Cell Tower Lawsuit

This coming Monday the Council will consider a proposed settlement of a lawsuit brought by AT&T against the City as a result of the company’s cell tower proposal being rejected. I wrote a letter to the editor to the San Mateo Daily Journal on the proposal as a follow-on to an article they published today. In simple terms, I believe AT&T treated our community poorly.

Dear Editor:

I thought Michelle Durand’s article on the possible settlement of AT&T’s cell tower lawsuit against the City of San Carlos captured the essentials of a complex issue. But I would like to add a few additional points.

First off, however, I want to correct a misstatement on my part. In commenting on how the City review process didn’t catch the errors in the original application, I should have said “I’m disappointed we didn’t spot those mistakes”. The Council, after all, is ultimately responsible for how the City operates. I did not mean to single out the City’s hardworking staff.

Like my colleagues quoted in the article, I am unhappy with the quality of AT&T’s original submission. Federal law gives wireless companies wide latitude to require communities to accept cell towers. With great power comes great responsibility: the companies have an obligation to submit accurate proposals that incorporate the best available aesthetics. AT&T’s original proposal didn’t meet that standard.

Worse yet, when called on those deficiencies, the company’s response was to sue the City. As American automakers learned the hard way, it’s far better to get things right the first time than it is to try and fix mistakes. The resources spent on preparing and filing the lawsuit would have been better spent drafting a proper initial proposal. Besides being the right thing to do, that would have avoided a lawsuit against a community filled with one’s customers – customers who may well remember AT&T’s choices when it comes time to renew their cell phone contracts.

You can find the San Mateo Daily Journal article here. Another article on the issue is available on page A3 of today’s San Mateo Daily News, but it doesn’t appear to be possible to link to it.

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