At the April 3 Davis City Council meeting, it was concluded by a 4 to 1 vote that Crown Castle, a corporation that provides infrastructure for both mobile and broadcasting telephony, would be allowed to begin setting up mobile phone antenna nodes throughout Davis.
These antenna nodes would boost phone coverage for Metro PCS customers, according to Crown Castle.
In 2010, the city had already revoked Crown Castle’s permit to install nodes in the public right-of-way, to which Crown Castle filed a lawsuit in response. If the city were to reject Crown Castle’s plan again, the lawsuit would resurface and it would have been highly likely the city would have ended up losing.
According to the California Public Utilities Commission, Crown Castle has the right to set up the antenna sites as long as they’re in the public right-of-way. This is because Crown Castle is a public utility, so it has both federal and state law on its side.
Most councilmembers said they would rather not deal with these legal matters at the moment.
“I don’t believe this community can even begin to afford going into a lawsuit on this matter. It would be frivolous, unnecessary and I’m not going to put staff time… or citizens’ money into that,” said Mayor Joe Krovoza.
The council went on to approve each of the proposed antennae sites one by one. Three sites have been tentatively approved; however, four sites have been rejected and the remainder have been left to be decided on at the April 10 council meeting.
Many residents were in opposition to the proposal, one going so far as to call it “an urban blight.”
Frank Gestino, speaking on behalf of Village Homes, a homeowners association, pointed out that Metro PCS has advertised to the community that they have great service and full coverage of the area in the first place. “So for them to come to us now and say that they don’t have great service and this is why they’re putting these polls up … this is fraud.”
The overall sentiment of the residents was that if the city gave up an inch here and conceded to federal and state laws, where would the line get drawn? If other unwanted changes to the city were imposed upon the city by state and federal laws, would the City Council simply roll over and take it again?
Also, many felt that the addition of the polls would mar the overall look of Davis.
“I find it really disappointing and even shameful that the council is just going to roll over on this,” said Jay Feldman, a Village Homes resident. “The Crown Castle people don’t have the greater good of the city of Davis at heart; all they care about is money.”
Despite some citizens’ negative opinions of the measure, the council still decided to continue with the proposal.
Councilmember Dan Wolk voted against the proposal.
“I’m going to be voting no on this,” said Wolk. “For me it’s just a matter of principle and a matter of local control.”
The remainder of the sites will be examined and new sites will be chosen by Crown Castle to replace the rejected ones tomorrow. Currently, no antennae are to be installed until the sites are fully approved by the City Council.
ANDREW POH can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.