A cell phone company, acting on the orders of Alameda County, went to work this week to make a 60-foot-tall transmission tower in Castro Valley look more like what it is supposed to look like – a tree – and less like what residents complain it resembles, which is a giant phallus.
“It’s ridiculous. Little girls point and laugh. People are pulling up taking pictures,” said Drew Mboya, a mechanic at the 76 gas station next to the tower, on Lake Chabot Road. “They said it was supposed to look like a tree. It looks nothing like a tree. They’re not fooling anybody.”
T-Mobile, which owns the tower, intended it to resemble an Italian cypress, said company spokesman Rod De La Rosa.
But when it went up six months ago, residents said the narrow cylinder with the rounded top did not, in fact, look like an Italian cypress.
It didn’t help that the tower is next to an elementary school and a church.
Complaints soon flooded in to the Alameda County planning department, which approved the design, the Municipal Advisory Council, which oversees the unincorporated town, and the Hayward Area Recreation District, which leases the land to T-Mobile.
The planning department ordered T-Mobile to alter the tower so it would look more like a tree.
“They need to change the top so it’s no longer rounded and add more foliage so it’s fluffier and wider,” said Sonia Urzua, a county planner. “It was supposed to look like a tree, and, well, there’s no delicate way to describe what it really does look like.”
T-Mobile maintains that the tower does look like a tree, but says it was happy to send crews out this week to add plastic branches to the tower.
“When I first saw it, I thought it looked like a tree,” De La Rosa said. “But we want to be good neighbors, so we’ll make the changes.”
Abdi Fugfugosh, owner of the 76 station, also thinks the tower looks like a tree, and that the people of Castro Valley have dirty minds.
“It doesn’t bother me at all. I never thought it looked liked anything until people started talking about it,” he said. “I’m more worried about the radiation.”
The park district is collecting $2,400 a month from T-Mobile for leasing the small patch of park land where the tower sits.
“Everyone was aghast when it went up,” said Larry Lepore, superintendent of the park district. “It obviously did not look like what it was supposed to look like. … We have several cell towers, but we probably won’t do another.”
Cheryl Miraglia, chair of the Municipal Advisory Council, said that “overall, Castro Valley residents have exhibited a good sense of humor” about the tower.
“But at this point,” she added, “we have been living with it for far longer than we should.”