Planners Approve Wireless Ordinance

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

Berkeley planning commissioners finally approved a new wireless ordinance for the city last week, after making two minor tweaks to a revision of the 17th version prepared by city staff. 

Only commissioner Patti Dacey voted against the ordinance at the July 9 meeting, while colleagues Gene Poschman and Roia Ferrazares abstained and five other colleagues voted for approval. 

The commission faced the task of trying to find an ordinance they could approve while being unable to raise the one issue that most alarmed critics of cell phone antennae—the potential health risks caused by the electromagnetic radiation they emit. 

Federal law forbids local governments from considering health impacts, so the most the law can do is encourage—but not require—the use of lower power broadcasters. 

The measure now goes to the City Council, which is considering a moratorium on new antenna placement until the city can hash out the issues. 

Commissioners also rejected creation of a subcommittee to review the Downtown Area Plan, which the City Council has to pass by May or risk losing payments from UC Berkeley mandated in the settlement of a lawsuit challenging the university’s off-campus building plans in the city center.