MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa supervisors turned back an appeal of a county Planning Commission decision by voting Dec. 17 to approve five of six applications for cell phone antennas in Kensington submitted by telecom giant AT&T.
Opponents had appealed the planning commission's decision this fall to approve all six applications.
The company will be able to mount the antennas on poles at 121 Windsor Ave., 8 Sunset Drive, 18 Highgate Road, 4 Stratford Road and 248 Grizzly Peak Blvd., once a set of conditions set out by the supervisors are met.
The board asked AT&T to consider other options with less impact on views for a sixth antenna proposed for a pole at 110 Ardmore Road, at the request of Supervisor John Gioia, whose District 1 includes Kensington.
Supervisors will consider a revised proposal for the 110 Ardmore Road antenna on Jan. 14.
A main condition for approval involves noise generated from a cooling fan in the antennas' power module. AT&T will measure the noise at each antenna three months after installation and every three years thereafter to make sure it is not louder than the county noise standard of 60 decibels.
AT&T says the fans generate 48 decibels of sound measured from 5 feet away, or roughly the same as a fan in a personal computer.
Supervisors also prevented other wireless companies from piggybacking on AT&T's applications by requiring them to go through the same approval process if they want to put antennas on the same poles.
"Any co-location has to go through a full land-use permit process," Gioia said.
The company also agreed to place the power source for the antenna at 121 Windsor Drive on the pole, which was its original proposal, after previously agreeing to install the box on the ground beside the pole.
Supervisors placed another condition on the 8 Sunset Drive application, requiring AT&T to hire an arborist to assess the value of a tree that covers the pole and take out a bond in case the tree is killed or damaged by the antenna or the installation.
The supervisors' decision ended nearly a year of hearings and public meetings that included two sessions before the Kensington Municipal Advisory Council, which serves an advisory role to the board, and six community forums.
AT&T lowered the number of proposed antennas in Kensington to six after its original plan to install nine antennas was rejected by the advisory council in February.
Residents cited health issues and complained that the antennas and support apparatus will block views from homes in hillside neighborhoods and reduce the value of homes that are close to the poles, among other concerns.
Gioia reminded antenna opponents that the federal Telecommunication Act prevents local jurisdictions from rejecting cell phone antenna applications over health issues.
"Our hands are somewhat tied (on certain matters)," he said.
The other supervisors appeared to allow Gioia free rein in setting the approval conditions, although Supervisor Candace Andersen urged prompt consideration of the 110 Ardmore Road application to enable AT&T to move forward in a timely manner.
Nonetheless, a group of about 25 opponents who showed up to speak at the 9 a.m. hearing appeared unconvinced.
"We've been shut down and put down by the big gorilla who has come to town," Kensington resident Bill Stanton told supervisors. "I'm very upset by the whole move."