill Dwellers President Vedica Puri said. “We want to look at the cluster effect of these three [antennas].”

T-Mobile submitted reports to the Planning Department with graphs that showed their lack of coverage in the area with a petition and several letters of support, but Puri said relying on the applicants for scrutiny is not fair.

Also, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu’s office is questioning whether the permits should be looked at overall instead of individually. That question delayed by a month a decision on whether to approve the antennas.

The Planning Commission will consider T-Mobile’s permit applications at its meeting today, with a staff recommendation to approve the proposals and dismiss the Telegraph Hill Dwellers’ request for a separate analysis.

Cell-tower installations in The City have created controversy, such as a recent fight in Bernal Heights to add five “Internet exchange switch antennas” on an existing 50-foot tower.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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