Neighborhood beautification is ongoing. In addition to the everyday attention we give to the appearance of buildings, signs and landscaping, the CHA works to address more complex, long-term issues such as the proliferation of electronic telecommunications equipment on the remaining above-ground utilities poles in our neighborhood and the need finally to underground all utilities in the neighborhood.
Telecommunications Equipment On Utility Poles
Earlier this year, the San Francisco ordinance limiting the right of the telephone companies to install equipment boxes on our utility poles finally became effective.
As many of you know, the proliferation of these unsightly installations had been increasing at a -surprising-rate as the demand for cell phone service increased, and the-phone companies sought to build more and more capacity to handle not the only current but also what they hoped would be their future traffic.
For the first time, neighborhood residents now have the right to notice of and to protest and appeal proposed installations of large equipment to the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and even to the courts. In addition, recent cases have established a right to object to installations rushed through to avoid the legislationÕs effective date.
The legislation provides only limited protest rights with respect to mid size equipment, and no rights with respect individual, smaller units. However, the regulations implementing the legislation are still a work in progress, and the CHA board is seeking provisions that would give Cow Hollow and other neighborhood organizations that register with Department of Public Works (DPW) the right to quick notice and the opportunity to object to DPW regarding the issuance of permits for mid size equipment installations, albeit no appeal rights since that is not provided for in the legislation. We believe this right to notice and opportunity to object at least to DPW is especially important for at least midsize equipment since the legislation prescribes that equipment installations must be “compatible” with the neighborhood site. So the neighborhood ought to have the right to provide evidence of non compatibility, where that is the case.
The wireless equipment legislation and regulations limiting the size and density of utility pole clutter is especially important because the greater the number and size of such equipment on utility poles, the more expensive and difficult to get the utilities undergrounded.
The next challenge looming is the planning installation of AT&T “U-Verse” boxes on street corners in every neighborhood in our City.
Undergrounding the utility wires on the remaining above ground streets in Cow Hollow is now a priority project. But it will require further patience and a strong community effort. The City claims to have no funds for undergrounding. So it will have to be funded by bonds floated by the City and special assessments levied on the homes on the streets where the utilities are undergrounded to pay back on the bonds. Current estimates are 10-15 year bonds, and assessments in the $150-$250 per month range, tax deductible. In order to get this program in lace, it must have the vote of at least 60% of the owners on a given block, and the further approval of the Board of Supervisors. As a practical matter, only contiguous streets can be undergrounded, and any undergrounding is most likely to be done 3-4 streets at a time. We are about to begin a canvassing of property owners to determine which streets might be eligible.
A second or related aspect of undergrounding concerns the some 700 untility boxes that AT&T want to place on City Streets. AT&T got the Planning commission to give it a categorical exemption from having the file an Environmental Impact Report as a condition to being able to put up any of the boxes. We are now fighting that Exemption before the Board of Supervisors.
Please email us if you would like to help track this issue and address it when opportunities allow.