attbox.jpgThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors decided today to delay for a third time a vote on a plan by AT&T to upgrade its network in the city.

The proposal calls for the installation of hundreds of 4-foot-tall boxes around San Francisco to house the company’s “Lightspeed” data transmission technology that would improve its Internet, cable and landline phone service in the city.

In February, San Francisco’s Planning Department gave the project an exemption from the usually lengthy environmental review process, but opponents–including San Francisco Beautiful and the Planning Association of the Richmond–appealed the exemption to the board, saying the boxes would impede pedestrian traffic, inconvenience property owners and reduce the city’s aesthetic appeal.

After a lengthy hearing on the issue in April, supervisors voted to delay a decision for a month while more study was done on the plan.

When the proposal came in front of the board again in May, AT&T asked for another delay and said it would be paring down the total number of boxes in the plan from its original figure of 726, and would work with individual supervisors to make the proposal more amenable to them.

When the plan came in front of the board for a third time today, Supervisor Scott Wiener asked for yet another continuance on the item.

Wiener said he had planned for a Land Use Committee hearing on San Francisco’s Better Streets Plan, which was passed last December to set unified guidelines for how the city designs, builds and maintains its pedestrian environment and would in part address the AT&T boxes.

Because budget talks had caused the postponement of the committee hearing, he asked for a delay until July 19 so that it could be held.

AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman said, “We’re happy to help Supervisor Wiener do fact-finding” about the project and said the company “is hopeful next month that the supervisors will vote” in favor of the plan.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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