Monday, May 23, 2016

VERIZON withdraws their application, a victory for the people!

It's been a year since an organized group of  neighbors from the Golden Gate went to the City of Oakland Planning Commission to oppose Verizon's Macro Telecommunications facility planned for  960 Arlington Avenue in our residential neighborhood. In May of 2015, the commission criticized Verizon and made the bold decision not to approve the plan outright, but rather approval was conditional on Verizon completing a more thorough Alternative Site Analysis and making adjustments requiring the generator to be placed inside the building and not on the roof.  Several planners expressed their concern that the facility would expose the community to unsafe levels of EMFs. For the last year we waited, watching for this project to re-appear on the commission's meeting agenda, thinking any month we would need to reorganize to argue against the plan and that we would eventually go before the City Council. The permitting sign from the city  remained in place, a scary reminder of the battle before us. 

 We contacted the City Planner throughout the year whose response was,  " Verizon will return.  I'll give you two weeks notice before the Planning Commission meeting."  On May 19th of 2016, with some trepidation,  I e-mailed the City Planner who replied, "Verizon withdrew their application."  I couldn't believe what I was reading.  I asked what was the reason and his response was, "they didn't say why".  Our group took a collective inhale and a long exhale, relieved at the outcome. We realize this is the culmination of our group's organized effort which included some of the following;  a community meeting with Verizon, the City planner, and about 35 neighbors,  a demonstration and march to the local Verizon store, a petition with over 200 signatures, numerous letters and phone calls to city officials and Verizon, hours spent combing through the City of Oakland Wireless Ordinance, consulted an electrical engineer, a written editorial to the East Bay Express and an interview on KPFA radio station.  

We spoke with many people who fought similar battles.  Some of the people we would like to thank are:  Josh Hart of Stop Smart Meters for encouraging us to protest Verizon and also try to work with the owner of the building,  and Professor Joel Moskowitz for your dedicated research.  But where will Verizon go next? We have no way of knowing what happened but what we did notice in the last year was several telecom companies leasing utility poles from PG&E and mounting 2 antennas on each pole.  This way they avoid the need for a public notice, ( wait isn't the sidewalk a public domain?) and the public's involvement in the process.  Verizon will or has gone somewhere. The planning process is not democratic and favors corporations coming into our neighborhoods and having control over public space. I know there are many struggles occurring all over the country like this one. Hopefully what we learned and the actions we took can help others in their organizing efforts.

Thank you to all the individuals 
and groups who supported us.

On behalf of the Golden Gate neighbors,
with gratitude,
Deborah Yaffe and 
Greg Henricks