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Cell Phone Antennas: Why City Planning Standards Are Needed (Partisan Position)

By Guy Benveniste
Tuesday December 07, 2010 - 01:20:00 PM

Apparently , notwithstanding all the safeguards imposed by our city, cell phone companies like "T Mobile" can install antennas right smack in front of your living room without even a whimper of an objection.  

Here is how it goes. Presumably on May 8 , 2010 "T Mobile" mailed a "Notice" to residents on Montrose Rd. in North Berkeley informing them that to improve cell phone reception they were to install an antenna and "associated " equipment on a PGE pole in the area. The closed folded single sheet "Notice" was sent bulk mail to "Owner" at various adresses on Montrose Rd. There was only a return address on the cover but no logo or name of "T Mobile" and it was sent bulk mail. As you and I would do in the circumstances, all but one resident sent it directly into trash. The only resident who opened it was away. Her daughter, taking care of her mail, kept it and it was saved. Since the "Notice" did not specify where the pole would be , the resident did nothing. Meanwhile hearing nothing from residents at Montrose Rd. , T Mobile" went ahead, selected a pole and obtained a construction permit. Then, on Wednesday November 24, just before Thanksgiving, "T Mobile" placed little folded sheets held with a rubber band on front doors on some Montrose residences. These indicated that a PGE pole situated in front of 140 Montrose Rd. would be fitted with an elevated cylindrical shroud (radome) and additional equipment cabinets and a meter. Work was to start the next Monday November 29, 2010 and continue until Wednesday December 1. Residents were enjoined to watch for no parking signs.  

This time, 4pm Wednesday, a few of us finding these pieces of paper on our doors, began to be alarmed. E mails and phone calls were made but most of the City and Council staffs were already gone for the holiday. Since there were no " No Parking " signs visible neighbors parked their cars on Sunday night to keep away the invading construction crews. And we waited. Some response came from our District 5 Council representative and his able staff. For the moment , the construction trucks have not appeared and cars are mobilized each night to hold down the invaders.  

What is fascinating here is that the selected pole is rotten, is located on a very narrow sidewalk so that it does not meet Title 24 requirements and it is as close as 30 feet from the living room of a Montrose Rd. resident . In addition, it is less than or about 50 feet from 4 other residences. Now it turns out, that these antennas entail the cylindrical shroud portion above and 3 large cabinets mounted on the side of the pole. Presumably the antennas are "safe" , they do not cause cancer, but they are noisy. They emit hum and other signals. The noise level is presumably within "tolerable" decibel level. What is impressive here is that "T Mobile" paid no or scant attention to proximity of the selected pole to residences nor did it consider the pole condition and location in the middle of a narrow sidewalk. It is also obvious that the City of Berkeley needs to establish some design guidance standards regarding the siting of antennas on utility poles. One would think that the condition of the pole, proximity to residences, and meeting state and local regulations and requirements should be included. These antennas may or may not be a health hazard, but at close proximity they are a visual and noise blight. As such, they certainly have an impact on property values. This is why we need clearer City planning standards.