The Jewish Community Center on Walnut Street has decided against installing two Sprint PCS wireless communication antennae on the center’s roof after members, staff and neighbors expressed health concerns.
JCC Director Joel Bashevkin said the board of directors voted Dec. 19 not to install the antennae, after soliciting input from the community. JCC staff presented the community with reports supplied by Sprint PCS which downplayed possible health effects, but after reviewing them some community members were still not convinced.
“When we looked at the reports, using the most conservative estimates, the antennae emissions would have been 400 times lower than what the FCC regards as unsafe,” Bashevkin said. “But there were still people concerned about possible long-term health effects.”
Caroline Semerdjian, a spokesperson for Sprint PCS, said she understands the community’s concerns but said they are based more on a fear of the unknown rather than factual evidence.
She said cell phones and their antennae have been used for 20 years without any confirmed adverse health effects.
Ironically, the JCC board decided to nix the antennae installation on the same day the City Council adopted a 45-day citywide ban on any new applications for wireless antennae.
The council adopted the moratorium after neighbors protested the Zoning Adjustments Board’s approval of a plan to install seven antennae on the roof of the Oaks Theater on Solano Avenue.
A neighbor is appealing the ZAB’s decision and the City Council will hold a public hearing on the appeal this month.
In recent years there has been growing concern about possible health risks from the electromagnetic radiation associated with cell phones and their supporting antennae.
Community concerns were fueled last month when a respected British medical journal published an article claiming a growing body of evidence that electromagnetic radiation is harmful, especially to children. That report, along with others, prompted the British Government to fund a $10 million research and education program.
The JCC’s cancellation of the installation will come at some cost. The center was going to use lease proceeds from Sprint PCS to pay for the replacement of a smoke stack on the roof. The stack, now purely an architectural element of the facade, has not been functional since the 1940s. The exterior of the building has been a city and state historical landmark for 18 years.
“We want to replace the smoke stack to keep the building beautiful,” Bashevkin said. “We’ll just find another way to pay for it.”
Health fears cause JCC to say no to antennae