AT&T lowers cell array, gets Solana Beach’s OK

Third time was the charm in AT&T’s bid to build a cellular array atop the Wedbush building on Lomas Santa Fe Drive.

The latest redesign — approved Feb. 14 at the Solana Beach City Council’s third public hearing on the project — dramatically reduces the array’s profile, making the equipment nearly flush to the roofline.

The trade-off, however, is that coverage won’t be quite as good, especially for neighborhoods on the hills around Interstate 5.

AT&T plans to install 12 panel antennas, 32 remote radio units, six surge suppressors and two GPS antennas — what they say is necessary to cover the service gap that will emerge from the decommissioning of the telecom giant’s existing array at 501 Lomas Santa Fe. The approved design relocates four of the antennas and eight remote radio units originally planned for the east side of the roof, diminishing the array’s eastward efficacy.

“It won’t be as good as it would’ve been,” an AT&T rep said after the council’s Feb. 14 decision. “The real compromise is to the east, where we’re trying to tie in with the existing coverage coming from the east side of I-5. They’ll still have in-building coverage — maybe not five bars inside their house but they will have service.”

The redesigns were necessitated after neighbors along South Granados Avenue objected to bulkier proposals that disrupted their views, with the city council — at hearings on Dec. 13 and Jan. 10 — sending AT&T back to the drawing board.

Councilman Mike Nichols had taken particular issue with the landscaping component of AT&T’s proposal. The building’s owner had negotiated with AT&T to remove the tree that runs up the front of the building, saying it was diseased. Nichols, a landscape architect, insisted that it should be saved. AT&T now says it will try to save the tree; if that fails, they promise to plant a similar tree in its place.

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