Danville defers decision on debated Verizon cell wireless facility

Council will take 30 days to review potential options for Camino Tassajara site

The installation of wireless cell facilities has become a hot topic of conversation in Danville as a group of residents has been working to keep the new facilities associated with cellphone service away from residential neighborhoods.

In an attempt to find a compromise between these citizens and telecommunication provider Verizon Wireless, the Danville Town Council debated the issue for nearly five hours Tuesday but ultimately deferred its decision for 30 days on an appeal made by the Danville Citizens for Responsible Growth (DCRG), requesting that town officials deny the installation of a facility located on Camino Tassajara.

“For me, it is really simple: I just need to know that we exhausted all of the alternatives before we made a decision,” Mayor Robert Storer said at the council’s regular meeting as the clock approached midnight. “4 and 5G is coming, and we have to think about how we are going to manage it in the town of Danville.”

A land-use permit for the cell facility -- owned by Verizon -- was approved by the Danville Planning Commission at its regular meeting on Oct. 23. The project consists of the placement of panel antennas contained within a four-foot-tall radome on top of a six-foot extension of the pole and the mounting of related equipment on the lower portion of the pole on Camino Tassajara approximately 225 feet east of Gatetree Drive.

Tuesday’s town council meeting was well-attended, with almost 100 residents showing up to support or oppose the proposed appeal. Although the majority of approximately 30 public speakers supported repealing the land-use permit for health and aesthetic reasons, due to the facility being located too close to neighborhood homes, among other points.

The meeting concluded with the council voting to review the process further and encourage Verizon officials to open a dialogue about potential alternative solutions.

DCRG first submitted its appeal requesting the relocation or denial of the facility on Nov. 2, in a letter submitted by the group's legal representation, Anita Taff-Rice.

“Verizon has taken the attitude that they are looking for a unicorn. That they are looking for that one perfect pole that they can go use,” Taff-Rice said at Tuesday night's meeting.

One of Taff-Rice’s key arguments was Verizon had failed to adequately consider potentially better-suited alternative locations for the facility that would be located farther away from homes.

“That is not a prohibition of service. It may be inconvenient; it is not a prohibition of service,” she said. “I get the sense that things have been conflated a bit that if Verizon has to do anything extra, anything more than what is convenient, they say ‘oh gosh that's a prohibition of service.’”

Alternatives to the current site proposed by Taff-Rice include the open space area above the neighborhood, at the East Bay Municipal Utility District pumping plant at the intersection of Camino Tassajara and Sycamore Valley Road, or two parcels on the north side of Camino Tassajara near the Sycamore Valley Road intersection.

“I can see it from my window where I sleep and it is located near several other residences, so it is a very bad tower,” said Ricardo Vasallo, a Danville resident whose home lies closest to the proposed facility. “I think the town of Danville has an obligation first to the citizens of Danville before these corporations.”

Town officials said technically Verizon could also build a new pole -- instead of using a town-owned preexisting one -- at a different location, but Verizon officials said this would be a new concept for them that is not employed by most cities.

Verizon representatives at the meeting were open to further discussion over alternative locations, but the company’s legal representative, Paul Albritton, maintained that there was no other preferred area other than the one previously approved by the Planning Commission.

“Verizon Wireless is hoping to bring wireless service to Danville in order to enhance your community, enhance the business community, to enhance the safety of your community in times of crisis,” Albritton told the council. “We think that we have carefully analyzed the sites in collaboration with the city and the staff to identify the preferred location with the least impacts.”

Albritton also took the time to explain that the facility on Camino Tassajara is a 4G facility, not a 5G, a misconception held by many residents in attendance.

Verizon representatives said they received a wealth of support from community members responding to a text survey, claiming over 400 respondents supported improved service in town. Opposition members have criticized these statistics, saying the survey question was biased, and did not accurately represent the issue facing the community.

Town staff maintained that when it comes to regulating the installation of cell facilities in public areas, the hands of local jurisdictions such as Danville are tied by the state and federal governments.

“The discretionary review authority that local jurisdictions have over the deployment of wireless communication facilities, especially in the public right-of-way, is largely preempted by federal and state law. The town’s authority is currently limited to aesthetic considerations such as consistency with any established local standards and design guidelines,” Danville’s principal planner David Crompton wrote in a staff report.

By the meeting's end, Verizon officials agreed to give the town and additional 30 days to review the issue, and proposed collaborating with council members or town staff in order to properly review options.

Town staff reportedly will review options for additional meetings with Verizon representatives and what regulation powers the town does have at the council’s meeting in early March.

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20 people like this
Posted by N Daetz
a resident of Danville
on Feb 7, 2019 at 9:40 am

Gee, thanks Verizon for "agreeing" to give the town time to think about this.

This is a piecemeal application which is illegal. What you fail to report is these cell tower poles will need to be installed every 500- 1500 feet by every mobile provider who wants to serve Danville. This is one application. They need dozens for the technology to work.

Most Danville homes are already networked with wireless. Why do we need every residential public space networked? Why can't it be limited to business zones or open space? This is not going to improve service to homes or effect the ability to run home businesses.

Yes, "The town’s authority is currently limited to aesthetic considerations such as consistency with any established local standards and design guidelines,” which means the cell tower installation's impact of degrading aesthetics decreases the public's and adjacent property owner's ability to enjoy this area, which also obviously risks damage to property values. Every cell tower pole must be disclosed by real estate sales disclosure documents. THIS IS WHY 100+ CITIZENS AND REAL ESTATE AGENTS SHOWED UP FOR THE STANDING ROOM ONLY MEETING.

Verizon brings in experts to speak for hours with exhibits and evaluations touting 'minimal impact' and canopy coverage to "conceal" the tower. We don't care about canopy coverage, we don't want these ugly RF emitting towers in our yards. Who will monitor the RF frequency to ensure they are within save levels? Are FCC guidelines (who favor corporate buildout) to be trusted?

Where is the town survey of citizens to match the Verizon "surveys" given to their customers.

Town Council, if you do not listen to your citizens you are THWARTING DEMOCRACY in favor of corporate interests.

You are the local jurisdiction that has been given the power to reject these installations in favor of the health, safety and aesthetic enjoyment of our properties by our citizens. All of these reasons have been used by other cities to reject cell tower applications. Danville needs to do the same.

16 people like this
Posted by Danville Taxpayer
a resident of Danville
on Feb 7, 2019 at 11:58 am

There were 150 people at this town council meeting - every single one of them OPPOSED Verizon's plans to blanket this beautiful town with dangerous cell towers 25 feet from residential homes (except for the one supporter, a 20-year old guy who was seen being coached by Verizon in the meeting hall lobby as to what exactly he should say). The Town Council allowed Paul Albritton, Verizon's attorney, to talk for nearly 2 hours. They were hoping people would get tired (meeting started at 7:30 PM), which some of them did, and had to leave the brainwashing portion of the meeting. The meeting went for 4.5 hours.

Some interesting points were made by Verizon. They said "oh, this is a 4G tower, not a 5G. If we want it to later be a 5G then we'll need to get a permit." THIS IS FALSE. Once Verizon gets its claws into that location/site, it can legally "swap" equipment as long as it’s approximately the same size. That means that whatever story they tell us now, they can do whatever they want any time thereafter.

They also made claims about needing the exact location that they had applied for. If it is really a 4G tower, then it can cover 7,500 feet. The alternative site proposed by residents (the Danville Citizens for Responsible Growth – DCRG) is less than 2,000 feet from that location, and it would not be anywhere near someone’s home. That clearly covers a distance of 7,500 feet.

They said this first (of many) towers would NOT ADDRESS COVERAGE GAPS. It was meant for future capacity. They had, however, advertised to residents that it would improve coverage.

They claimed their towers were essential for first responders. One of the people at the meeting was a firefighter who said that they mostly rely on walkie-talkies, not cell phones. Verizon was recently charged with throttling the fire department’s “unlimited” data plan in the recent deadliest fire in California history. Their actions actually SLOWED first responder’s efforts to put out the fire and save lives. Web Link

The attorney for DCRG (the citizens), Anita Taff-Rice, expertly took on the entire Verizon executive team that showed up. In about 10 minutes, she easily schooled Verizon’s highly compensated attorney, with grace, confidence, and a clear understanding of the laws surrounding telecommunications (federal, state and local). She educated our own Danville council members who didn’t even understand that they had the power to push back on Verizon, per their OWN ORDINANCE, which they just revised in October. By the end of the meeting, they admitted that they now didn’t clearly understand exactly what they had approved in the ordinance.
Link to Anita speaking at the meeting: Web Link

Two key players seem to keep being part of Danville going through these unnecessary and potentially disastrous precedents – David Crompton, the town’s planner, who lives in Benicia, and Rob Ewing the town attorney. Neither seem to have a good understanding of the laws or how to even enforce their own ordinances. They have not appeared to seek input from residents or from cities like Mill Valley, Monterey, Fairfax, Hillsborough and all the others that have successfully kept Verizon at bay. They recommended that our own Town Council deny our appeal! But, in the end, the council did realize they had local control per the FCC’s own orders, and they agreed to an extension. They could have outright denied the appeal, so this was a good win for everyone involved. We will have to gather the troops again in 30 days to keep the council on their toes. If they do approve the existing permit, it will likely result in litigation.

10 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Danville
on Feb 7, 2019 at 1:39 pm

Are you aware there are two RF reports for each Verizon site. City officials and the public only see one report the other report is classified and it not available for public viewing.
Make you wounder what’s in the other report.

5 people like this
Posted by Dr. V
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Feb 7, 2019 at 2:45 pm

We need to keep supporting this wonderful lawyer representing our town: Web Link

10 people like this
Posted by Danville Voter
a resident of Danville
on Feb 7, 2019 at 5:59 pm

This particular new cell tower application is a tipping point between the current state of Danville and its future. If approved,it will set a terrible precedence.

The recently amended City Ordinance, crafted with Verizon's help, has a critical loophole in it when it comes to placement of cell towers. In the past, telcos needed a 250ft or 125ft set-back from homes. The latest Ordinance allows much less distance when a public right of way is involved. The Verizon application this current discussion is about requests placement of its RF antennas only 25ft from a home.

Verizon and other carriers plan to exploit that loophole to the fullest extent when the new 5G systems come out next year, systems that use a millimeter wave technology that gives off harmful RF radiation. They intend to hang 5G systems on every pole they can find in the public right of way locations. There will be many within 25ft of homes!

If this onslaught goes unchecked, Danvillites will find 5G towers literally in their front yards, hanging off the nearest light pole. DCRG is to be commended for leading the opposition to having our neighborhoods and playgrounds awash in harmful radiation emissions 24/7/365 over the coming few years.

More citizens need to educate themselves about the aesthetic and health risks inherent with this coming immersion of RF emitting antennas being hung off street light, traffic light, school light and playground light poles.

A great start would be to attend the next meeting of the Town Council and voice your opinion on this matter. We must get the Town's Wireless Ordinance changed back, to enforce reasonable set-backs for these cellular towers and antennas in residential neighborhoods, so our kids won't have to wear aluminum suits just to hunt Easter eggs in their front yards!

Support DCRG (our citizens)for your safety, the quality of your life and value of your home.

6 people like this
Posted by Al
a resident of Alamo
on Feb 7, 2019 at 11:58 pm

Are these the same people who complain that their cell service sucks? What zombie science are they quoting? Is this the first world NIMBY B.S. Two years ago people were complaining the Methodist church in Alamo building a gymnasium would unleash armageddon. Hey we are still here. Since land lines are disappearing what the help are you going to use to call the police when you lose your cat?

2 people like this
Posted by Janette
a resident of Danville
on Feb 9, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Hey Al -

Finally someone who is sensible! It appears that the Planning Commission and Town staff were ready to approve the small cell request based on the wireless ordinance guidelines that govern the Town and such installations. These guidelines have already been approved by the Town. Town officials asked for a little leeway in deciding an alternative location that is not directly behind a resident's house - even though the site Verizon had complied with all the rules. This seems reasonable and sensible. I really wish people would quit scaring Danville residents about what small cell is -- it is not a tree tower! It is 48" high and sits on top of an already existing utility pole. The emissions are at less than a quarter of a percent of what is allowable by the FCC. I trust Danville will make a good decision and not compromise cell coverage and service during an emergency.

1 person likes this
Posted by james
a resident of Danville
on Feb 10, 2019 at 2:24 pm

AL - unfortunately you're a little misinformed as to why there's objection to Verizon's plan. Actually the conversation can start and end based on the fact that the location Verizon insists on doesn't even adhere to Danville's own town ordinance (which is supposed to be there to protect Danville's residents and the value of their properties). Federal law allows municipalities to put a process in place which establishes "...reasonable, uniform and comprehensive standards and procedures for wireless facilities deployment..., consistent with and to the extent permitted under federal and California state law." Per the Danville ordinance the proposed location of the wireless facility (when attached to existing or replacement structures) must be "not within 125 feet of a residential dwelling". Those of us close to the story also know that the conduct of Verizon in finding an alternative location has not been conducted in good faith and with honest. The federal wireless law gives wireless providers a ridiculous amount of power and autonomy to place these facilities in communities across the country. The least we can do is to demand they work within the minimal requirements we are afforded to protect our community

Like this comment
Posted by michelle brown
a resident of Danville
on Feb 17, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Before people blindly put their trust in corporations, remember that corporations, for generations, have put profits before people. These towers are incredibly dangerous, especially for developing brains.

Web Link

Those who are concerned for their safely shpuld consider emef blockers for their homes. Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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