Association to boost Rancho Santa Fe cell phone coverage

The Rancho Santa Fe Association is looking to improve cell phone reception for Covenant members with new faux tree cell phone towers.

The Association’s technology committee is considering two proposals, from Verizon and American Tower Corporation (ATC), to provide both better quality coverage and multiple carrier co-location options. The improvement would come courtesy of three to four faux pine or eucalyptus trees placed in optimum sites throughout the Covenant to significantly enhance coverage.

Board member and tech committee member Philip Wilkinson said that over the years there have been countless complaints to both the Association and to providers about the “very, very frustrating” lack of cell coverage in the Ranch.

The tech committee tackled this issue by meeting with several providers, narrowing it down to the final two. The selected provider will take the leading role on all permitting, construction and operation of the new sites at no cost to the Association.

The committee identified four sites for the towers: two Association owned, one in the right-of-way and one privately owned property. The financial benefits to the Association-owned sites are nominal, said Don May, the Association finance and operations manager, it was more about enhancing the market-value of the community.

May said both ATC and Verizon are quality options that meet the Association’s goals to provide better cell coverage to the community, particularly for emergency situations, and allow for as many carriers as possible to co-locate on the towers.

The committee expects to negotiate an agreement for the board’s approval at the February meeting. Following the agreement, the major use permit process is estimated to take about nine months before construction can begin.

In regard to the look of the faux trees, Wilkinson said even up close, it’s hard to tell that the tree isn’t real. “They blend into the landscape beautifully,” he said.

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