Sprint Tower Tops Council Agenda

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday January 20, 2004

The new three-antenna Sprint Wireless Communication facility proposed for the corner of Cedar Street and Shattuck Avenue—one of those Freddie Kruger-like city issues that never seem to die or quietly go away—is back on City Council’s agenda for another go-round at tonight’s regular meeting (Tuesday, Jan. 20). 

The issue has sharply divided Berkeley residents, with some welcoming more towers to improve cellphone reception, others yearning to kill a facility they believe will create adverse health effects. 

City staff members claim that all health issues are beyond the scope of Berkeley ordinance, subject only to federal law. 

The facility was originally approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board in late 2002, survived two appeals by disgruntled neighborhood residents, and has been stewing around City Council since last spring, suffering three separate postponements of public hearings while awaiting an outside consultant’s report. With the feasibility report on the Sprint facility now in hand, city staff says it is ready to move forward for Council to make a decision. 

In his report to Council, City Manager Phil Kamlarz writes that “the independent consultant...confirmed that the project meets all [Federal Communications Commission] requirements and is needed to provide adequate coverage to Sprint customers within the area. ... The project satisfies the city’s requirement.” 

In other action for tonight’s meeting, Council is soliciting public comment on Comcast’s proposed cable rate increases in the city. 

At its 6:45 Berkeley Redevelopment Agency special meeting, Council will consider approval of a 22-year extension of the ground lease for the land beneath the Ocean View Gardens Apartments. 

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) current holds a separate loan agreement and a Section 8 housing contract with the Delaware Street low income housing project, but those are scheduled to run out in eight years. 

AF Evans management company of Oakland, which owns and operates Ocean View, wants a new loan from CalHFA, and the Berkeley city loan renegotiation is necessary to ensure it. AF Evans says without the renegotiations, Ocean View could change to moderate-income or market rate housing when the CalHFA agreement runs out in 2012. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz has approved the loan renegotiation.