Sucker Deals: Part 1 – The Cell Site Lease Illusory Rent Guarantee

This will be the first in an occasional series of of posting describing Sucker Deals offered by wireless companies to their site landlords in connection with cell site lases.  Through these postings, I hope that you will gain insights into the sucker punches thrown at landlords by carriers and tower companies. Hopefully, you will learn some tricks of the trade to avoid being tricked by the trade.

These stories come from real world sucker deals offered to our cell site landlord clients by some big American tower and wireless carrier companies.

Now on to our first sucker deal,

“The Illusory Rent Guarantee.”

The set up: The tower company approaches its landlord announcing that the tenant at the site is likely to leave in the next few months. Oh woe is the landlord who is about to lose that income!

The play: The tower company tells you, the site landlord, that they need to add more years on the back end of the lease so that they can go out and attract a new tenant. They might tell you that to attract a new tenant they need to lower your rent because they have determined that they are paying you too much.

The reply: You, the landlord, did not just fall off the turnip truck and cutting rent with an existing, unexpired tenant is senseless.

The counter: They say, okay, how about a rent guarantee? You’re Intrigued! You ask, how does that work? They say that though guarantee five years of rent and trade for no rent cut and a 25 year extension, perhaps with some other terms like a right of first refusal thrown in for good measure.You reply that you are interested, but the rent guarantee. Should not begin until the current tenant leaves.

The sucker deal: They say, NO.  The rent guarantee must start immediately upon the execution of the deal amendment.  That’s the sucker punch of the sucker deal. What happens if the landlord accepts the deal but the current tenant does not leave (and may have never have intended to lease)?  You burn through your guarantee period with no benefit, and the they tower company laughs all the way to their 25 year extension.

You ask yourself the rather embarrassing question, “did I get taken?”

Yeah, you probably did.

Don’t fall for he sucker deal!




Smart People at Smartlink

Yesterday, June 24, Tripp May, Michael Johnston, and I lectured to about 60 team members of Smartlink, a major site acquisition firm.  Smartly, Smartlink conducts ongoing training of its professional staff via its ‘Smartlink University’ program.  Even smarter, we were asked by Smartlink to provide guidance to their staff in multiple locations around the country on how they can better accomplish their jobs working with local government officials, and cell site landlords.

The official title of our lecture was, “Time-Tested Ways to Muck Up the Leasing and Zoning Process.”  We covered the topic in about 2 hours, and really enjoyed our interactions with Smartlink staff who peppered us with questions.

Huh?  Those guys were telling the industry how to better do their jobs?  Who do they work for!?

Actually, for years we’ve made it a point as a firm to teach the industry how to do better.  Why? Because when they do their job better, better projects for the public are the result.  About once or twice a year we accept an invitation to lecture like this.

Huh? You’re taking money from the industry?

Nope.  We do not charge for the lectures, and when they are in far away cities we pay our own way to go.  This is about education, not profit.

Thanks, again, to Smartlink for inviting us (actually, Alexis Hadley gets major credit for having the courage to reach out to me to see whether we’d lecture to the ‘other’ side).

Smart, Smartlink.  Smart!



California Assembly Bill 2788 is DEAD

I’m very pleased to report that Assembly Bill 2788 (AB2788) is DEAD.

Assembly Member Mike Gatto pulled AB 2788 this afternoon.  When I say it’s dead, it is NOT being converted to a 2-year bill. It’s simply dead.

Many, many community activists, mayors, council-members, supervisors, and local government staff all have worked to kill the misguided ‘wireless tower in front of every home’ bill.

Now we need to start preparing for next year when the wireless industry picks another member of the legislature to do its bidding.

Today is a great day.



AB2788 Webinar for Local Governments June 27 at 10:00

Tripp May and I are hosting an hour-long webinar dissecting the layers and ramifications of AB2788.  The webinar, which we are hosting at no charge to participants, will include strategies and talking points of ways local governments can rally to work together against this massive land grab by the wireless industry.

Burbank and Glendale, this bill is being perpetrated on your residents (and every resident in California) by your Assembly Member, Mike Gatto.

This webinar, set for Monday June 27 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, is only open to local government officials and their legal counsel (in house and outside).  If you’d like to register, please visit and fill out the registration form.



A Massive Land Grab by Wireless Hits California Legislature

Mike Gatto Wants to Put A Cell Tower in Your Front Yard

Assembly Member Mike Gatto

The elected official, along with his wireless industry patrons, who Wants to Put A Cell Tower in Your Front Yard WITHOUT Any Local Government Discretionary or Aesthetic Review.


Assembly member Mike Gatto introduced legislation on June 13 on behalf of his wireless industry patrons that would be the biggest land grab by wireless companies in the history of the state. The vehicle for this huge land grab is Assembly Bill 2788.  Mr. Gatto switched Ab2788 from a completely different purpose to now be a huge gift to wireless companies over the values of his own constituents.

Mr. Gatto wants to allow his wireless company partners to place all sorts of wireless towers in the public right of way (that’s right in front of your home) WITHOUT giving you, your city or county, any say in the design or location of the cell site. 

The legislation he introduced, ghosted by wireless industry attorneys and helped by other wireless industry firms, would DENY any local government the ability to require a different and less intrusive location, or any different or better design that is more harmonious with the surrounding.

Mr. Gatto wants to fling open every right-of-way to his corporate wireless industry patrons.

Mike Gatto, who represents Burbank, Glendale and nearby areas in the state Assembly, is the head of the Assembly’s powerful Utilities and Commerce Committee, which oversees the California Public Utilities Commission, as well as wireless and telephone operators in California.  This means that Mr. Gatto has the power to move this anti-resident bill forward.

Most recently, Mr. Gatto co-sponsored a bill to BREAK UP THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION. That breakup would destroy most of the state oversight of wireless and other utilities. That bill passed the Assembly, but it looks like cooler heads in the State Senate will prevail, so that the CPUC break up bill looks like it will die.

Now Assembly member Gatto, pushed by his corporate sponsors, wants to destroy aesthetics of communities everywhere in California by opening the front of your home to a cell site, with no local discretionary review.

The wireless company wants to stick a cell site in front of your home?  Boom: Gatto says it’s done.

But that’s not all: Mr. Gatto’s proposed legislation will REQUIRE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS to make all of their property…not just the right of way…available for cell sites.  Except fire stations. To grease the support of the firefighters union, the bill has a special carve out for fire stations. They don’t have to be made available for cell sites. Nice political twist, Mr. Gatto.

Under Mr. Gatto’s proposed law, schools run by cities or counties would also be fair game for new cell sites, regardless of how the parents might feel about that.

If you want a 28-cubic foot box in front of your home attached to an unknown number of 6-cubic foot antennas, go see Mike Gatto.  Has he got a deal for you!

A Gift from Mike Gatto and his Wireless Industry Partners

A Mandatory Gift to Everyone in California from Assembly member Mike Gatto and his Wireless Industry Patrons. Thanks, Mr. Gatto.


If you want to preserve the aesthetic appeal of the front of you home, and your community’s aesthetics overall, then TELL MIKE GATTO TO KILL HIS WIRELESS GIFT BILL.  The only gift is to his corporate wireless industry patrons, leaving just a lump of coal for his constituents.

Mr. Gatto’s proposed is is bad for everyone in California EXCEPT for Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Crown Castle, Extenet, Mobilitie, T-Mobile, every other wireless firm, and of course Mr. Gatto.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE BILL as of June 14, 2016.

Here is Mr. Gatto’s contract information:  Why don’t you ask him why his corporate patrons are more important (really, more valuable) than those who elected him to office.

Capitol Office:
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0043
Tel: (916) 319-2043
Fax: (916) 319-2143

District Office:
300 East Magnolia Boulevard
Suite 504
Burbank, CA 91502
Tel: (818) 558-3043
Fax: (818) 558-3042




Copy and paste into your social media feeds:

#TellGattoNO #KillAB2788 Gatto can’t give away our homes to his wireless co. patrons. #KillAB2788 – the Wireless Give-a-Way!


Google Loon Now Flying

Last Friday morning, Google launched its latest flying Internet platform, a Google Loon from Winnemucca, Nevada.  The balloon (hence the name, “Google Loon”) rose quickly to an altitude of about 12 miles, and has drifted to north to the Canadian border, then northeast over Canada at an average speed of less than 20 kts/hr..  Right now, the Loon is a bit northwest of McLennan Lake in Saskatoon.  If you’re interested, you can track the Loon using, my tool of choice for such things.  Here’s my capture of the FlightRadar24 track on the Loon as of 4:05 p.m. on Monday (June 13, 2016).



Welcome Back, Stephen Garcia

I’m pleased to report that the night-before-last, Stephen Garcia presented on behalf of Crown Castle at Palos Verdes Estates at a joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting.  This is the first time I’ve seen him in person since his recent health issues.  He did a fine job, even though he is still recovering.

Well done, Stephen.

Welcome back to the arena.



Wall Street Journal on the Mobilitie Build for Sprint

(June 8, 2016) Today the Wall Street Journal is running an article titled, “Sprint’s Wireless Fix: More Telephone Poles” by Ryan Knutson. The subhead is, “Plan to improved network delayed as communities struggle with the unusual antenna requests.”  The article describes Mobilitie’s troubled start building the next Sprint network, including putting in facilities without benefit of, ah, government permits.  My favorite is Baltimore story where Mobilitie dropped a site into the middle of a sidewalk handicap ramp.  The city wasn’t amused and filed Mobilitie $5,000 after they abated that particular public nuisance.

While some industry observers have dubbed Sprint’s plan to decommission many or most of its macrocell sites in favor of pole-top cell sites as “Project Network Suicide,” Sprint claims that it will cost them  60% to 70% less to deploy its new network. This rose-colored view is likely to evaporate rather quickly as these particularly ugly sites are erected and residents rebel over sites like the one pictured below.

A Mobilitie site in Los Angeles built to serve Sprint.  Photo: Jonathan Kramer

Expect Lawsuits

I foresee Sprint (through it surrogate, Mobilitie) filing many law suits against local governments that object to the disamenity caused by pole top installations like that shown above, or worse, to new 70′ to 120′ wood poles placed next to and even inside residential neighborhoods as Mobilitie proposes in various communities.  Like the lawsuits filed by Crown Castle, I expect that the carrier-in-fact – here, Sprint – will not in the foreground so that they can be insulated from having to report those lawsuits to the financial community.

Read the WSJ article, which I had the privilege of contributing to, including providing the WSJ with the Mobilitie site photograph that accompanied the article.




National Conference Call on Mobilitie Scheduled 6/21

This is a hold-the-date announcement that there will be a national government-side conference call regarding Mobilitie scheduled for June 21st at 2-3 p.m. Eastern Time.  More details to follow in just a couple of days, but you’re going to want to have your planning and public works people on this call.

(I might happen to know one of the speakers…ahem…)

(There might be photos…ahem…)

(There might be a test afterwards….naw, just kidding…)