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Residents help pinpoint radio interference plaguing neighborhood

Tiburon resident Jeff Boris eyes the culprit utility pole, at Tiburon and Trestle Glen boulevards, where a faulty capacitor bank disrupted radio and Wi-Fi signals for weeks. Boris, who noticed interference when trying to listen baseball games, kicked off a chain of sleuthing that ultimately led to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. repairing the bank, which also interfered with the neighborhood’s ability to receive the local emergency radio-station signal. (Elliot Karlan photo / For The Ark)

A mysterious radio interference problem that rendered Tiburon’s emergency radio notification system useless in Belveron and disrupted the neighborhood’s Wi-Fi for several weeks has been fixed, thanks in part to the efforts of a couple of enterprising residents.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. crews identified the interference was largely due to a faulty piece of equipment called a capacitor bank on power lines on Trestle Glen Boulevard. Apollo Road resident Jeff Boris first noticed the radio interference back in mid-March, when he tried to listen to a baseball game on the radio and noticed his AM radio signal was jammed. For several weeks, all he could hear was a buzzing, crackling sound. When he drove away from the neighborhood and got onto Tiburon Boulevard, it disappeared.

The interference wasn’t just an inconvenience. Tiburon’s two-part disaster-response notification system relies on the ability to communicate evacuation or shelter-in-place orders to residents through the Belvedere-Tiburon radio channel, 840 AM, which is activated after an emergency begins and loud, continuous sirens sound.

Boris contacted The Ark about the issue in early April. The Ark contacted Tiburon resident Hal Schmidt, who until his retirement two years ago was a low-voltage electrical contractor who owned his own audio-visual technology and electronic communications firm, Avtek, for 32 years.

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