In April, after the City Council approved a C.U.P. requested by AT&T allowing them (AT&T) to co-locate equipment on an existing cell tower in a City Yard, we reported that in our conversation with Planning Director Danny Castro after the meeting, he informed us that the tower could be in place by late June or early July. All that was left was for AT&T to sign a lease, receive the permit (plan check was already approved), and put the new equipment at the site .
I recently received an e-mail from someone with knowledge of the situation who told me that the lease (which I had reported I thought was with T-mobile, who owns the existing site) was actually with the City, and that the City Attorney had the lease but since it hadn’t been signed yet, the tower was not going to be ready by the end of June.
So yesterday, I sent an e-mail to City Manager Elaine Aguilar, asking for an update on the lease situation. I asked when the City Attorney might be returning the lease to AT&T, what the City considers the timetable to be as of now, and if compensation was an issue.
Ms. Aguilar called me yesterday, and told me that staff and the City Attorney have been so busy with preparing the two-year budget and with Redevelopment Agency issues, that they had not been able to move any faster than they had on the cell tower, but that the city had now returned the lease to AT&T for their consideration. She added that the City had just returned it to AT&T yesterday.
I asked if compensation had become a sticking point (AT&T makes good money from cell phone fees, so landowners such as the City who allow placement of cell towers like to maximize the rental fee for the space), and she told me that compensation had not even been discussed yet. So that said to me that there’s at least one more return and review step in the process. So I asked what she thought the revised timetable was now, and she said that the tower will probably be in place by early fall. She said that Planning Director Castro had perhaps been “overly optimistic” when we spoke in April, but that she expects negotiations can be completed and the equipment installed by early fall, at the latest. I do not know if the lease between AT&T and the Methodist church (on tonight’s Planning Commission agenda) is already in place (I hope to hear back on that soon), but if it has, it now appears the west end of town might have improved cell coverage before the east end of town.