Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO:

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL

FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER

DATE: JANUARY 21, 2003

SUBJECT: PROPOSED MODIFICATIONS TO THE MONOPOLE AT CITY HALL

RECOMMENDATION

Authorize SpectraSite Communications to submit an application for a Revision to Conditional Use Permit No. 119 to modify the existing telecommunications facilities on the monopole at City Hall.

BACKGROUND

On November 7, 2001, City Council considered a request from AT&T Wireless to modify one of its antennas on the telecommunications monopole at City Hall. At that time, staff suggested that the Council might wish to invoke a provision of the Cityís lease agreement with the owner to review the monopoleís Conditional Use Permit to determine if changes in technology would enable the monopole to be modified to improve its aesthetic appearance. Due to the age of the monopole (it was installed in 1989) and the fact that no such review had been previously conducted, Council directed staff to work with the monopoleís owner, SpectraSite Communications, to develop alternatives to improve the aesthetics of the structure without degrading the level of service for the community (see attached excerpt minutes). Over the last year, SpectraSite has worked with its tenants, Verizon, AT&T and Edison, and City staff to respond to the Councilís request. In December 2002, SpectraSite submitted its proposal to modify the monopole.

DISCUSSION

The existing monopole is 81 feet in height, as measured from the ground to the top of the pole. There are four whip antennas that extend above the top of the pole: three to a maximum height of 95 feet and one to 96 feet. With the exception of a dish antenna that is mounted directed onto the monopole at a height of 60 feet, all of the other antennas are currently mounted onto two triangular platforms or catwalks. The lower platform is located 56 feet from the ground and the higher platform is located 81 feet from the ground. A diagram showing the configuration, ownership and height of the existing antennas on the monopole is attached for the Councilís information.

At the November 2001 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Ferraro and Councilman Gardiner both expressed the opinion that SpectraSite should avoid using "stealth" technology to camouflage the monopole. They felt that trying to make the structure appear to be something other than a telecommunications tower, such as a tree or a clock tower, would likely prove to be a pointless, perhaps even ludicrous, effort.

With this direction in mind, SpectraSite has spent the last year gathering information from its three tenants regarding their coverage areas and minimum vertical separation requirements between their various antennas. Based on the results of these studies, SpectraSite has concluded that, in order to maintain the current coverage levels and meet minimum separation requirements, the height of the monopole will need to remain the same. Therefore, SpectraSite is proposing to improve the appearance of the monopole by reducing the visual bulk of the existing structure. The reduction in bulk is proposed to be accomplished by:

  • Replacing all but the Edison whip antennas with panel antennas;
  • Removing the two triangular platforms or catwalks; and
  • Flush mounting the panel antennas to the monopole.

SpectraSite is also proposing to repaint the monopole (which has never been done since the structure was installed in 1989) and changing the color from blue to a more neutral gray. A diagram of the proposed new configuration and cross sections showing the methods of attachment are attached for the Councilís information. In addition, SpectraSite has prepared visual simulations that compare the existing monopole to the proposal. The view simulations are taken from three vantage points: 1) looking up at the monopole from the parking lot on the southwest side of City Hall; 2) looking west from the residential neighborhood above City Hall on Via La Cresta; and 3) looking south from the vacant lot on Palos Verdes Drive West, between the Villa Capri condominiums and St. Paulís Church.

The photographic simulations show that the proposed modifications would reduce the visual bulk of the structure. The removal of the two platforms or catwalks would make the monopole appear more like the two adjacent wooden antenna towers, which are located on the Coast Guard property. While it doesnít represent a radical change in the appearance of the monopole, staff feels that the reduction in bulk would improve the aesthetic appearance of the structure, especially as seen from the homes on Via La Cresta, which have views over the City Hall property to the Pacific Ocean.

CONCLUSION

SpectraSite Communications, the owner of the monopole at City Hall, has spent the last year working with its three tenants and City staff to develop a proposal to modify the structure that improves its aesthetic appearance without degrading telecommunication services for the community. SpectraSite is proposing to reduce the visual bulk of the structure by removing the two existing platforms and replacing most of the whip antennas with panel antennas that can be mounted close to the surface of the monopole. If the City Council agrees that the proposed modifications have merit, staff recommends that Council authorize SpectraSite to file an application with the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department for a Revision to Conditional Use Permit No. 119. The CUP Revision process would subject the proposal to the further scrutiny under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the public hearing process before the Planning Commission, including a third-party review of the technical information prepared by the owner to either confirm the coverage and separation data submitted by the owner, or determine if the monopole can be lowered in height without adversely impacting the level of service to the community.

FISCAL IMPACT

The recommended action will have no fiscal impact to the City. The cost of the Cityís consultant to review of the technical data will be paid for through a trust deposit established by SpectraSite at the time the Conditional Use Permit Revision application is submitted to the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department.

Respectfully submitted:
Carolynn Petru
Assistant City Manager

Reviewed,
Les Evans
City Manager

Attachments:
Except minutes from the November 7, 2001 City Council meeting
Cover letter from SpectraSite Communications dated November 22, 2002
Elevation view of the existing and proposed antenna configurations
Plan view of the proposed antenna configurations
Visual impact analysis (photographic simulations)