Council Delays Sprint Antennae Vote

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday January 30, 2004

Sprint Wireless Communications and North Berkeley residents will have to wait another week to wait to find out whether city councilmembers will approve Sprint’s controversial cellular antennae facility at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Cedar Street. 

Sprint wants to put three antennae on the roof and corresponding equipment in the basement of a commercial building housing two restaurants. After the Zoning Adjustments Board approved the facility, neighbors appealed to the council—which held a public hearing last week, and had been expected to rule at Tuesday’s meeting. 

But after several councilmembers, particularly Gordon Wozniak, expressed concern that Sprint hadn’t made its case that the facility was necessary, councilmembers postponed their vote. 

Wozniak said he’d done his own test of Sprint telephone service on two occasions at peak hours, finding no loss of service. 

Sprint’s written rebuttal submitted after last week’s hearing included an allegation that the Tri Field Meter used by one of the proposed facility’s detractors to measure power readings near Shattuck and Cedar is “most popular with ghost hunting and UFO cults.” 

Sprint included an advertisement which called the meter “the Ghost Detector—one step beyond the average EMF meter for Parapsychological and Paranormal field work.” 

Resident Shahram Sharuz had alleged that the meter showed that power emissions in the area of the proposed cellular facility already exceed FCC standards. 

The council also turned aside a motion by members Kriss Worthington and Betty Olds to refer another controversial proposal—setting aside on-street parking near the Ashby BART station—for the city’s parking enforcement officers (the so-called “meter maids”). Instead, members voted 5-3-1 to approve a recommendation by Miriam Hawley, Linda Maio and Wozniak to move the parking sites away from commercial areas and reduce the numbers from the original 21. 

Spaces will be set aside in curbside areas currently marked red, so that parking for other citizens won’t be reduced. Councilmembers Dona Spring, Olds, and Worthington opposed the motion; Councilmember Maudelle Shirek abstained. 

At Spring’s request, the council unanimously set March 16 for a public hearing to discuss a possible moratorium on above-three-story, mixed use buildings in the University Avenue area. 

Spring and University Avenue area residents have requested the moratorium to give the city time to bring the zoning code in compliance with the University Avenue Specific Plan. Councilmember Olds was out of the room for the vote, and Maio recused herself on the city attorney’s advice because of a possible conflict of interest. 

After hearing assurances from the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department that they would have plenty of time to review the possible cutting of close to 100 trees before the power saws are actually turned on, the council voted 8-1 (Spring voting no) to allow the Bay Trail Extension to Berkeley Marina plan to go forward in its first phase. 

Spring had held up the vote at last week’s meeting because of her concerns about the trees, and Councilmember Worthington asked staff members to present a plan to “save as many trees as possible” before the actual construction begins. 

Councilmember Margaret Breland, who has missed the past two meetings due to illness, participated in Tuesday’s meeting by telephone.