SAN LEANDRO — An iconic symbol of the city’s past, the Pelton Plaza sign, will play a role in its future, helping bring free outdoor high-speed Wi-Fi to its downtown core.

 The 1940s-era sign, visible from much of downtown, will house a wireless gateway that will connect to the city’s fiber optic loop.
 “One of San Leandro’s goals has been to bring ourselves up in the world, and part of doing that is to bring Wi-Fi to our citizens,” Mayor Pauline Cutter said.
 “We’re bringing Wi-Fi to our downtown. It’s in a limited space right now, and hopefully it will be able to expand for the whole downtown,” she said at this week’s City Council meeting.

The four-block Wi-Fi area will include Pelton Plaza, the Village retail center, Parrott Street, the farmers market, and parts of East 14th Street and Juana Avenue.

 The wireless gateway, which is only a few inches tall, will be installed on top of the 52-foot-tall Pelton Plaza sign and will be painted the same color to blend in, said Tony Batalla, San Leandro’s information technology manager.
 “It won’t be noticeable,” he said.

The gateway will send signals to access points on nearby streetlights. Those will be painted black to match the streetlights.”Think of the Pelton sign as the hub,” he said. “It has tremendous visibility in that area. With that direct line of sight, we can hang access points on our decorative streetlights.”

The project should be completed by this summer, Batalla said. The council on Monday approved spending $68,000 to cover the cost.

San Leandro has free indoor Wi-Fi at the Main Library and Senior Community Center, but this will be the first outdoor Internet it provides, he said.

“We’re hoping it will be one of the fastest systems in the Bay Area,” Batalla said.

San Leandro has a high-speed fiber optic loop running through an underground city conduit. The loop, Lit San Leandro, is the result of a public-private partnership between the city and Patrick Kennedy, CEO of OSIsoft.

Kennedy paid for the fiber optic and gave some strands to the city in exchange for using the conduit, most of which was already in place. Lit San Leandro installed 11 miles of fiber optic cable in 2012, and an additional 7.5 miles will be completed soon.

San Leandro Unified School District also is connecting all its schools to the fiber optic loop to improve Internet access.

“I think it’s very important and very important to our youth and … generations that use Wi-Fi all the time,” Cutter said of the city adding wireless downtown. “It shows we’re welcoming.”

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473, or follow her at