TAKE ACTION - WRITE TO THE OAKLAND PLANNING COMMISSION



Using the form at bottom you can send your concerns about the proposed installation to the Oakland Planning Commission, the Planning Department representatives overseeing the process, and Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb. If you prefer to write directly to the officials, here are their email addresses:

Planning Commissioners



Oakland City Council 



Planning & Zoning Departments


Below are Talking Points You Can Use.  {Sorry for the large quantity, its a complicated issue!}  Writing in your own voice is most powerful.  Please use only one or two points from below.  People's eyes will glaze over if you send them too much! 

*We Need an In-Depth Independent Alternative Site Analysis Because the Needs of The Community are Not Being Considered:  Verizon did an Alternative Site Analysis that is biased towards its own business objectives and was not in-depth.   Also, the City has shown its disregard of the neighborhood and a clear bias towards Verizon in various ways.

Verizon did not do an in-depth thorough analysis of other possible sites.  We suspect that instead they picked the "low hanging fruit" of a willing building owner at 960 Arlington Avenue.  We also believe that Verizon cannot be non-biased in their alternative site analysis; they will always choose the best site - for their business needs and will not balance their needs with the needs of the neighborhood, and we shouldn't expect them to, as corporations are only responsible to their shareholders.   That is the City's job, but they are failing to consider the neighborhood's needs.

The City has shown their bias towards Verizon and a disregard for the community in several ways:
1)  The plan was posted in front of the 960 Arlington Avenue site around March 1st, only about two weeks before the original March 18th Planning Commission meeting, and it was on the consent calendar, even though the neighborhood never gave its consent, nor were we consulted in the many months prior as the planning by Verizon and the City proceeded.    

2)  Many neighbors within 300 feet of the site never received the required notice of the planned telecom facility.  Deborah and I polled our neighbors and most didn't receive the notice.  

3)  The City Planner in charge, Jason Madani, told us at the community meeting last April 1st that they planned to recommend approval.   

4)  At that same meeting Madani expressed obvious bias against and contempt for our neighborhood when he said in response to our concerns, that if we didn't want a cell facility in our neighborhood we shouldn't have moved there.  

5)   Further, Madani believed we were an industrial "C" property zone and documented as much, in error, on the plan he crafted for the 960 Arlington Avenue proposal.  (see April 15th Staff Report of the Oakland City Planning Commission).  

6)  Scott Miller acknowledged that he erred in telling Madani that our area was a "C" property zone ("Existing commercial or industrial structures in non-residential zones"), which doesn't require an alternative site analysis by Verizon, when it was actually a "D" property zone , which does require one from the applicant.  {The applicant already had done an alternative site analysis, though it wasn't required under the original (incorrect) plan}.

7)  Madani, in the April 15th Staff Report, on page 4, under "Key Issues and Impacts", devoted all of one sentence to the 2 hour community meeting attended by some 50 members of the community:  "...many community members believe that a telecommunication installation should not be within close proximity to homes."  Our concerns rate more consideration than a sentence.  

8) Mr. Madani, when we asked for more time to evaluate the project and get a third party analysis, declined, saying something like, "We've made the applicant (Verizon) wait long enough."

9)  There is no evidence that the City is verifying Verizon's rationale for why they need this cell facility in our neighborhood.  They are apparently taking Verizon's word for it.  We say, trust but verify!    

We need a fair alternative site analysis by a disinterested 3rd party who has at least as much expertise as Verizon in Telecomm siting issues.  We believe The City is biased in favor of allowing Verizon to site their antennas at 960 Arlington Avenue, and obviously so is Verizon.  The community's desire to have the cell antennas sited safely away from our residential community is not being given a fair hearing.

An independent sophisticated alternative site analysis can strike a better balance between the needs of residents and Verizon's needs - a win-win situation. We want the City to trust Verizon, but verify.  We suggest the Center for Municipal Solutions (http://www.telecomsol.com/www2/node/2) as one possible 3rd Party evaluator.   The City would not have to pay for this evaluation.  The applicant would.  It is our understanding that either Scott Miller, Zoning Manager, or the Planning Commission, has the authority to order a third-party alternative site analysis.

*Verizon offered Comparable Sites that Aren't Comparable:  A 960 Arlington Avenue siting would be the most intrusive and lowest height, approximately 35 feet about the street.  Verizon provided a list of what they said were similar rooftop telecom facilities.  Of the 5 listed with the same type of antennas, one is on a 6-story office building on Telegraph Ave., two are on top of large churches, one is on top of a shopping center, one is on top of a 4-story apartment building, and none have homes within 100 feet (except the apartment building).  We do not want to be the exception with low height and very close proximity to homes.  The RF engineer that Verizon brought to the Community Meeting said that antennae should be placed at the highest point possible.  We need the City to delay this project until a more appropriate site can be found.  We don't want to be the low height, close proximity precedent.   

*960 Arlington Avenue is the most intrusive location for a macro-telecommunications facility considering that the building is surrounded by a residential community, including many homes within 300 feet of the proposed facility, several within 75-100 feet, and one home within 25 feet.  Also, there's is a renowned after school arts and non-violence program that serves hundreds of children and youth, Destiny Arts, within 1000 feet of the proposed site.  Several other sites within Verizon's "search ring" were considered and rejected, some for dubious reasons.  For example the northern part of the "search ring", north of Stanford, was rejected entirely, even though there were potential industrial locations there.  What is the point of a "search ring" if one half of it is going to be rejected?  Why did Verizon reject this area?  No reasons were given, other than "Verizon requested a facility located south of Stanford Avenue..."  Also, one location was "less desirable because it would require the construction of a new structure.  Additionally, the manager of the facility was unavailable during two separate physical visits to this building." (pg. 2 of Alternative Site Analysis).  It is quite simple to find the manager or owner of a facility.  Did Verizon go down to Public Records to find out?  Apparently not.  And why does it become the neighborhoods concern, or the City's concern, that Verizon would have to spend money to build a new structure if its in a better location?  Verizon needs to make more of an effort to contact owners of other sites that are identified in the Project Support Statement, both north and south of Stanford.

*City of Oakland is Not Using Conditional Use Permit as a tool to Implement a process to insure the project is compatible with surrounding residential use.  The only justifications Verizon has for coming within 100 feet of the nearest residence, which requires a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), are that Verizon meets design review criteria (involving camouflaging antennas, equipment shelters, cabinets, and equipment set-backs) and the project must not disrupt the overall community character, and Verizon claims that camouflaging the antennas meets this criteria.  But the project is not compatible with a moderate density residential neighborhood due to its low height, aesthetics, potential to add more and larger antennae to the site, the impacts on property values, possible restrictions on nearby property owners and residential developers who want to build up, and possible restrictions on increased housing height and density.  The City is not using the CUP to address these other elements of compatibility that are of concern to our community.  

*Generator Noise A 25kW generator in an enclosure, even at 75 feet away, will produce 60-65 decibels of noise; this is too close to homes.  In an earthquake or power outage, when in prolonged use, this will be a nuisance to people already dealing with the fallout from earthquake or power outage.  The generator needs to be moved inside the building.

*Condenser Noise - Condensers & compressors for the facility have to be on roof and will cycle on and off. This will create another point source of noise that may raise the ambient noise levels in a very quiet neighborhood; the nature of mechanical compressor fan noise shutting on off frequently will cause noise / annoyance nuisance for nearby residents. Condensers need to be moved as far from homes as possible. 

*Verizon May Not Need to Build Another Antenna Site - Many times a telecom's business objectives can be met by adjusting the angle of antennas on other sites, or raising those antennas, in order to improve coverage. We have no indication that this has been tried, nor do we know if the City inquired about this.

*Verizon's Wants/Business Objectives versus Verifiable Provable Needs:  Verizon says 960 Arlington is  the best site available for a wireless telecommunications facility to meet the coverage objective.  But  the test is not Verizon's wants or business objectives, rather the test is what are the current provable verifiable needs of the company to provide functionally reliable service primarily in our neighborhood and not in adjacent neighborhoods.  The commonly accepted measure of "functionally reliable service" is -101 dBm on the street, -96 dBm in a vehicle, and -85 dBm in a building.  Any stronger signal strength that Verizon claims it needs is probably to achieve or maintain a competitive advantage, which Cities are not obligated to consider.  And Verizon's color-coded propagation study, which measures coverage or lack thereof  apparently has not been verified by a City telecommunications expert.  Verizon's study is taken at face value.  Verizon's alternative site analysis doesn't document their provable, verifiable needs, and primarily focuses on their desires or business objectives.  We have reason to believe Verizon in fact is concerned about their future business needs rather than any concern about current lack of functionally reliable service in our area.  Both Maria Kim, Verizon Consultant, and Heidi Flato Northern California PR for Verizon, acknowledged as much.      

*This proposed macro telecommunications facility is not compatible with our residential neighborhood;  it will disrupt the Community Character.  We're zoned residential. Most of our homes are early 20th century bungalows or Craftsmen. The noise from the generators, the visuals of a large facility, and the dangers of having gas lines running to the roof has a negative impact and detracts from the historical and architectural elements of the neighborhood.  This is a family-friendly neighborhood, relatively quiet, and parents are concerned about the health risks of living so close to a cell facility.   Verizon claims that community character will not be disrupted because the telecom facility will be screened from public view.  But if the telecom facility gets approved we residents have to deal with two years of construction, from 7 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with a noise level  up to 90 decibels.  And if built, we then have to look forward to the Cell Facility becoming a co-location site.  A new federal rule will allow the likes of Verizon to add on to currently existing sites without approval from the City, if they increase size by no more than 10% of the total area, or raise the height of the antennas by no more than 20 additional feet.  One City Planner called our facility a test-case for this rule.  We have no desire to be test-animals for this rule.     

*This Cell Antenna Facility will Deter Needed Development:  Our neighborhood is changing;  the Lowell corridor is becoming increasingly residential.  The Golden Gate has at least 4 live-work projects in construction or development.  This telecomm facility may deter future developers from building new residences, for example across the street from the proposed site on Lowell, and at Lowell and Stanford, as they won't want to build up and be in the line of site of Cell antennas. Oakland needs new development; housing is at a premium.  This cell facility will be a huge set-back to residential development and to Oakland in terms of lost tax revenues.

*This proposed telecom facility will deter residents who may want to further develop their homes:  residents living within 300 feet from raising their homes to add rooms, due to their concerns about being in the line of site of Electro-Magnetic Radiation (EMR) pulsing through their homes, given their concerns about EMR. 

*A Cell facility in our Neighborhood will bring down housing values.  The perception of negative health effects will bring down housing values of homes within 200 feet of the proposed facility.  Based on a NYtimes article home values can drop 20%.

*Why Site Here when the Neighborhood is Already Burdened.   How does the Planning Department see this location as the appropriate choice given the already heavy burden from blight, crime, and code violations for noise and illegal construction by a local rogue business. Neighbors have worked tirelessly with the City of Oakland to reign in blight, crime, nuisance and code violations. Our neighborhood quality of life has already been impacted by these issues far too long and things are beginning to change.  This would be a setback.  

*The Owner of the Proposed Site is a Risk.  The owner of the building, Thomas D. McElroy, has a history of having large parties causing a nuisance in the neighborhood.  One party in 2005 warranted police helicopters and over a dozen police in riot gear to push an unruly crowd out of the neighborhood, for which he was cited and fined.  Other problems associated with the building include junk in his side yard, graffiti, and late night and early morning noise.  After the out-of-control party, Mr. McElroy was mandated to provide a manager on-site that could be contacted 24/7 for any problems, but he has never provided that.  Neighbors have also witnessed people on his rooftop flying fairly large remote control quad copter drones over residences, potentially endangering the community.  With his history of poor management of his building, how can the community feel safe with a macro telecom facility on the roof of his building?  If he can't be a courteous neighbor, if he can't take care of his own property and manage what's going on inside, how can the City approve a permit for such a major project on this building?

*Research is Accumulating on the Negative Long-Term Health Effects of Low Frequency Electro-Magnetic Radiation - Based upon the accumulation of evidence from several decades of research including thousands of published, peer-reviewed studies, experts around the world have called upon governments to adopt stronger radiation standards to protect people from low intensity, non-thermal exposures from radiation associated with wireless communications, and to alert people about how to reduce their risk of harm.  Even the FCC acknowledges the need to re-evaluate their standards for safe exposure to EMR.  Just last month the California Medical Association called for stronger wireless communications safety standards, and the LA Board of Supervisors sided with the Firefighters Union to prevent Cell Towers from being built on all 70 or so fire-stations in the County.  The firefighters, already exposed to a heavy load of toxins in their jobs, didn't want the additional risk that EMR poses to their health and safety.  The City of Oakland can get ahead of the curve to put in place now a sensible wireless ordinance that takes precautions regarding cell facilities, making sure they're sited away from residential neighborhoods.      

*Cell Facilities are a Long Term Issue, not One-off point-in-time issues to clear off the City's To-Do List:  This telecommunications facility, if it gets built, and all of those currently installed, and the many more coming to Oakland neighborhoods, will effectively become part of Oakland's infrastructure.  Like the water and sewer systems,  the City of Oakland will have to deal with them for years to come; As things currently stand, Oakland will continue to have to deal, one at a time, with irate tax-paying residents who are being railroaded by the telecoms with the apparent help of the City.  Citizens are completely left out of the decision process.  It is a Win for Telecomm, and a loss for the residents of Oakland, and a loss to the authority of City Planning, and a loss for Democracy.  But it could be a win-win.  The City of Oakland could get ahead of the curve and plan for the long-term. Why not develop a sensible Wireless Ordinance that balances the needs of Oakland residents with those of the telecoms, and that protects Oakland from needless corporate intrusion and the biological risks of EMR, which a large and accumulating body of research continues to demonstrate.  Oakland can protect itself now for an uncertain future.