When it comes to the Las Virgenes Metropolitan Water District and Three Springs, there are two issues that readers ask us about: the progress of an AT&T cell site, and the proposed 5 million gallon water tank.

First, the cell site (since that’s what readers ask about most). While the T-Mobile antenna is installed and operational (the 4% of residents that have T-Mobile report it’s working quite well for them), the AT&T site is now on indefinite hold (AT&T serves 57% of Three Springs residents, with Verizon serving most of the balance). In short, here’s what happened. AT&T is now reviewing all sites in the area to decide if they will continue forward or not. The process with LVMWD moved slowly enough that the site had not progressed much, and fell into a regional hold for all sites that weren’t beyond a certain stage. More details below.

Second, LVMWD would like to build a 5 million gallon water storage tank on their reservoir property off of Torchwood in Three Springs. As best as we can determine, the water district believes it needs the tank for a couple of reasons: to improve efficiency of water treatment at the reservoir, and to relieve the burden of the pumping station “upstream” from Westlake Village’s supply. The tank, which does not have even a preliminary design as of yet, would need to be substantive in size. For example, assuming 20′ high, it would be a little over 200′ in diameter. While the City of Westlake Village has no say on whether the tank can be built, it can put restrictions on the access through public streets (e.g., hours of construction, number of truck trips per day, etc…). It’s impossible to know how much concrete will be needed without a design, but to give an idea, one set of assumptions (see below) estimates 680 concrete truck trips (340 concrete trucks, one trip in, one trip out). This is in addition to workmen vehicles, grading equipment, excavators, etc… To reduce the impact, the City may need to temporarily remove the seven speed humps, and stage construction traffic on Triunfo Canyon. More details below.

On Saturday, July 30, LVMWD is having a “Board Workshop” on site in Three Springs to share information and to gather community input on the storage tank. The residents and public are invited to attend. Since there’s no public parking at the site, LVMWD will be running bus service starting at 8am. See the full announcement. (Note: This is NOT at the LVMWD main office, but at the reservoir site in Three Springs.)

LVMWD Announcement

LVMWD Schedules July 30 Board Workshop at Las Virgenes Reservoir in Westlake Village

There will be a special meeting and community workshop conducted by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District Board of Directors at Las Virgenes Reservoir in Westlake Village on Saturday, July 30 beginning at 9:00 a.m.

The purpose of the public workshop will be to share information and to gather community input on the proposed construction of a 5 million gallon storage tank at the Las Virgenes Reservoir & Filtration Plant site located in the Three Springs community.

The public is welcome to attend this meeting, however, there is no public parking available at the reservoir site. Specially marked busses will pick up passengers along Three Springs Drive and transport them to and from the meeting location. Bus service will begin at 8:00 a.m.

At the meeting, there will be a presentation on the project, discussion of different locations, techniques used to construct the new storage tank and projections on the amount of time needed to complete the project.

Additional Cell Site Information

Residents are constantly asking us about the status of the antennas, and in particular AT&T’s antenna above Three Springs. Clearly, those asking questions want the site (those opposed have been quiet since the City Council voted to approve the site). We’ve been watching and monitoring the process closely since last Fall. Here are a series of questions from Westlake Revelations readers, and the best answers we can give.

Q: Can the City decide if a cell site can or cannot go on the property?
A: In 2010, the City of Westlake Village’s City Council approved up to three antennas at the LVMWD location. As written previously, under the Federal Telecommunications act of 1996, regardless of any desires of the council or residents, the City had to approve the antennas and could only address their appearance (this is a simplified answer — read the prior articles for more detail).

Q: After the City approved the antenna, when did AT&T first start talking to the Water District about leasing a spot for the antenna?
A: AT&T started to seriously consider the site in November 2010, and began talking to LVMWD in December, 2010. Due to the holidays, vacations and such, real discussion didn’t really start until January, 2011. That said, the City of Westlake Village informally spoke to LVMWD about the feasibility of using the site for antennas, and they clearly indicated they were amenable to leasing the property prior to even T-Mobile pursuing a lease.

Q: Was the T-Mobile installation easier than AT&T’s proposed antenna?
A: The AT&T antenna is more complex to build than the T-Mobile antenna because of the number of customers it needs to support — in this case, about 15x more customers (again, 57% of Three Springs residents use AT&T according to an HOA survey). Primarily this is related to the “backhaul” or communication from the antenna back to AT&T which needs a much higher bandwidth connection. This does make it a bit more difficult set of circumstances to plan than the T-Mobile antenna.

Q: Why was T-Mobile able to complete quickly and AT&T cannot?
A: Certainly, there’s more back and forth related to added backhaul complexity and that added some time. At each step, there’s some genuine work time needed to investigate and solve issues. Beyond that, there’s the delays that large organizations and government entities may demonstrate. In watching the back and forth, it appears that of the three parties, the City of Westlake Village caused essentially zero delays, so the majority of time was spent within AT&T’s and LVMWD’s organizations. In watching the behind the scenes back and forth, it appears that the majority of the time (maybe 2:1), AT&T was waiting on LVMWD.

Q: What is behind LVMWD’s work pace in regards to the cell site?
A: Unclear. In what LVMWD has said directly, this is primarily because cell sites are not where LVMWD focuses. In the words of LVMWD’s General Manager John Mundy, “this is not a core business issue for the District,” and as such “the process will be on the District?s timeline.” Mr. Mundy indicated that it can take up to a year for the water district to work together with a lessee (AT&T in this case) to assess the conditions of an agreement before water district staff presents a proposal to the Las Virgenes Metropolitan Water District Board for approval.

Q: If things had moved more quickly, would AT&T have put the antenna on hold?
A: No one can know for sure, but it appears that had it run at pace similar to what’s seen with other large and government organizations (typically 2-3 months for a government organization on a lease like this), it likely would have progressed enough to avoid the hold.

Q: If AT&T waits, and the merger with T-Mobile goes through, won’t AT&T customers be served?
A: Not likely without at least a serious retrofit of the T-Mobile site both from the point of view of not being able to handle the customer load, as well as not being compatible with the new AT&T technologies coming. AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile is not so much about cell sites, but instead about acquiring frequency spectrum and customer base.

Q: What is the status of the antenna installation right now?
A: The site is currently on hold as AT&T assesses all the new sites regionally it has in progress. For the past few weeks, as the project is now on hold, the ball is in AT&T’s court. The hold is officially indefinite, but there may be additional information in the months to come, and the site may resume progress.

Q: Can LVMWD speed up the process now?
A: No. The impact of delays to date in 2011 cannot be reversed at this point. If the site comes off of hold status, the water district will have the choice of moving at the same pace they have to date, or choosing to move at a faster rate consistent with most government organizations. But, that would only be an impact for if the site comes off hold.

Q: What about Verizon and Sprint?
A: There continues to be no word or indication that Verizon, nor Sprint, have plans in progress for this site. That said, Verizon just recently had an antenna approved next to Westlake Lake which will help give some coverage to the entry of Three Springs, but probably not for most of the development.

Water Tank Details

LVMWD has not yet provided requested details about the proposed water tank in time for this article, and clearly, there is not a design yet in place that would answer a number of questions. LVMWD says that it will be making a comprehensive presentation at the community outreach meeting on July 30th.

While LVMWD has not decided definitely whether to build the tank, they clearly feel it’s necessary and appropriate. In other words, this is still a proposal at this point.

To the best we can ascertain, there appear to be two motivations for building the proposed storage tank.

1) The Seminole Pump Station, upstream from the lines serving not only Three Springs, but Westlake Village is overburdened risking reliability of the water supply, and growth will increase the strain. Aside from expansions LVMWD is doing at Seminole Pump Station itself, they are looking to relieve strain in other ways (such as the proposed water storage tank). In addition, this type of offloading makes for a more distributed system that may be more resilient than if many things rely on the single pumping station.

2) LVMWD is looking to improve efficiency of water treatment at the reservoir by having the storage tank available. It allows them to fill the tank as they treat rather than have to output the treated water immediately into delivery lines. Presumably, efficiency leads to lower costs, but that’s not been specifically stated by LVMWD.

Again, it’s impossible to know how much building will be needed without a design, but we can make assumptions to give a scale. A water tank large enough to hold 5 million gallons might be 20′ high, and a little over 200′ in diameter. The walls of such a tank might be one foot thick of concrete, and two feet thick at the base. The top might be a variety of materials including metal or concrete.

In doing some quick math, a tank of this size (and not including the top) would take approximately 340 concrete truck loads to build. This is in addition to the grading and excavating equipment, workmen trucks, lumber trucks, etc… Three Springs Drive has an estimated 4500-5000 car trips per day (for example, if you leave the house to go to the store and then return, that’s two car trips).

Because trucks going up and down Three Springs Drive could put substantial wear on the streets (built primarily for cars, not construction trucks), the City will want to assess this. For example, it may be better for avoiding damage to the streets, and quieter for the residents, if the speed humps are temporarily removed. There may be limits on the number of truck trips per day. And, the City may want to stage construction traffic on Triunfo Canyon or Lindero Canyon.

Regardless, a structure of this size would not have its concrete poured all at once. The base may be poured in pie shapes, and the cylindrical wall in sections. More will be known after geologic studies are done, a design is submitted, and methodologies are determined.

There are currently two proposed locations for the tank.

A) Near the water filtration building. This will be less expensive to construct, and will require less construction equipment to go through Three Springs.

B) The “far side” of the reservoir. This will be more expensive to construct, and will require more construction equipment to go through Three Springs.

While the details are not yet available, but will likely be presented on July 30th at the meeting, blasting needs are also under consideration.

Those interested in more information should attend the LVMWD Board Workshop at Las Virgenes Reservoir, above Three Springs, in Westlake Village on July 30th.