By Katta Hules
The public hearing about the proposed communication facility at the Church of the Transfiguration has been postponed. “Verizon Wireless has asked for an extension in order to be able to provide the community with additional information and research on this item. They have requested a continuance to Jan. 17,” said City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto at this week’s city council meeting.
The proposed facility would be 53 feet tall and hidden in a faux bell tower in the parking lot of the Church of the Transfiguration at 1881 South First Street. The project was postponed several times by the Planning Commission before being denied in September. Verizon is now appealing the decision.
The project is controversial. At the September Planning Commission meeting, 25 residents spoke out against it. Five supported it, including the Church of the Transfiguration’s Reverend Julie D. Bryant.
Additionally, there is a Change.org petition, alleging, it “would set a dangerous precedent to allow all the other wireless carriers to cell towers in our residential zones.” Further concerns include decreasing property values, as well as a lack of structural and seismic safety.
The March Staff Report on the subject states, “the tower will have to comply with the California Building Code (CBC), … Compliance with the CBC will ensure that the tower can withstand high winds as well as earthquake shaking.” Verizon has also submitted a geotechnical study showing the proposed tower is not “within either a fault or liquefaction zone.”
The project “will not adversely affect the religious activities at the location, or create visual impacts since the proposed tower will be camouflaged,” said the report, calling evidence about decreasing property values “anecdotal, without supporting evidence.”
It added impacts to property values should not be considered unless contributing to failed maintenance and blight. “Virtually every land use can be described by opponents as having a negative effect on their property values. To allow consideration of such impacts in this case may open an [sic] Pandora’s Box.”
The petition quotes a 2005 New Zealand study in Appraisal Journal, saying “the sales analysis show prices of properties were reduced by around 21 percent after a CPBS [cell phone tower] was built in the neighborhood.” The study states while the “result varies between neighborhoods … buyers who believe that there are no adverse health effects from CPBSs, knowing that other potential buyers might think the reverse, will probably seek a price discount.” The study can be read here.
The Staff Report notes residents also had health concerns about the tower, but states, according to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, “local governments are not allowed to consider potential health impacts as part of the decision-making process for wireless telecommunication facilities.”
At the council meeting, Mayor Tom Beck opened the floor for any speakers about the issue, warning, “If you want to speak tonight, you will not be allowed to speak on Jan. 17.” There was one speaker, but she decided to wait. The council will meet again Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.