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Mayor McLaughlin and city councilmembers

Local residents speak out against proposed cell phone tower

on November 17, 2010

At last night’s city council meeting, councilmembers got an earful from residents of the Hilltop neighborhood worried about T-Mobile’s bid to install a wireless communication tower there. The council voted to ask the the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), which owns the land, to relocate the tower.

Six people spoke against the site proposed for the tower, which would be across the street from Highland Elementary School.

“A 55-foot potentially dangerous cell phone tower is to be placed in our highly dense residential neighborhood. It is placed too close to Highland Elementary School, placing all of us in harm’s way,” said Beverly Hunt, a neighborhood resident. “The vote is still out on the risk pertaining to towers and cell phones. We don’t want to be used as guinea pigs where we find ten years from now as they did with lead paint and asbestos after the fact.”

In several communities, proposed wireless communication towers have become a hot button among residents who fear they cause cancer or other health problems. But according to the American Cancer Society, there is little evidence to support these concerns.

Senior planner Lina Velasco reads over her report of T-Mobile's proposed bid to build a wireless communications tower in Hilltop neighborhood.

Senior planner Lina Velasco provided the city council with a written chronology of the approval process for the tower. In her report, Velasco stated the application to bid on the proposed site was filed by T-Mobile on Aug. 19, 2010. A notice was then sent to residents on Aug. 27. A few days later, on Sept. 1, a letter endorsing the project was received by the planning commission from the local neighborhood council.

The period to appeal the proposed tower site ended Sept. 20. Ten days later, the first of several complaints were heard from those living in the Hilltop area.

Councilmember Tom Butt suggested those in opposition approach EBMUD.

“The city of Richmond, no matter how you parse it out, has limited means to control the location of these cell towers because of federal law,” he said.

In the meantime, a motion by Councilmember Maria Viramontes made a motion, seconded by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, to schedule an executive session: to change the distance required between proposed tower sites and residential areas, and write an immediate letter to East Bay MUD asking that the tower be relocated.

A public discussion will be on the agenda for the next city council meeting scheduled for Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Earlier in the evening, Rhonda Harris, who lost her bid to join the council, was cheered when she thanked audience members who supported her. “It is with sincere gratitude and humility that I acknowledge your support and contribution towards my campaign for Richmond city council,” Harris said. “It was a pleasure being your candidate. Thank you.”

The meeting opened to a packed house, as teachers, students and parents gathered to listen to children read the winning entries from the Richmond Writes poetry contest awards. Nearly 200 students submitted haikus or short essays on the themes related to the Richmond Art Center exhibition “Blossoms and Thorns: The Legacy of Richmond’s Japanese American Nurseries.”

After the readings, newly elected councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who will take office in January, approached the podium.

“All of these children are our future,” Beckles said. “It’s really beautiful to see them expressing themselves in such a creative way.”


  1. Lisa on November 19, 2010 at 6:17 am

    WE are here to help EDUCATE YOU! We have rebuttle to Federal Law that trumps your councilmans comments. Email me with questions. We fight the tower industry every day and WIN!

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