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Danville residents file appeal, challenge wireless facility installation

Residents claim other more suitable locations for facility exist

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A collection of Danville residents continue to resist the implementation of wireless cellular facilities near residential areas, and have filed an appeal with the town contesting the placement of one on Camino Tassajara, approximately 225 feet east of Gatetree Drive.

At its Oct. 23 meeting, the Danville Planning Commission approved a land use permit for a new wireless facility -- owned by Verizon Wireless -- on a public utility pole in a residential area. The installation's approval came over the objections of residents from the Danville Citizens for Responsible Growth, who on Friday filed an appeal challenging the decision.

“The approved location in close proximity to a home when more suitable locations are available does not comply with the town’s policy or ordinance requirements,” wrote Anita Taff-Rice in the appeal, on behalf of Danville Citizens for Responsible Growth. “There are several other locations more suitable that will comply with Danville’s Wireless Communications Ordinance, fill gaps with Verizon coverage and provide a buffer zone between residential areas.”

The appeal challenges the decision on five key points claiming that the facility will have negative impacts on property value, the commission did not take enough time to consider aesthetics, there is no evidence of coverage gaps for Verizon, more suitable locations are available, and the town violated due process by not adequately alerting the neighborhood.

Danville town staff have maintained that when it comes to regulating the placement of telecommunications facilities, due to federal mandates, they have very little control.

“Federal law prohibits local jurisdictions from establishing regulations or taking actions which would effectively preclude a wireless communications provider from delivering service,” town principal planner David Crompton wrote in a staff report.

Federal regulations largely limit municipalities in their ability to regulate the aesthetic design and placement of towers. The Federal Communications Commission mandates policies for the entire country, and has issued strict rules limiting the options of Danville and other municipalities.

If the town did deny the placement, as municipalities in Mill Valley and San Rafael have, the town would be open to potential litigation, according to Geoff Gillette, Danville’s public information officer.

“To be clear, DCRG is not attempting to prevent the installation of Verizon’s wireless facility," Taff-Rice wrote. "Rather, it seeks to ensure that the ultimate location takes into account the entire record, strictly follows the requirements of the Wireless Ordinance and by balancing the interests of increased communications capacity with the least impact to the general welfare of residents as required by (California).”

On their Facebook account, Danville Citizens for Responsible Growth have been attempting to crowdfund the costs of the appeal, reportedly needing $1,500 for attorney retainer and $300 for the appeal fee itself.

Previously, neighboring residents and group members have shown concern over perceived potential health risks that could result from the radio frequencies emitted so close to residential neighborhoods. Local municipalities have their hands tied by the FCC, however, who ban regulations based off of health concerns.

“Federal law (the Wireless Communications Act of 1996) prohibits local jurisdictions from considering perceived health effects when taking an action on a proposed facility,” Crompton wrote.

The FCC maintains that it is very unlikely that a person can be exposed to radio frequency levels in excess of their guidelines.

The approved Verizon tower is scheduled to be placed on a public utility pole and consist of four-foot-tall panel antennae on the top of the pole accompanied by related equipment mounted on the lower end.

As of yet, there is no hearing date set, according to Gillette.

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8 people like this
Posted by Long Term Resident
a resident of Danville
on Nov 6, 2018 at 6:52 am

Hopefully the town will prevail in this case. Can you imagine if all property owners try to delay placement of cell antennas in every location proposed? We will never get 5G and improved service. It is not as visible as our road and bridge infrastructure, but our IT infrastructure is way behind world standards too. I travel all over the world, and get better coverage and service in most other countries, including China and India.

2 people like this
Posted by KF
a resident of Danville
on Nov 6, 2018 at 8:52 am

Dear "Long Term Resident", Why don't you give permission to the Danville Planning Commission to install one of those 5G antennas on the pole in front of your home? Perhaps that would solve the problem.!!!

8 people like this
Posted by hmmm...
a resident of Danville
on Nov 6, 2018 at 9:10 am

Just going to point out since I've worked in the wireless industry for a number of years. The relative impact of a tower to an individual actually is less than someone that is holding a phone next to their head. Since the same relative energy needs to travel the 2-5 miles depending on tower distance.

Also, the actual coverage right beneath a tower is next to nil. Safest place to be if you're really worried about it, but I would be more worried about holding the phone next to your head since it's an energy blast. Think of it like a shotgun shooting rock salt. Farther out means less damage. When you have a focused area at close distance, then there's issues. That's the same with RF energy.

Lastly, if you are right under the tower? There's almost nothing. Antennas are generally smart these days and tune power up and down as needed by usage and they are angled outwards. Depends on the shape of the coverage.

2 people like this
Posted by hmmm...
a resident of Danville
on Nov 7, 2018 at 10:34 am

Got a chance to scan through the legal brief.
* So aesthetics wise, there are ways around this argument since there are ways to disguise poles these days.

* Property de-value, I think needs to be justified.

* Backhaul alternatives, that depends. Wireless capacity is driven not by just antenna support, but how much backhaul from each site. Changing to smart antennas wouldn't necessarily increase what can be increased on backhaul (basic principle of if you have 802.11b wifi at home, but only a 1Mbps connection out of the house, increasing to 802.11n wouldn't change capacity).

* Locations wise, definitely the more on top of a hill would be better for coverage. I would be curious why Verizon chose those particular sites unless they are PG&E poles and those are the only ones that are sufficient for power backhauls (this depends on the power pole negotiations too).

The youtube video is pretty interesting, but it doesn't show the type of coverage (phone call can be done in IS-95 coverage, and not necessarily in 3G/4G). What would be more acceptable as part of due-diligence would be to show whether or not websites would work, GPS, etc. or just show signal bar indicators with base station handoffs. This can be done with an Android device, and anyone that has worked in the industry can show you the apps to look for.

I'm not stating that they (DCRG) don't have a good perspective. They bring a perspective, and could be completely right.

However, I find the evidence in both legal and RF evidence wise, a bit lacking. Like many municipalities, you can enforce shorter towers and lesser coverage by power ratios to cellular corporations. But in doing so, you also limit your call coverage since height does impact range. So perfect example is: Las Vegas. Providers only put up towers that are a few stories high, which makes the signal very horizontal. On the east coast, it's whatever, and the coverage is fantastic and driven only by a few towers instead of a multitude of short/low powered stations.

In any case, only spent about 15-20 minutes on this. Seems like the entirety could be looked at through a SME and then evaluated for the good of the overall Danville populace.

My two cents.

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