The non-profit organization I work with, Berkeley Neighborhood Antena-Free Union (BNAFU), asks all Berkeley residents to join our cause this coming Tuesday evening, 7 p.m. at the Berkeley City Council meeting located at Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr. Blvd. On the agenda will be telecom demands for cell antennas at two more flatlands locations, the French Hotel in North Berkeley and 1725 University Avenue.
The Verizon mega-antennas at UC Storage have been activated after three years of community struggle against Verizon Wireless, Patrick Kennedy, and the City of Berkeley. These antennas face directly into neighboring homes.
Meanwhile, BNAFU continues its lawsuit against Verizon, Kennedy, and the City of Berkeley. This lawsuit is based on what we believe to have been an illegal City Council vote last November. At that time five City Council members voted to overturn the Berkeley Zoning Board’s decision opposing the Verizon antenna application for UC Storage.
The effort to overturn the ZAB was supported by Linda Maio, who, with her husband, had been negotiating a real estate purchase with Patrick Kennedy, owner of UC Storage. Kennedy stands to earn thousands of dollars each month for renting his walls to Verizon. These facts suggest a conflict of interest on Linda Maio’s part.
A picket line will assemble this Sunday morning from 10 a.m.-12 noon at the French Hotel to protest the Verizon antennas to be installed at that location next.
BNAFU’s position is that our city must develop a city-wide antenna master plan now. We ask the City Council to reject any more cell antenna applications until the City develops a scientifically sound and community-friendly master plan for antenna placement and a city ordinance to back up this plan. At this point in the ongoing evolution of this issue, it has become clear that Berkeley needs to bring together a committee of experts in the field of geography, engineering, telecommunications, and health to establish such a plan and ordinance. And this is a perfectly feasible course of action for Berkeley to take.
The rational for this action is the following:
1. The recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision grants greater local control over antenna siting unless a cell phone company is being prohibited from serving its customers in Berkeley. This is not the case here.
2. Local Verizon store employees have told us and shown us through their computer-generated maps that coverage in Berkeley’s flatlands receives these companies’ highest ratings for excellence.
3. A primary role of the Council is to protect Berkeley citizens from unnecessary corporate intrusion in terms of negative health consequences and aesthetics.
4. Cell antenna distribution has been very inequitable. Antennas are currently being installed solely on the basis of what cell companies tell the Council that the companies need to provide adequate customer service. Meanwhile, we customers and citizens are saying that our cell phones work fine, but our peace of mind is being threatened by mega-antennas pointing into our homes.
5. Antenna placement decisions are not deploying the latest, safer, micro cell antenna technology. Use of this technology would make antenna distribution more equitable (i.e. not so concentrated in the Berkeley flatlands and less threatening to residents.
6. Our current ordinance, according to Wendy Cosin, head of Berkeley’s cell antennas project, is probably legal at this point because of the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. The city should stand behind our ordinance and not be intimidated by the Verizon lawsuit.
You can find out more about our group and our effort at antennafree.com.
Michael Barglow is a South Berkeley resident.