Berkeley resident files petition to prevent AT&T antenna system construction

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A Berkeley resident filed a legal petition Friday against the city of Berkeley expressing concerns about plans to install an antenna system on an existing utility pole in her neighborhood.

Patricia Davis, the resident of 500 Grizzly Peak Blvd., filed the legal petition to prevent the city of Berkeley from issuing a permit to AT&T for the antenna’s construction near her house or to revoke the permit if it has already been issued.

A follow-up stipulation agreed upon by all parties — Davis, the city and AT&T — was filed Tuesday stating that Davis intends to file a motion for a stay to halt construction and that AT&T has agreed to delay construction work on the facility until after the court rules on Davis’ anticipated motion, as long as the ruling takes place before Sept. 30.

Fred Feller, Davis’ attorney, said that by withdrawing its initial application and filing a new one for a permit to place the antenna in front of Davis’ house, AT&T was proposing an alternative location. City guidelines say that when proposing an alternative location, AT&T is required to have the consent of neighboring landowners, “and they most certainly did not have my client’s consent,” Feller said.

In January 2013, AT&T requested a permit to initiate installation of the antenna system on a utility pole near 474 Grizzly Peak Blvd. After the property owner at this address, Xiaoyan Wang, expressed concern about possible health dangers for her young children from radiation, AT&T changed the planned location and requested a permit for installation at 500 Grizzly Peak Blvd., according to Davis’ legal petition.

According to Joel Moskowitz, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health, studies have shown that proximity to antennae correlates with health problems such as microwave sickness, headaches, fatigue and other long-term risks.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996, however, states that state and local governments may not regulate “placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities” based on “environmental effects of radio frequency emissions” if the facilities comply with Federal Communications Commission regulations. It prevents health concerns from being a viable legal argument for preventing the antenna’s construction, according to Moskowitz.

“We have never opposed on health concerns,” Feller said. “It was the neighboring property owner who opposed only on health concerns, and since health concerns are not supposed to be a factor, we don’t understand what’s going on.”

According to Alexandra Krasov, director of communications and public affairs at AT&T, the company’s primary objective when looking for an antenna-system location is to fill a coverage gap, and the secondary objective is to do so in the “least intrusive” way possible.

AT&T is “very willing to work with the homeowners,” but it depends on the homeowners’ cooperation as well, according to Krasov. “We don’t operate in a vacuum.”

Contact Kayla Kettmann at [email protected].