You Said It: "It's Not Necessary For Us to Experience This for Everybody Else to Have Their Safety"

One resident explains why she doesn't want to live in the shadow of cell phone antennas: "Albany has integrity, or so I thought. Selling out to 'ghettofy' (my son's) place of residence because it just seems OK to do so just doesn't sit right with me."


Monday night, about whether they want the City Council to approve an appeal by AT&T to build cell phone antennas on a roof on San Pablo Avenue.

One speaker's comment in particular raised some eyebrows. Watch it via the video above, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

"I hear a lot of things, and safety issues, and this and that and the other thing. My feeling is, I want my son growing up somewhere that has integrity. And Albany has integrity, or so I thought. And selling out to 'ghettofy' his place of residence because it just seems OK to do so just doesn't sit right with me....

"I'm just kinda just speaking from where I live, which is across the street. And I really don't want this, you know, in my neighborhood. I don't want this for my kid, I don't want this for all the other kids that are having to grow up there. It's not necessary.

"There are better places to put these things, to put the cell phone towers. We are third priority, as has been stated. We are not first. We are just people living in a neighborbood. It's not necessary for us to experience this for everybody else to have their safety.

"And I don't think cell phone technology is a right, as a lot of people would like to drive the point home. It's a priviledge. And we have to negotiate with the other 50 percent of the people that don't use cell phones. I mean, I do use a cell phone. I have decent coverage. It's not AT&T. You know, it's all about your choice. It's a choice we make. And we negotiate our needs.

And I'm trying to stand up for the needs of my children. And the children in my neighborhood. And also the people that wanna live there and wanna raise their families. And not live in a ghetto. So I appreciate your time. Thank you."

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for updates on cell phone issues in Albany. Read more on Albany Patch about the AT&T application here.

Read more about mobile phone issues in Albany. A video of the July 2 council meeting will be available here via KALB.

Peter Bernhardt July 05, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Agreed, neighbor. AT&T continues to bully the City and residents of the 1000 block of Kains Avenue and has yet to take even the first step in find a more suitable location for their antennas. Let's end this now and demand the City Council honor our laws and the wishes of the residents of Kains and deny, once and for all, AT&T or any other carrier would blight our neighborhood.
Blaine Isbelle July 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Everyone is aware there is already another cell tower at the same location. Such a hypocrite, what about the folks that live by the cell tower for company she does have a cell phone with. Is it really true only have the adults in Albany have cell phones?
Caryl O'Keefe July 05, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Blaine, I think you meant to type "half" to ask what proportion of Albany adults have cell phones. An online report about a Pew Research Group survey http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Smartphone-Update-2012.aspx says about.85 percent of Americans 18 and older own a cell phone, and 90 percent of all adults live in a household with at least one cell phone. *Smart* phone ownership by adults is about 46%. About 30% of households have no landline. It's not surprising that AT&T needs a wireless facility in Albany, ideally one located where it will improve service for the greatest number of customers while conforming to federal health-related requirements and legitimate local requirements.
KTA July 05, 2012 at 09:10 PM
So let me see if I understand... Cell phones and cell phone towers are ok, but towns with cell phone towers are "ghettos", "sell outs", and "without integrity". We don't want to be those towns, but we do want cell phone reception. So really, we should look for these mythical "better places to put [towers]", by which I assume you mean, places that are already "ghettos" and therefore can't be transformed into ghettos by the placement of a tower. No one there will care, right? So I suppose that poor people should just allow those of us from more affluent communities to erect cell phone towers in their neighborhoods. (Oh wait - do 'those people' even have "neighborhoods" like us, or did their sense of community erode away with their integrity?) This will allow us have to convenience of better service without paying the price for it. We already experience the "privilege" of having cell phones, let's just be sure to actively patrol the perimeters of that privilege and limit any costs to places that are already screwed. Newsflash! "Ghettos" have kids, too. They have good people, families, neighborhoods, and parents and grandparents that want to raise their children in safe and healthy homes. And let's be real. You're talking about Oakland and Richmond. You're talking about poor black and brown folks. You're talking about kids that already live in places with greater pollution, higher asthma rates, low performing schools, etc. But it's not YOUR town, so why should you care?
KSC July 05, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Agree with KTA. I don't know how I feel about the cell phone tower in particular, but this argument is classic NIMBYism. The "ghettofy" comment is classist at best.
Amy Smolens July 05, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I cringed when I saw the word "ghettofy" and read the writer's argument. Thank you, KTA. I couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't try.
Senior A. Titude July 06, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Rats in the sewer make it more of a ghetto than cell towers.
David Sanger July 06, 2012 at 04:13 AM
This is an excellent example of how ARROW's desire for zoning purity is really a thinly disguised cover for their irrational health concerns. Darina Drapkin complained in her May email to P&Z that the proposal would "increase and extend non-conforming uses on this rooftop" but actually her real fear is that she "doesn't want her children growing up under [cell towers]." Here in this video she wants to "stand up for the needs of [her] children." Julie Beck of ARROW stressed the same in her comments at the April P&Z meeting "There are children all over our block, infants, babies…." This is an attempt to emotionally appeal to people's fears. However it is not based on actual evidence in public health.
David Sanger July 06, 2012 at 04:13 AM
(cont'd) Study after study has shown no statistically significant increase in risk in cancer from cell phone use. In fact, the incidence of cancer has declined somewhat in the US in the last 10 years. The incidence of brain cancer has declined. Incidence in the Bay Area has declined. If there were any link at all to cell phone then you would see an increase not a decrease. Researchers have not. Furthermore, most concerns about cell-phone safety are about handset use where the energy is around a thousand times greater than from a cell tower. As Tod Abbott said in his comments on Monday "what's behind this [opposition] is fear. People are afraid of radiation. It's a scary word." Fear is not, however, a good basis for public policy decisions. Calmer heads should prevail. The FCC, not the City of Albany, is responsible for telecommunications safety standards. Research continues. And hopefully as new results continue to be published people's fears will subside and we can get on with our lives.
Michael Barnes July 06, 2012 at 04:44 AM
KTA, It's not just Oakland and Richmond, it's Albany, too. And El Cerrito and Berkeley and Kensington. I've participated in discussions in Albany, El Cerrito and Kensington, and read about similar meetings in Berkeley. The pattern is pretty consistent. Older, white homeowners further east toward the hills fight to push cell towers further west into lower-income neighborhoods with higher proportions of non-white ethnic groups. In Albany, that means into neighborhoods that are disproportionately filled with middle- and working-class Asian immigrants. At first, the combination of NIMBYism and scientific ignorance was appalling to me, but I have since learned to expect it.
Ross Stapleton-Gray July 06, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Not that it's necessarily suitable as a tower site, but what's become of the Community Center tower? When last they worked on it to deal with the leaking/rot, they also seem to have tiled over all of the windows in the thing... is it now just a three-story sunlightless stair tower to nowhere?
Michael Barnes July 06, 2012 at 06:57 AM
Ross, now it is just as useless as the glass tower at the high school. We need to have a Patch contest to get some suggestions for what to do with our two evil towers. Hide orcs there? Giant fish tanks? Watch towers to guard against the intrusion of the great unwashed hordes of out-of-district transfer students?
Doctor Detroit July 06, 2012 at 04:33 PM
This might be a tad ignorant, but why can't they just make a deal with UC and place it on top of the new whole foods building instead?
Michael Barnes July 06, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Dear Doctor, That's not an ignorant question at all. People have been thinking the new projects at UC Village (if and when they are ever completed) could be a good location for cell base stations. But Albany has been discussing the Whole Foods location for five years, and the AT&T proposal at 1035 San Pablo Ave. for four years. At this point, you can understand why AT&T and its customers don't want to wait any longer. And you can understand why they don't trust the city council. Sadly, some of our city council members seem pride themselves on not getting anything done, as video the from the July 2 meeting will confirm.
Doug Donaldson July 06, 2012 at 06:54 PM
The fear of cell phone tower radio frequency emissions may be strongly felt by some people, but it is an irrational fear that is not supported by credible scientific evidence. We should not allow our Governmental bodies to make decisions based on irrational fears expressed by some of us. It seems to me that good government involves listening to all sides of an argument, and then making rational decisions that are in the best interests of the community as a whole. NIMBY fears combined with a general dislike of AT&T and/or huge powerful companies in general appears to carried the day with our City Council. It looks like a few people will be protected from AT&T's evil cell tower emissions - but at what cost? Several thousands of Albany residents and businesses will be left with extremely poor AT&T cell phone service, and furthermore we may be paying to defend a lawsuit by AT&T (whose attorney said they feel that their Federal license requires them to provide good service.) A bad result, in my opinion.
Doug Donaldson July 06, 2012 at 06:59 PM
(Continuing) I would also like to note that many of our basic services involve known and obvious high-risk hazards, and we expect government to regulate those services and manage the risks so as to reduce the hazard levels. I am thinking of the electricity surging through our homes, the natural gas we use to cook and heat with, and the gasoline we use to transport ourselves, among other things. Yet cell phone towers are not even known to be hazardous, so why is it so difficult for Albany to adopt this new technology that has been so completely adopted by us, the City residents? The naysayers rule, and our City Council has lost sight of the public interest.
Michael Barnes July 06, 2012 at 08:28 PM
What is really galling about this incident is that this women was almost certainly encouraged by Julie Beck of ARROW to testify, and she had no idea how naive she would sound, or how she would be ridiculed. Beck, self-appointed ARROW neighborhood activist, should have encouraged this woman to make sure her arguments were more reasonable. That's want any real neighborhood activist would do. Of course, reason is not the strong suit of the ARROW folks. In her own testimony, Beck's rate of falsehoods per minute is not quite up there with Nan Wishner's, but it is close. But Beck has another trick up her sleeve--assault. At a recent meeting, Beck was making loud complaints during the testimony of others. When someone leaned over to her and asked her to be quiet, she hit him and knocked his glasses off. Not a great idea, given there is a police station next door. So the person who was hit walked next door and talked with the police. A police officer came by and pulled Beck out of the meeting and had brief conversation with her. This is the level of discourse and respect the ARROW brings to the table.
Tatter Salad July 06, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Cell towers achieve their maximum utility with....HEIGHT. That's why it's called a 'tower.' They also have a substantial I/O requirement: that is: hard-wired feeds to and from the antennas. So, at this site, unlike many sites to the east, there is both height, and existing I/O. It's sad we have a City Council without the education to see through the goals of the ARROW folks. It's similar, if not identical to the 'Occupy the Farm' puppet masters we recently had to deal with. That is: Fill the courts with as many cases as possible; create distrust at all levels U.S. of government and police agencies; generate adversarial exchanges with successful business institutions, police, and universities. Take advantage of the ignorant, and fan the flames of 'false monsters' regarding science, the supposed 'rich', and anything that cannot be explained in 20 words or less.
Peter Bernhardt July 07, 2012 at 12:24 AM
It's funny that many of the same folks decrying the City Council upholding the law with regard AT&T's antennas are the same who so noisily demanded enforcement of the law during the Gill Tract circus. Michael Barnes, how 'bout AT&T installs the antennas on your roof, pal? That would solve this problem for everyone.
Michael Barnes July 07, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Peter, you obviously missed my reply to your similar post on the story about the 3-2 vote, so I have cross-posted it here: "The solution is easy, Mr. Marshall. Contact AT&T and invite them to put their antennas on your roof. Win-win." I can tell from Peter's comment that he is new to this topic, so here goes: 1) Personally, I would love to have a cell base station in my neighborhood, and especially one on my roof, since the provider would pay me about $20K in rental income annually . But cell base stations cannot be placed in residential neighborhoods in Albany. This due to the poorly-written cell ordinance supported by ARROW in 2005. 2) Since cell providers basically cannot move east of San Pablo (except for portions of Solano Ave). They are required to stack base stations up along the eastern edge of San Pablo Ave, in Peter's neighborhood, which is just behind San Pablo Ave. It would make more sense to move them further east, away from Peter's neighborhood, but the providers aren't allowed to do that. Who is responsible for that? ARROW. Remember who your friends are, Peter. 3) Actually, cell base stations are like lighthouses--they beam their energy out to the horizon. So there is very little RF exposure directly below a cell base station. For details Peter could have read the Hammett Edison report in the P&Z package, which explains this in detail. The maximum ground strike of the RF beam is often a few hundred yards from the tower. (more below)
Michael Barnes July 07, 2012 at 02:31 AM
(from above) 4) I have walked Peter's neighborhood with my RF meters, and the RF levels are pretty low. I am not sure what these folks are worried about. RF exposure levels are higher at a place like Indian Rock, near and slightly above the horizon, and in line-of-sight of all sorts of RF antennas. 5) I would also not assume that cell base stations turn your neighborhood into a ghetto. St. Mary's High School, our town's private high school, is located in the most expensive neighborhood in Albany. St. Mary's hosts three different cell providers, and makes a lot of income doing it. This site was grandfathered under the cell ordinance. Sadly, Albany's public high school can't make money the same way, thanks to the 2005 cell ordinance. RF levels at St. Mary's are low, I've checked several times. 6) Medical and public health officials are worried about cell phones, not cell towers. Their concerns are with the radio transmitter that people (especially children) hold against the side of their head--an especially vulnerable spot. One of the best ways to keep cell phones safe is to text or otherwise keep them away from your head. Another good idea is to use them where you have adequate signal strength, like near a cell tower. The phone puts out less power when it is near a base station. The more bars you see on your cell phone, the safer it is to use it. That's assuming there is much risk at all, which as not been established. But precaution is good.
Michael Barnes July 07, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Peter, As for your comment about laws and the Gill Tract, I'm afraid you misunderstand that issue as well. The city's zoning ordinance is not federal or state law. The city council has full power to change the 10 percent roof coverage restriction (and their interpretation of it) that has been the sticking point in this case. The problem (and some of us have been mentioning this for years) is that the city's cell tower ordinance conflicts with other aspects of the zoning code, like the 10 percent roof coverage restriction. There is nothing illegal or against the law in having the city council change the roof restriction portion of the zoning code. In fact, that would make the code more consistent with the 2005 cell ordinance that encourages co-location of cell provider facilities.
David Sanger July 08, 2012 at 01:38 AM
If AT&T can find a way to redesign their installation so that it fits within the 10% roof coverage limitation of the height exception ordinance, then it will be readily approved. ARROW would still not be pleased of course because their real desire is not conformance to zoning laws but preventing AT&T from having an installation anywhere near their neighborhood (for the sake of the women and children). It is not by accident that the group was originally called Cell Tower Free Albany and had a website with page after page of health concern commentary.
Marie July 08, 2012 at 07:51 AM
Yes! Thank you.
Jo-Anna Pippen July 12, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I'm afraid, too. I'm afraid of having a medical emergency and not be able to get help because my cell phone signal keeps dropping. This is such a bogus concern. We live in an urban environment and there are plenty of things, like smog, violence, drugs and traffic to worry about that are much more serious than a cell tower. This is the 21st century and the technology horse has long left the gate. I'd be more than happy to have it on my roof.
Ingrid Klopp July 16, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Is there any reason why AT&T can not place a tower on their own roof - on their bldg that has been in the same place for over 40 years? On the south side of Solano between Ordway & Ventura?
Michael Barnes July 16, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Ingrid, Two things come to mind quickly. First, that building is in Berkeley, so it wouldn't be an issue for Albany's city council. Second, it is only one story, and to get enough height would require adding a fairly tall structure. I think if putting a tower there was easy and solved an AT&T coverage problem, it would have happened already. I have heard that AT&T is considering other taller buildings nearby for a potential cell site.
dgies July 16, 2012 at 05:14 PM
That's a good question. My guess is that site wouldn't have enough range to reach their big coverage gap in the southwestern part of Albany, which seems to be the point of this whole exercise. A site on that AT&T office would help address poor coverage in the Berkeley half of Solano.


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