Telecom Towers in the Hills

A telecom company recently asked the city for permission to build three towers on Skyline Boulevard to fill in cellular “dead zones” in the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods.

The View from Skyline Before the Age of Cell Phones

Ranging in height from 36 feet to 41 feet, it’s not likely that the towers will be built as planned. Aubrey Rose, who works for the city’s planning and zoning department, said that the site for one of the proposed towers is actually outside Oakland’s borders on unincorporated county land. Rose said that the other two towers can’t be considered for a public right of way in their current design. The second and third rules for telecom towers in the city’s planning rule book couldn’t be more clear: “Monopoles should not be sited to create visual clutter or negatively affect specific views,” and “Monopoles shall be screened from the public view wherever possible.” Rose said that the towers would have to be moved deeper into the woods, or significantly more concealed (You’ve seen the telecom towers disguised as trees) to pass muster. While the Oakland Hills aren’t the home to many towers, said Rose, the number of applications is growing.

Here are the locations for the towers:

  1. 41 feet:  Skyline Boulevard, east side of street (north of Roberts Park entrance).
  2. 36 feet:  Skyline Boulevard, south side of street (southeast of Sequoyah Bayview trailhead beyond turn-out). Withdrawn by applicant.
  3. 36 feet:  Skyline Boulevard, north side of street (adjacent to Chabot Space & Science Center street entrance).

The towers will be discussed at a meeting of the Planning Commission scheduled for August 4.

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Curing Poor Cell Phone Coverage

“My cell phone coverage stinks!” is a common cry from Montclarions.  When you drive around the village, it’s a hit-or-miss proposition.  Carrier signals vary from one neighbor to the next, in a seemingly random fashion.

“The Hills are probably the worst area to service from a cell phone provider’s standpoint,” explained Soren Jensen, who lives in the Village. “The geography combined with the need for line of sight and limited range requires you to be able to ‘see’ a cell tower in order to get reliable service.”

Ancient Phone Switch

Before you give up and simply rely on old wire lines, consider these tricks while at home.  Props to Paul Lindner, who shared some ways to fix your limited or non-existent cell phone reception:

  • Try a cell phone repeater: Amplify the signal with a device like zBoost.  This might work if you get some reception on your roof already, but not indoors.
  • Use a special cell phone: Buy a special, unlicensed mobile access (UMA) cell phone, and then rely on your WiFi/Internet service to make calls.
  • Look into a femtocell: Ask your carrier (i.e. Sprint or Verizon) for this device, so you can make Internet calls from any cell phone model.

It seems like you have nothing to lose by trying out some of these in-home solutions.  If you can freely use your cell at home, then lucky you!

P.S.  Thanks to everyone complaining about their cell phone carriers and coverage tonight, on the Montclair SIC message board…such inspiration.