The Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) on March 9 approved several locations for new light poles with DAS nodes in the district, and continued several other locations. DAS nodes are equipment used to provide cellular service to the city.
ExteNet Systems proposed to replace seven existing light poles with DAS nodes at 27 Hereford St., 59 Massachusetts Ave., 403 Beacon St., Clarendon St. at Public Alley 424, 29 Commonwealth Ave., 274 Beacon St., and 284 Newbury St.
At the beginning of the discussion, Joe Cornish, Director of Design Review for the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC), provided a little bit of background information about DAS nodes in the district.
Cornish said that in 2016, members of the architectural commissions and the BLC met to discuss DAS nodes. He said that the consensus was that the commissioners would rather see the nodes located in areas where utility equipment already exists, not in mid-block locations.
The BBAC prefers a cabinet base with the equipment located at the top, but “we did have a few variations of this,” he said. In 2019, the BBAC received “an application for some nodes that didn’t quite look like anything we had seen before,” including an antenna for 5G service at the top of the proposed pole.
In an attempt to create a “streamlined style” for these poles, Cornish said that a subcommittee of the BBAC had been established to discuss them, which met for the first time on Feb. 23.
“We discussed a few issues,” Cornish said, such as the idea of requiring companies like ExteNet to replace existing concrete poles with more decorative pendant ones if they want to install DAS nodes. “Staff was directed to have a meeting with Boston Street Lighting and see what might be an option,” Cornish said. “Boston Street Lighting is open to the idea of the concrete light poles being replaced with the pendant pole.”
More research is needed for the best way to handle the 5G antenna, whether it be some sort of shroud or cover or to just leave it.
Attorney Rick Sousa then spoke on behalf of ExteNet Systems, saying that “none of these proposed include the 5G antenna,” though in the future they may need to be installed.
“We support utilizing and modifying these installations so that the light goes from a standard concrete light to a historic structure, especially the pendant lights,” Sousa said.
He then went through each of the proposed locations and described what the work would be.
“We did receive quite a few emails,” Cornish said, including 12 letters in opposition for the 274 Beacon St. location, and one letter of support.
For the Clarendon St. application, the Commission received two letters in opposition, and for 27 Hereford St., it received three letters in opposition.
Residents also spoke up about certain locations, including Sue Prindle of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB), said that the Hereford St. location is a “fairly delicate location,” and suggested that it be “moved or reexamined.” She also liked the idea of a “master plan” for these poles throughout the entire district.
Susan Smith, who lives at 274 Beacon St., said that “there is a bus stop with a large number of children in the morning and afternoon,” and a pole is located “across the street,” she said. “Within a block, there are two boxes. I appreciate that it’s being moved to the corner,” but she said there “does not seem to be others on Marlborough, on Commonwealth, and on Beacon.” She, too, agreed with the idea of a master plan.
All in all, the commission approved the following locations as presented: 59 Massachusetts Ave., 403 Beacon St., and 284 Newbury St., but that one had the proviso that the pole be replaced with a black decorative pendant street light.
The following locations will be continued to next month’s hearing: 27 Hereford St., 274 Beacon St., 29 Commonwealth Ave., and the Clarendon St. playground location.