Public Comment

Citizens Outraged by Berkeley’s ‘Stealth and Camouflage’ Ordinance

By Jack Shaughnessy
Thursday October 22, 2009 - 09:38:00 AM

  Resistance to the proliferation of radiation-emitting rooftop antennas in residential neighborhoods rises to outrage, as Berkeley citizens realize their powerlessness in public hearings and call for a referendum to resolve the malaise. Three focus areas emerge confounding our democratic efforts:  

a. Ordinance No. 7,073-N.S (aka the “Stealth” and “Camouflage” Law);  

b. Berkeley’s violation of FCC rules regarding the existing wireless facility at 1600 Shattuck Avenue; and  

c. the multi-directional design of the wireless antennas themselves that are mounted at a “downtilt” and send emissions in every direction. 

Cowed by the Clinton administration’s relaxation of FCC rules, Berkeley’s Wire-less Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance (Municipal Code Chapter 23C.17) puts “aesthetics” over citizen health concerns. Indeed, the public is prohibited from raising any health issues in its complaints not just in Berkeley, but in communities across America.  

Accordingly, our ordinance dictates that corporate developers of wireless telecommunication facilities use “appropriate stealth techniques…to minimize the visual impact of the facility.” It further instructs corporations  “to camouflage, disguise, or blend [them] into the surrounding environment.” Hence, aesthetics trump health and safety with the latter limited to the possibility of the facility falling over, or getting in harm’s way of rooftop workers.  

Giving corporations free range to conceal their facilities from public view makes people worry that we have a situation whereby the fox guards the henhouse. Indeed, even the NIH in its Washington, DC, offices was surprised to find wireless antennas hidden in its own walls and ceilings when it recently began renovations! 

Unlike countries around the world that bar wireless communication facilities in residential neighborhoods, by virtue of the Precautionary Principle, America puts corporate rights over those of people.  Nevertheless, mounting concern in the U.S. over this sorry state of affairs led a recent Columbia University Conference (2008-9) to author a lengthy exposé of the science behind the precaution. 

Another problem is how the emissions are measured: statically, as opposed to chronically. It makes no sense to take snapshot-like measurements when the nature of the emissions is continuous and fluctuating. 

Now to Berkeley’s violation of FCC rules: Back in 2004 during the public hearing for the 1600 Shattuck wireless facility atop of Barney’s and now Crepevine’s restaurants, public citizens in Strassmen et al., charged that Sprint violated FCC rules by erecting wireless antennas 31.1 feet above the ground, when by law, they should be at least 35 feet.  

Strassman’s complaint was based on the science of horizontally traveling emissions. It argues the “balcony effect,” whereby residents who live at the same level as the antennas, second floor, are subject to 46 times the amount of radiation they normally would get if the antennas were placed higher by just a matter of feet. The reason for this is that, as electro-magnetic emissions travel horizontally toward surrounding buildings, they continuously bounce off the surfaces of those buildings, thereby increasing the emitted radiation to an alarming level.  

For some reason unbeknownst to Strassman et al., and other interested parties—particularly second floor residents living less than 100 feet from the antennas—the city gave no satisfactory answer for approving the facility except that it was afraid of being sued by the telecommunications industries.  

Now look at the multi-directional, “downtilt” antennas: What Strassman, other members of the public, and perhaps even Berkeley city government, did not know was that the antennas designed and later mounted atop Barney’s/Crepevine are multi-directional, making them capable of emitting radiation on every plane.  

The Sprint spokesperson lied at the public hearing when he said that “the emissions do not travel vertically.” They do. The evidence is stated by corporate-appointed engineer William F. Hammett, in the present Engineer’s Report to the City of Berkeley, where he states the multi-directional nature of the design atop 1600 Shattuck and proposed for 1625. He says that antennas at 1600 have a “downtilt” and that those proposed for 1625 Shattuck will likewise be downtilted—12 degrees for 1625. He adds that due to this tilt, they will measure emissions horizontally and vertically, to the ground level at 1625 Shattuck. How about 1600? 

Re 1625: “The other 2 antennas (at 1625) would be mounted on short poles within cylinders resembling chimneys, at an effective height of about 47 and a half feet above ground, five feet above the roof. 

“The antennas would be oriented with up to 12 degrees downtilt in groups of three toward 20 degrees T and 290 degrees T and in pair toward 210 degrees T. The maximum radiated power in any direction would be 2,742 watts, representing the simultaneous operation of four PSC only channels at 368 watts each and five cellular channels at 254 watts each.” 

Re 1600: “Sprint Nextel, another wireless telecommunications carrier, has similar antennas installed on the roof of a building located about 200 feet away at 1600 Shattuck Avenue. That carrier had only proposed to install Allen Telecom Model DB932DG65E-M antennas and to operate with a maximum effective radiated power in any direction of 640 watts.” 

If we believe Strassman’s claim that the “balcony effect” increases electro-magnetic emissions to 46 times the legal limit based on horizontally directed antennas, we can only ask ourselves: how is that figure compounded when the antennas are multi-directional?  

Meanwhile, as we ponder the question, it behooves us to realize that citizens in and around the gourmet ghetto have been zapped 24/7 by this radiation at levels too daunting to even speculate! 

And residents exposed to years of such radiation in their Berkeley neighborhoods are now plagued with such resultant injuries as nuclear sclerotic cataracts—the kind most common to airline pilots, caused by airborne radiation.  

Rather than erect our own masks to hide behind, we might instead expect, nay demand, that governments not be cowed by corporations but instead actually analyze what’s before them and protect the public interests. We might start by halting further development until these issues are resolved. It wouldn’t hurt to take a survey of residential ailments among people who have lived/worked for a long time in the shadow of these wireless facilities. We might even write our own ordinance: of, for and by the people. For free aid in writing an ordinance contact 


Jack Shaughnessy is a Berkeley resident.