The words “Montecito” and “cell tower” often raise the ire of numerous residents whenever tackled by the Santa Barbara County supervisors, but the board on Tuesday passed an item that would beef up cell antennas in the area, a decision they put forward with surprisingly little outcry from the public.
The supervisors cleared the way for additional cell equipment to be installed in 11 locations with existing infrastructure across Montecito, five of which are in the community’s coastal zone.
Last fall, the Montecito Planning Commission denied the project over concerns of cumulative visual impacts, and that decision was appealed by Crown Castle, formerly known as Next-G. Supervisors ultimately sided with the company this week.
The equipment would provide service for T-Mobile customers using existing fiber optic cable. Only one of the locations, on Santa Rosa Road, would need a new 25-foot utility pole installed.
Crown Castle executives made the argument that they would be using infrastructure and the smallest equipment available in the industry, and that all of the dozen or so locations across the county already had made the changes.
“The only area where we got any opposition was in the Montecito area, even though we tried very hard to keep everyone in the loop. … It’s perplexing to us,” Crown Castle’s Sharon James said.
In stark contrast to other hearings on cell service in the area, public comment brought out only one resident.
John Williams, who lives across the street from one of the sites, insisted that the additional equipment violated the Montecito Community Plan.
“It’s just cheap and ugly,” he said of the equipment.
The lack of public comment did not go unnoticed by Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who told Crown Castle officials that it demonstrated “the good faith effort you made.”
He did express concern about the Santa Rosa pole, but said he trusted the company to put forward the best design for the neighborhood.