The controversial system of cellular antennas that the San Jose-based company NextG is installing throughout the South Coast comes before the County of Santa Barbara’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, as the question of what to do with the devices in Montecito may be decided once and for all. Whereas other areas have allowed the cellular antennas and accompanying hardware to go in without much hassle, the residents of Montecito have fought the system strongly, arguing both in defense of their health and the aesthetics of the rural and wealthy community.
The supervisors, however, are not allowed to block cellular installations due to health concerns, so they have focused on the visual impacts. At the last meeting on this issue, a representative for NextG suggested putting all of the devices underground, a move that would effectively deal with the aesthetic complaints. At Tuesday’s hearing, that plan will be laid out by county staff, who have determined that six of the 10 proposed devices can easily be set in underground vaults; two of the remaining devices would require 14-foot-long, four-foot-high retaining walls to support the vaults, and NextG promised to drop applications for the final two if the other eight are approved.
The supervisors must decide whether the retaining walls are preferable to the hardware being installed on the existing power poles, as they are now. Or, presumably, the supervisors — who have listened to hours of angry public testimony about the system over the past year — could take an entirely different tact on fighting the antennas.