Berkeley City Council adopts first reading of cellphone ordinance at meeting

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After a federal court ruled in favor of a city ordinance, Berkeley City Council adopted at its meeting Tuesday the first reading of a law that would require retailers to warn consumers of the potential danger cellphones pose as emitters of radiofrequency.

Earlier this year, CTIA – The Wireless Association, a nonprofit membership organization that represents the wireless communications industry, filed a lawsuit against the city. In the lawsuit, CTIA alleged that the city ordinance infringed on the free speech of retailers and that the dangers associated with it are based on opinion rather than scientific research.

In September, a judge ruled in favor of the city, approving of a majority of the ordinance’s language. The mandated warnings will become law by late November if the council adopts a second reading Oct. 27.

In addition, the council discussed two items that fell in line with the city’s Climate Action Plan — a comprehensive goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s zero-net energy waste transfer facility plan was referred to the city manager for prioritization.

According to Worthington, the plan would redesign and rebuild the Berkeley Transfer Station and Material Recovery Facility into a zero waste facility, which would expand Berkeley’s ability to process recycled materials and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Worthington said the plan is consistent with Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan’s environmental sustainability goals.

According to Mary Lou Van Deventer, operations manager of Urban Ore, architects of the new zero waste facility estimated that the redesign would cost close to $30 million. Worthington said that there are multiple grants, some of which are matching grants or loans, that could help offset the cost.

Per the city manager’s recommendation, the council also decided not to take action on an item that would have provided permit fee waivers for community projects housed in city-owned buildings that are funded by the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG.

The CDBG is a federally funded program used to subsidize local community developments, including affordable housing and infrastructure improvements. When nonprofits or city-funded projects seek capital improvements to city-owned buildings, they must apply for the CDBG. If approved, a portion of the grant would then go to paying the city’s building permit fees, which the Housing Advisory Commission sought to eliminate.

According to the proposal from the commission, waiving permit fees would allow more CDBG funds to be available for additional projects.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said that although he understands the commission’s desire to help fund community programs, the estimated $29,000 from permit fees is not enough to fund a community project.

At the next council meeting Tuesday, City Council will discuss a hate crime prevention response plan and lead poison protection, among other items.

Contact Emma Soldon and Jamie Nguyen at [email protected].