Valley Forum: Verizon towers are hazardous, not necessary

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Applications for 10 powerful 4G and 5G cell towers — three in commercial zones (around 150 feet from homes), seven in residential zones (as close as 25 feet to homes) are being reviewed by the City of Sonoma. These Close Proximity Microwave Radiating Antennas (CPMRAs), misleadingly called “small cells,” are targeting PG&E utility poles in the public rights-of-way and are unnecessarily large, ugly, obtrusive and hazardous.

On Thursday, Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m., the Sonoma Planning Commission will review three applications for utility poles at 500 Fifth St. W., near Sonoma Market; 453 Second St. W., near the 7-11; and 574 First St. W., near the Sonoma Key Shop. There are residences near each of these poles. The seven applications for residential zones have been temporarily “frozen,” but they could be “unfrozen” by March, 2019.

We are being told by wireless carriers that CPMRAs are needed in public rights-of-way, but they are not. Verizon itself says that 4G and 5G antennas can, instead, be installed on current macro towers, which is far better because CPMRAs within 500 feet of homes create hazards: reduced safety, privacy and property values.

Many people are unaware that 4G and 5G Wireless technology has been inadequately tested for safety. Tens of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies prove that exposure to wireless radiation causes neurological illness, DNA damage, heart problems, reduced fertility, melatonin and other hormone suppression and increased rates of cancer. It is, therefore, not surprising that CPMRAs reduce property values. One homeowner in Sonoma is suffering a loss of $150,000 or more due to a planned cell tower only 28 feet from his house.

The harms from placing industrial equipment in residential areas are why Gov. Brown vetoed SB.649, the state’s Streamline Small Cell Bill, in October, 2017. California cities, including Monterey, Hillsborough, Mill Valley, Ross, San Anselmo, Petaluma and Sebastopol have already rebuffed Verizon and passed local wireless and zoning ordinances to protect their residents. Sonoma needs to do the same by no later than Oct 22, 2018 — before the Federal Communications Commission report and order becomes official.

The FCC is attempting massive overreach to obstruct nearly all local authority over the siting of wireless telecommunications facilities, but the U.S. Conference of Mayors has already written that “they will seek relief in federal court to overturn this unprecedented overreach by the FCC.” The federal bill to oppose is SB 3157, “the Streamline Small Cell Deployment Act,” which has not yet passed, but would enable such FCC overreach. Write and call U.S. Senators and House representatives now!

It is, therefore, critically important that we make efforts — in a big way — right now, if we wish to protect our safety, privacy and property values. October is the key month. We need large numbers of Sonomans to show up at the Planning Commission and City Council meetings this month. We need you to recruit neighbors and write or call Sonoma City Council members, Planning Commissioners and city staff; their contact information is at www.sonomacity.org. City Manager Cathy Capriola is at ccapriola@sonomacity.org. More details at mystreetmychoice.com/sonoma.html.

Lin Marie deVincent is the community outreach coordinator, Mark Marthaler is the health and safety advocate for the Sonoma Neighborhood Association.

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