KENSINGTON -- AT&T has agreed to pursue an alternative site for a cell phone antenna in Kensington in the face of neighborhood opposition to mounting the antenna on a utility pole at 110 Ardmore Road.
The company will begin the approval process with Contra Costa County to place the antenna in the 800 block of Coventry Road, a couple of blocks away from 110 Ardmore.
The decision was reached at the Feb. 25 meeting of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, which has final say over development in unincorporated Kensington.
Supervisors voted to continue the application for 110 Ardmore until June 3, giving the utility time to move the Coventry Road application forward.
The Ardmore Road plan called for installing the antenna at the top of a 50-foot-tall PG&E-owned utility pole. Neighbors complained that the antenna would be unsightly and block views from locations east of the site close to Arlington Boulevard.
"I spent a fair amount of time trying to decide on alternative sites and the site located up the block on Coventry appears to have less impact," said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, who represents Kensington. "It means an indefinite continuance of the Ardmore Road application."
The antenna in question is the last of a group of six antennas comprising a so-called Distributed Antenna System planned for Kensington.
Supervisors on Dec. 17 turned back an appeal by residents of a Contra Costa planning commission decision approving plans to mount antennas on PG&E poles at five other Kensington locations, 121 Windsor Ave., 8 Sunset Drive, 18 Highgate Road, 4 Stratford Road and 248 Grizzly Peak Blvd.
"Each of the (antennas) operates independently, so we will not wait for the sixth (antenna) to begin construction," said AT&T spokeswoman Alex Krasov.
AT&T is promoting DAS as a significant technology upgrade that will vastly improve cell phone reception in the hills and provide the capacity to fulfill the growing need for digital downloads.
Residents have complained about health issues surrounding the microwave radiation released from the antennas, as well as blocked views, negativeconsequences on real estate values, potential for noise and other issues they say are posed by locating the antennas in their neighborhoods.
The telecom giant is also working to get similar networks approved for hills neighborhoods in El Cerrito, Berkeley and Oakland.
AT&T will revisit the process it began more than a year ago for the entire antenna package for the Coventry Road application, Krasov said.
"The continuance slows up the application for Ardmore," she said. "What we can do in the meantime is prepare an application for the pole on Coventry."
The company will hold public informational meetings, followed by hearings with the Kensington Municipal Advisory Council, Krasov said.
The county Planning Department will then make a decision, which could be appealed to a zoning administrator and in turn to the Planning Commission and finally to the Board of Supervisors, according to Terrance Cheung, Gioia's chief of staff.