AT&T, San Francisco supes in stalemate on utility boxes 

For AT&T, waiting has become a pastime at City Hall.

In 2008, the telecommunications giant dropped a plan amid opposition to upgrade service by installing hundreds of utility boxes around The City. Now, the firm has returned with a modified plan, but once again the proposal is facing opposition and a Board of Supervisors vote has been repeatedly postponed.

San Francisco Beautiful is fighting AT&T over a plan to install 726 4-foot-high utility boxes around town. A showdown at the Board of Supervisors over the project occurred in April, but a decision was postponed amid threats of lawsuits. A vote was scheduled for May, but that too was postponed. And Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors is again scheduled to make a decision.

The board must decide whether to let stand a Planning Department ruling that the proposal does not need an environmental review, which is required if a project is determined to have significant impact on its surroundings.

Negotiations are continuing between AT&T and supervisors.

“We have been meeting with the supervisors talking about what might be acceptable to them,” said AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman. “We’re hopeful the supervisors will decide to bring competition and choice to San Francisco.”

Kasselman said the company has been talking with supervisors about a deal that would include fewer boxes than the initial proposal and installation only in certain areas of The City.

And the wait might continue because the board’s decision could be postponed again.

“I want to find a way to bring the technology in while also respecting our streetscape,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has taken a lead on the matter and said he remains “conflicted about this issue.”

He added, “For a project of this significance I don’t think we should be rushing to a decision.”

Wiener had requested a hearing on The City’s Better Streets Plan that would offer details about how San Francisco should handle surface-mounted facilities with testimony from several city departments. Due to budget talks, that hearing won’t take place until July 11, so the vote on the boxes is expected to be continued until
July 12.

“It may not impact anyone’s vote. I don’t know,” Wiener said. “We should have as much information from the departments as possible.”

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