Council Remands Cell Phone Towers to ZAB for Second Time

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday June 26, 2007

Verizon Wireless and Nextel Communication staff will be back at the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) meeting Thursday to request a use permit for 11 cell phone antennas atop the UC Storage building at 2721 Shattuck Ave. following a second remand from the Berkeley City Council. 

A public hearing is also scheduled to be held at the meeting at Old City Hall, 1234 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, at 7 p.m. 

At the Jan. 30 ZAB meeting, board members voted 6-3 to deny the request of Verizon and Nextel for a permit to construct a new wireless telecommunications facility to host eighteen cell phone antennas and related equipment atop the building. 

The six ZAB members who voted against the permit cited insufficient third-party engineering review as grounds for denial. 

The item, which had been first remanded to ZAB by the City Council on Sept. 26, 2006, had brought forth health concerns from neighbors. 

But the City Council had asked ZAB to look primarily at the third-party engineering review, parking concerns and whether any illegal construction was taking place at the site, and had asked ZAB not to reject the cell phone antennas on grounds of health concerns. 

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits local governments from rejecting wireless facilities based on health concerns as long as the stations conform to Federal Communication standards. 

Neighbors said the denial was a breakthrough in terms of communities having a voice in planning their urban environments. 

Both Verizon and Nextel appealed ZAB’s decision to the City Council. 

At the May 11 council meeting, Paul Albritton, an attorney for Verizon, told councilmembers that more antennas were required for better cellphone coverage. 

“Data use has tripled in Berkeley,” he said and added that Berkeley’s use of cell phones had increased 94 percent between 2005 and 2006. 

Area residents who had turned up at the meeting to vociferously protest the antennas argued that the council had significant evidence that there was no need for additional coverage. 

Planning staff is recommending that ZAB approves the permit. 


2100 San Pablo U-Haul project 

The City of Berkeley Code Enforcement Division will request ZAB to hold a public hearing to consider recommending to the City Council that the U-Haul business at 2100 San Pablo Ave. is in violation of its use permit. 

If the business is in violation, the Code Enforcement Division has asked the council to determine with the appropriate remedy. 

According to the staff report, U-Haul was granted a use permit in 1975 to operate a truck and trailer rental business which allowed it to store 20 trucks and 30 trailers on the lot.  

The report says that U-Haul has consistently violated its use permit by storing more than 20 trucks on its lot and has also used on street parking spaces to store its trucks. 

U-Haul argues that the use permit does not limit it to storing 20 trucks on the site or prohibit it from using the public right of way to store the excess trucks.