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Planning commission approves cell antenna project

Best Western cupola

The Napa planning commission approved an additional cupola to hold antennas for cell service opposite the existing cupola on top of the Soscol Avenue Best Western Plus.

The city of Napa Planning Commission on Thursday approved a new set of AT&T antennas for cell phone and data service which will be housed in a cupola on the roof of the Best Western Plus at 100 Soscol Avenue.

The AT&T project will provide increased cell phone coverage and higher data speeds in the area using 4G broadband cellular technology, said AT&T Mobility representative Charlene Schlager at the meeting. The cell antenna cupola will be located on the opposite side of the roof from an existing cell antenna cupola, which the planning commission approved in 2005.

The commission voted 3-2 to approve the project, with planners Bob Massaro and Ricardo Hurtado opposing. As added conditions, commissioners asked that cautionary and informational signage around the cupolas be in both Spanish and English and that both cupolas are painted the same color at the same time.  

Amy Martenson, writing on behalf of the Napa Neighborhood Association for Safe Technology, wrote a letter to the commission questioning several aspects of the project. Among other questions, Martenson wrote that the applicant should provide hard data to show proof of a gap in cellular telephone service, raised concerns about 5G technology and questioned whether the project complied with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Schlager responded to Martenson’s questions during the meeting. She said there’s not much redundancy in terms of coverage in the project, and that the project uses 4G technology so any 5G concerns don’t apply. Bond Mendez, assistant planner for the city, said because the project isn’t federally funded project and isn’t located on a federal property, it’s exempt from NEPA requirements.

At the request of the commission, David Cotton, a radio frequency engineer at Waterford Consultants, explained the radiofrequency radiation report he prepared for the project.

Cotton said the power density level for the project operations, on the ground, reaches about 5% of the Federal Communications Commission limit. Cotton added that exposure on the adjacent building, a Denny’s, reaches about 28% of the limit. He also estimated that the power density level would reach 4,000% of the estimated limit in the immediate area of the antennas.

Massaro asked Cotton what the exposure would be to people inside the hotel. Cotton responded that, because the antennas emit straight up, he estimates the power density level in the hotel rooms below the cupola would reach about 5% of the FCC limit.

In other business, the commission unanimously approved the subdivision of a 0.9-acre parcel at 1556 El Centro Avenue into four residential parcels. And the commission received a quarterly development report from city planner Michael Walker for the second quarter of 2021, which provides a snapshot of development projects submitted to the city’s planning division each quarter.

Planning commission chair Paul Kelley thanked Walker for putting the report together and said it was encouraging to see the number of applications for development projects continue to climb when compared to last year, especially with accessory dwelling unit projects.

This Napa shopping center, located on Jefferson Street, has been a hub for locals for decades. Today, the center is for sale for $3.5 million.

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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.

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