attbox.jpgA plan to upgrade AT&T’s network in San Francisco will come in front of the Board of Supervisors again today after the board delayed a decision on the project last month.

AT&T is proposing to install up to 726 boxes around the city to house its “Lightspeed” high-speed data transmission technology that will improve its Internet, cable and landline phone service in the city.

San Francisco’s Planning Department in February gave the project an exemption from the usually lengthy environmental review process required by the California Environmental Quality Act, saying the upgrades did not have significant enough of an impact to require the review.

But opponents appealed the exemption to the board, saying the 4-foot-tall boxes would impede pedestrian traffic, inconvenience property owners, and reduce the aesthetic appeal of the city.

Susan Brandt-Hawley, the attorney representing the two groups appealing the plan–San Francisco Beautiful and the Planning Association of the Richmond–has argued that the cumulative impact of the hundreds of boxes is enough to warrant the environmental review.

AT&T regional vice president Marc Blakeman said at the board’s April 26 meeting that the company will have to get a permit from the city’s Department of Public Works for each individual box, which can be appealed by residents in that neighborhood.

“At the end of the day, if the neighborhood doesn’t want it, we’ll move on,” Blakeman said. “We don’t want to irritate our potential customers.”

The board at that April 26 meeting agreed to delay a decision for four weeks on the exemption while they develop protocols that Supervisor Scott Wiener said will be “strong enough that we don’t have to rely on AT&T’s word” on whether they will work with the individual neighborhoods.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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