Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Sawyer: Concerns about cell towers in Santa Rosa neighborhoods

Verizon plans to install 74 pole-mounted cellphone towers (PMCT) in Santa Rosa; 61 of them in residential neighborhoods – just 15 to 50 feet from homes. The city has already granted Verizon permits to go ahead.

I’m an electrical engineer with 27 years in the industry and a Life Member of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers).

IEEE Spectrum in a 2011 article stated, “After a working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries reviewed the latest research data, the IARC announced that it has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from cellphones “as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.”

The World Health Organization classified cellphone radiation as a Group 2B carcinogen and stated there are particular risks to children and fetal development.

Aside from RF microwave radiation, having a cellphone tower in your neighborhood could reduce your property value. A peer reviewed study published in The Appraisal Journal 2005, quantified residential properties within 300 feet of a cellphone tower as being devaluated by 20 to 25 percent due to fears of RF radiation and aesthetics.

California’s SB649, which was drafted by the telecommunications industry to ease permits for cell towers while keeping cell towers away from fire stations, bypasses local government ordinances pertaining to cell towers. This would allow cities to issue permits without a design review. However, Gov. Brown vetoed the bill at the last minute.

Keep in mind, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 only allows telecommunications companies to preempt local governments when they have requested to install cell towers due to the lack of coverage, but not due to the lack of bandwidth (capacity).

Verizon in their presentation to the city council stated its reason for requesting more pole-mounted cell towers was to increase coverage and bandwidth in preparation for 4G/5G services. However, as far as we can tell, Verizon has not provided documented evidence regarding lack of coverage for the already permitted PMCT sites in Santa Rosa. Furthermore, new neighborhood cell towers do not necessarily guarantee faster web/video services.

What the city appears to be doing is fast-tracking permits for Verizon to install PMCT’s without a design review. However, Council Policy 300-04 specifies Verizon must follow Ordinance 20-44 and preform a design review for each PMCT installation. So what happened?

The city may have opened itself up to legal issues – time will tell. Right now the best thing you can do to keep these not-so-pleasing-to-look-at, RF radiating cell towers out of Santa Rosa neighborhoods is to write, email and phone the mayor, the city council and the city manager’s office and let them know you don’t want cell towers in residential neighborhoods.

Please attend Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. city council meetings and let them know, we want no cell towers in neighborhoods or near schools.

Get the word out to everyone you know.

Tom Sawyer lives in Santa Rosa, Calif.

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