San Carlos Real Estate Agent, San Carlos Realtor Proposed T-Mobile cell towers concern some San Carlos residents. | The White Oaks Blog
Living in San Carlos October 15, 2009

Proposed T-Mobile cell towers concern some San Carlos residents.

by Chuck Gillooley

Cell_Tower

The San Carlos City Planning Commission meetings probably don’t draw as much attention as the regular City Council meetings, but they certainly do make some key decisions nonetheless. For example,  it was brought to my attention that in this coming Monday’s Planning Commission meeting, they will be deciding on whether to issue conditional use permits for the installation of cell phone antennas at three different locations in San Carlos:

  1. 515 Park Avenue.
  2. 200 Highland Avenue.
  3. 791 Sunset Drive.

The new antennas will be the property of T-Mobile, and look to make use of existing utility poles.   From what I gathered reading the description, the new antennas will extend about 11 feet above the existing 39′ utility pole height.  The proposed installation at 515 Park Avenue has some neighbors concerned due to the close proximity to White Oaks School.

Public Hearing

On Monday October 19 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to hear comments and concerns about the proposed plan.   Here’s a link with the agenda for this Monday’s meeting, as well as supporting documentation for all three installations:

San Carlos Planning Commission Agenda – 10/19/09

If you live near one of these locations and are at all concerned about having a cell tower in your neighborhood, this is your chance to speak your peace…

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Proposed T-Mobile cell towers concern some San Carlos residents., 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
Comments 34
  • As someone who lives very close to a proposed site and has twosmall children I am highly opposed to having the tower near me. If we cannot attend the hearing is there someone we can email or contact? Is this a done deal or will they take our protests into account?

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  • Between this post and the high speed rail post, whiteoaksblog is starting to turn into the san carlos NIMBY blog.

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    • Anonymous Poster,

      I’m not sure if you’re referring to the content on the site, or the comments that are submitted to the blog posts. I can only address the former. Opinions are indeed opinions, and I guess I see it a little differently. I think make a concerted and balanced effort to inform the San Carlos community on events and developments of interest, both potentially positive and negative. I wrote two recent posts about the proposed In-N-Out Burger site, and about the curb re-construction and re-paving of Crestview drive — both of were overwhelmingly positive, and I strongly endorsed both developments. So I guess I’m a bit puzzled how you see this site as “the NIMBY blog”… But hey, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, and I certainly respect your opinion.

      Thanks for your comment.

      CG

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  • I don’t see what the objection of cell towers is. Wasn’t it some time ago that people though they would get brain cancer from using cell phones?

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  • Chuck,

    Thanks for posting this message.

    This antenna set will be located 185 yards from the White Oaks Elementary playground and 245 yards from the classrooms.

    Though the FCC says these are safe, a number of peer-reviewed scientific journals say they’re NOT SAFE. These papers have noted an 3x/4x cancer incidence rates for residents near the towers.

    There’s NO NEED to take a RISK with our kids health.

    This is NOT a done deal – the planning commission meets Monday evening. I’m organizing residents and school parents to oppose this but need your help. Contact me at the above email or cell phone 650 8568 0926 (ironic, eh?)

    Thanks,
    Murray

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    • Please site the studies you are referring to. From what I’ve read, people get far more RF from TV and radio than from cell towers. Not to mention using your cell phone on a daily basis.

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  • terry #
    Cell phones radiate about 3 watts. This tower will radiate 2000 watts in each direction.

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    • Murray,

      You claim to have an engineering degree – can you please tell us in what field? Unless it is EE with a specialty in RF, it probably isn’t that pertinent to this discussion.

      And pointing out that the tower radiates 2000 watts is completely disingenuous if you were trying to make the scare tactic that the phone is 3w but the tower is “whopping” 2000w. First off, 2000w is minuscule. The typical radio and digital TV antennas in the SF area put out 50,000w to 1,000,000w (KCSM in San Mateo is 561,000w, btw). More importantly, the radiation arriving to the person near that 2000w cell tower will be a measured in milliwatts or less.

      As a ham radio operator, I could put up a 1500w transmitter in San Carlos with less drama than Tmobile has to go through because of nervous nellies like you.

      Your kids will get far more RF from talking on their phones than they will from that tower.

      “Insisting on absolute safety is for people who don’t have the balls to live in the real world.” – Mary Shafer, NASA

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      • AK
        As I mention below, I am not an RF engineer. Nor am I a physician, biologist or an epidemiologist. I don’t claim that I can evaluate the interaction between RF emissions and tissue. But, when there are published studies in peer-reviewed epidemiological journals, I take notice. I’m not claiming that I know the answer, but that there appears to be some uncertainty in the science.
        Given that uncertainty, why subject children to potential harm. Especially if the carrier hasn’t demonstrated a compelling need for the base station at that location. Finally, ad hominem arguments don’t really help this dialog.

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  • Are those of you going to the meeting only speaking out about the white oaks tower or all of them?

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  • K
    I’m organizing the White Oaks elementary parents. The issue before the planning commission is the permit for the Park Ave. tower. I’ll be speaking at the meeting about this issue. Because of the immediacy of this permit, I don’t plan to address any other towers, but I do understand there are towers on school property at Heather & Central.Contact me directly for more info.

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  • I too can cite many scientific peer review articles that show that cell towers do not promote cancer. Think of the cell tower at Highland Park, and the the number of kids playing there.

    It’s interesting the rubbish that gets promoted, and people actually believe it!

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  • I should add that I will be at the meeting to SUPPORT the installation of cell towers.

    Myths need to be debunked, before they become fact.

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  • Stanford EE Professor –
    Yes, I agree that there are many peer reviewed studies saying there are no negative effects.
    Like many complex issues there are many different studies, some presenting conflicting information. It’s difficult to quickly produce conclusive evidence for long term exposure concerns. These require multi-year epidemiological studies and have a limited ability to manage and control the study populations. Witness the long battles over asbestos, tobacco, and global warming.
    Given the limited benefits of a tower, which accrue to residents as an convenience (albeit an important and useful one) and to the operator as incremental revenue, why take the chance on placing it so close to a school?
    To your point about the kids at highland park: are they at the park 6 hours/day/30 weeks/year for 5 years? Again, why take the chance?

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  • I agree with Stanford prof. A significant portion of the EM spectrum has been released by the FCC for wireless applications. Cell tower radiation and their effect on humans is utter nonsense. People need to get their scientific facts straightened out before they stand up at the meeting.

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  • Chuck-
    I’m curious to know if a homeowner are legally required to disclose the presence of a cell tower such as this on a real estate transfer disclosure form (particularly the homeowners whose homes are closest). What do you know?

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    • Drew,

      You pose a very good question. First of all, I can’t discuss the “legality” of what should be disclosed or not because I’m not a lawyer. And the wording of the seller’s obligation for disclosure is not black-and-white, either.

      The seller’s instructions on filling out the Seller’s Supplemental Checklist (Part of the Transfer Disclosure Statement) states the following: “California law requires that you disclose to a Buyer all material facts, of which you are aware or reasonably should be aware, bearing on the value or desirability of the property.”

      Obviously, there are lots of gray areas with this, as well as any other disclosure item. How do you know if something will impact the value and desirability of your home? How far away does a cell antenna have to be to no longer be an impact? How many people really know what’s going on up on the power pole in their neighborhood? From the comments on this site, there’s even an argument on whether it’s an issue at all.

      So there’s really no clear answer. I have heard of people who sold a beach house getting sued because they didn’t disclose the noise of the ocean, which apparently kept the new buyers awake at night. Huh???

      In general, the “rule of thumb” for disclosures should be this: if you know about it, fill it in. It’s much less painful and cost-effective to let the potential buyer decide NOW whether it’s a mountain or a mole hill than it is after the fact when you’re being sued for not disclosing something that you knew.

      I hope this helps…

      CG

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  • Interesting that some are so opposed to the installation of the cell towers, but are so willing to benefit from their technology.

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  • BA Mom – great point. And that is a conundrum.
    I think the issue here is 1)did the city/t-mobile consider alternative locations for the tower? Were they aware of the proximity of the tower to the school. Conversations with the city suggest that they did not.

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  • T-Mobile didn’t consider proximity of the cell tower to the school, because there are no health risks associated with cell towers next to humans. It’s that simple. Other than rejecting cell towers on aesthetic grounds,psuedo science is not valid, period.

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  • Communications engineer.
    My bonafides: I’m an engineer by training, Cal/Stanford, and have worked with several handset/base station mfgs.
    I’m not a communication EE, nor an epidemiologist.
    The problem is that the safety should only be evaluated by epidemiological studies – long term (multi-year)studies over a broad population. I haven’t seen one (and I’m open to looking at it) which shows no correlation between long term proximity to a tower and harm. The FCC guidelines were developed based on extrapolating damage associated with thermal heating of tissue. This may not be the only mechanism associated with harm.
    Dismissing an argument as “utter nonsense” or “pseudo-science” is neither helpful or productive.

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  • These whack-jobs opposing the cell tower are the same fear-mongers that fight artificial turf at Highlands based on “dangers” to children, oppose vaccinations for their kids, etc., etc.. A small but vocal minority that wastes everyone’s time and stymies progress on many issues.

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  • Luddites don’t look for scientific explanations. They just invent them out of thin air and whip others into a frenzy.
    Come Monday night, someone is going to look silly at the podium. I could just see the newspaper headlines……..

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  • How about the radon gas present in granite countertops? Should we ban granite from the kitchen and bathroom? Point is, anybody can say and frighten everybody.

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  • Chuck,
    I attended the Planning Commission meeting tonight. About 30 residents attended, many of whom spoke out against the cell phone towers. The Planning Commission decided to motion for a continuance until November 2nd. They asked that T-Mobile provide some more information before they vote on the towers.
    Andy Klein

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  • Andy,

    Thanks for the follow-up…much appreciated. The ultimate irony here is that it’s a T-Mobile cell tower in question. I can honestly say that I don’t know a single person who uses T-Mobile as their carrier!

    Chuck

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  • Didn’t go to the meeting, but here’s a glimpse of the minutes (before the item was continued)

    “Greg Rubens, City Attorney, explained that the 1996 Telecommunications Act has pre-empted local government from regulating radio frequency or radio frequency radiation. He indicated that the City may review aesthetics and in some cases require compensation for use of right of way.”

    ….so it looks like the Planning Commission does not have a lot of veto power, or at least the way I read the minutes…but perhaps they can ask for a different location. I’m not a T-Mobile user either, Chuck!

    CB1

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  • The debate on this topic has resorted to calling names…
    “whack-jobs”, “luddites”, “fear mongers”…

    Reminds me of the global warming debate. Well, scientists have not proven 100% that global warming is caused by human activity and there is no conclusive evidence that reducing CO2 will reduce temperature or that increased temperature is a problem.

    As a parent, I don’t need to see studies to prove A is 100% accurate. If there is a risk, I will AVOID it. That includes cell phone towers, high voltage electricity wires, child molesters.

    And finally, here is an interesting thought. Stanford EE professor and communications engineer. Since, you believe that there is no risk from these cell phone, you could offer T-mobile your property and potentially get some renumeration too. 🙂

    I actually do want the cell phone carriers to improve coverage in san carlos but i oppose them putting cell towers near schools.

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    • Hhaahaaa…I just realized that I am 5 months late to the debate. Does anyone know what the outcome is?

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      • Hi K,
        I appreciate your perspective on risk and avoidance. I was on the receiving end of most of the luddite, NIMBY, … comments, which my friends and colleagues found hilarious. For me, the issue was never about the absolute risk, just being responsible about mitigating the risk when possible. Tough to have a discussion when participants resort to name calling.

        The outcome is that none of three tower permits were approved: two permit applications were withdrawn by T-Mobile (Park and Sunset) and the third denied by the planning commission. The city planning department recognized the degree of resident opposition to the Park tower and convinced T-Mobile that they would have a difficult fight to deploy the tower. T-Mobile also decided to pull the Sunset tower for similar reasons, but went ahead with the permit process for the Highland tower.

        For the Highland tower, the permit process dragged on until last week, when the planning commission denied application. Over the last four months, the commission gave T-Mobile many chances to explicitly describe their needs (capacity, coverage) and to provide detailed analyses as to why one or more alternative placements wouldn’t work. T-Mobile didn’t seem to take the hint and just didn’t do a good job of presenting their case. In the last planning commission meeting, 2 March, the commission decided that they were unwilling to let the process drag out any further and denied the permit. T-Mobile has/had 10 days to file an appeal and/or can resubmit the application.

        Through this process, the city and I learned quite a bit about the city’s limits to control these deployments. The federal case law has evolved over the last 6 months, primarily returning some power to the city to regulate these deployments by requiring analysis of alternative sites and through aesthetic zoning ordinances. There remains some legal risk for the city, and I’m sure this is one of the reasons that they thought very hard about these permits.

        This has been my first experience with the planning commission. Over the last four months, I found both the city and the commission to be very willing to listen and consider all sides of the issue – they did a good job of balancing the communities interests with their legal obligations under federal, state, and local law.

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