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Sonoma County Gazette
Cell Phone Tower

OPINION - Moratorium Needed on
New Cell Towers in Sonoma County

Mar 30, 2018


Verizon and other telecommunications corporations have applied to several Sonoma County cities and the Sonoma County approval to install new 4GClose Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennas (CPMRA) near homes.

The telecommunications industry claims these small cell towers (CPRMA), will improve public safety because it will ensure that the public can continue to make emergency telephone calls. They also claim that these cell phone tower sites will provide backup to existing landlines during natural disasters. This claim is false. Seventy-seven cell towers burned to the ground during the recent wildfires. Underground copper lines did not. During an earthquake, the power loss to the ventilators of cellphone tower power packs would also fail, rendering them useless. 

Every cellphone application comes with the claim that the resulting increase radiation is safe since it is well below the levels established by the FCC. To date, no FCC long-term exposure studies have been completed. The radiation emitted by cellphone towers has been scientifically proven by hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles to cause cancer and other adverse health impacts. This conclusion was reinforced by a $25 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) study released in May 27, 2016 showing that cellular radiation causes glioblastoma - a deadly brain cancer. The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) opposed Small Cell Towers near fire stations due to the health effects of cell phone microwave exposure, which included headaches, memory loss, ringing in the ears and brain scan anomalies. Now State Law 57 states that Small Cell Towers can no longer be located near a fire station. Would you like Small Cell Tower near your home or workplace?

Fortunately Governor Brown vetoed SB 649, which would have eliminated local government’s ability to regulate cellphone tower operations. Consequently, theTelecommunications Act of 1996 applies, which means that local governments are required to approve cell phone towers when there exists lack of coverage, but not when there is only a lack of bandwidth (capacity). For example, Verizon’s application to the City of Sebastopol to provide 4G and subsequent 5G services did not include documented evidence of a ‘significant lack of coverage.’ Verizon’s recent small cell phone tower proposals are primarily intended only to increase their network capacity beyond current levels where adequate coverage already exists.

There is also the danger of transferring the potential liability for cell phone towers from the telecommunications industry to local governments. The international re-insurance industry has long refused to ensure any aspect of the telecom industry for injuries caused by cellular devices or installations. Would local governments open themselves up to legal issues by granting approval of new small cellphone towers with future co-location of additional transmitters in public rights of way, near homes and workplaces?  And remember the 2005 Appraisal Journal article found that properties near cellphone towers suffer a devaluation of 20% to 25% due to fears of radiation and aesthetics?

We should urge the City Councils and the County of Sonoma adopt a temporary moratorium on additional cell phone towers until their respectiveTelecommunication Ordinances are revised to take into account the extent to which local governments can regulate cellphone tower operation and location. This would reflect the community’s growing concern with the adverse and significant environmental, health and property values impacts of 4G and 5G telecommunications facilities that are evolving faster than our ability to develop an appropriate regulatory framework. This action is defensible and has precedents. Other California local governments have adopted temporary moratoria on cell tower approvals including Fresno County, Morgan Hill, and Burlingame.

Write, phone and email our your County Supervisors and City Council members and tell them to delay approval of any new small cellphone towers applications and adopt a temporary moratorium to allow the community and all stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding this new technology.

Paul-André Schabracq is a Planning and Environmental Consultant who keeps his cell phone off unless he needs it.









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