A Silver Lake church with lots of soul and fewer dropped calls

The chimes that ring from the pink bell tower above St. Teresa of Avila have been calling the Catholic faithful to the Silver Lake church for decades. Now that same tower will soon play a role in a different kind of communication — cell phone calls. When the construction scaffolding comes down, two transmitters embedded above the bells but below the cross will turn the spire into a giant, Spanish-Colonial Revival style cell phone antenna. Churches across the country are cashing in on their steeples, says cell phone tower expert Steel in the Sky, which helps churches and other property owners negotiate leases with cell phone carriers.

“Due to their low impact on neighborhoods, churches can often be found in residential neighborhoods where tower regulations make it all but impossible for new towers to be built. The end result is that an increasing number of churches are being approached to place towers on their property or install antennas and a cell site inside the steeples.”

The strategy worked for St. Teresa. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, when it reviewed the project three years ago, favored hiding the antenna in the church over building a free standing structure. The church got extra money and the neighbors don’t have to look at another antenna masquerading as a spindly pine tree.

P.S.: The owner of Steel in the Sky, Ken Schmidt, estimates that 200 church steeples nationwide have been converted to cell phone towers. Churches can collect between $750 to $2,500 a month from the cell phone company.

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