The City Council got an earful Tuesday from residents concerned about potential health risks from radiation-emitting satellite antennae that support cell-phone use, that are increasingly being located in residential neighborhoods.
The residents were speaking at a public hearing for a proposed telecommunications ordinance that would primarily regulate underground placement of telecommunications equipment that had nothing to do with cellular phone antennae. But their concerns did not fall on deaf ears. The mayor and two councilmembers said Wednesday they are putting recommendations to restrict antenna placement on the agenda in coming weeks.
Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmember Betty Olds put an item on next week’s agenda calling for a moratorium on all antenna applications. “We have to have assurances that we have all the information we need to properly evaluate the placement of these things,” she said.
Councilmember Dona Spring said she will submit a recommendation for the Jan. 16 meeting that will call for restricting the placement of all satellite antennae to industrial areas in west Berkeley.
John Taylor, who lives near the Oaks Theater on Solano Avenue where a dozen antennae have been approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board, said he was glad to hear the City Council is paying attention to the issue.
“I think it’s the responsible thing to do,” he said. “The City of Berkeley has a reputation for being a trend setter and this is an issue where they can really have a stake.”
Berkeley adopted the “Wireless Telecommunication Antenna Guidelines” in 1996, which states that satellite antennae are not appropriate in residential areas. But the guidelines have not stopped the ZAB from approving the controversial antennae in some residential neighborhoods.
Currently the city says it is unsure how many antennae there are in Berkeley but it is estimated by the Planning Department that there are at least 40, most of which are located in industrial areas in west Berkeley.
As wireless communication becomes more common, there is growing concern about the effects from electromagnetic radiation emitted from both satellite antenna and cell phones.
Medical research in the United Kingdom has compiled a growing body of evidence that suggests exposure to these emissions is dangerous, especially to children. In response to these findings the British government has just allocated $10,000 for further research and a public information campaign urging children to not use cell phones at all.
The Zoning Adjustments Board will consider approving an application to place an satellite antenna on the roof of the Jewish Community Center on Walnut Street at its Thursday meeting.