When I first saw Illumination Technologies' photo of the proposed tower on Mora Avenue, I thought it was a joke. "Certainly THAT wasn't the siren Calistoga might install?" I wondered. I soon learned that I wasn’t looking at merely a siren, but one of five 60-foot cell towers, topped with a high-tech siren, being offered to the city at "no cost."
The massive eyesore, if erected, would stand alone and tower 20 feet higher than existing telephone poles. Nicknames such as “giant pickle” are among a growing list of names, some not appropriate to mention here, for the giant piece of proposed infrastructure.
After reaching out to city staff, council members and social media, my questions multiplied; why an imposing structure so close to homes? Why not located in a manner that blends in with its surroundings? What other siren options are there, and can’t Calistoga afford it?
ITC held a Q&A session regarding their proposal for myself and neighbors on Mora Avenue, for which I am grateful. An alternate location for the tower on Mora Avenue was proposed, which could potentially minimize the eyesore issue, placing the tower closer to Highway 29 with the Palisades as a backdrop. However, the ominous tower would still be in someone’s backyard.
One thing most seem to agree on is that emergency sirens would be a good thing. But, sirens and cell towers are two separate topics, each deserving of critical evaluation. I trust that our city staff and council members will not rush to approve this package deal because of the "free factor." While free to the city, residents living near these intrusive cell towers would pay every single day by dealing with unsightly infrastructure and compromised real estate values.
What other possible siren configurations exist that might still fulfill the recommendations of the sound study and be aesthetically acceptable? Could existing utility poles be used? What about securing grants to help cover the cost like Santa Rosa has done?