PINOLE -- The City Council has rejected a proposed ground lease with Verizon for a cellphone tower in Pinole Valley Park, after residents voiced aesthetic concerns as well as a range of fears, including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and fire.
"You cannot risk my children's health over $25,000 revenue," one resident implored the City Council on Tuesday, in a reference to the annual rent -- actually, $26,400 to start, increasing by 2 percent each year, for up to 25 years -- that the city stood to collect from the deal.
She was one of about a dozen residents to speak during a two-hour discussion of the cell tower. Another was Matt Bielby, who lives near the proposed site and organized the opposition and a petition drive urging rejection of the tower.
Several cited what they said were scientific studies linking increased incidences of cancer among people residing in the proximity of cellphone towers. Others, expressing less certainty about the supposed cancer link, came down on the side of caution anyway.
"I have no proof that cellular radiation causes cancer," said resident Sal Spataro. "But I don't have any proof that it doesn't cause cancer."
Verizon Wireless Inc. wanted to build the tower and an associated building on approximately 1,000 square feet off Pinole Valley Road, east of Wright Avenue, in the eastern end of the park.
Verizon attorney Paul Albritton and some council members noted that a tower would emit radio frequencies, not powerful electromagnetic fields such as those produced by high-voltage electrical transmission lines. Albritton said there are cellphone antennas on the rooftops of apartment buildings in San Francisco.
Other residents warned that installing a tower in the easternmost, densely wooded section of the park could result in a wildland fire and threaten homes in the Pinole Valley, especially because the facility would be equipped with a diesel fuel tank for a standby generator.
Resident Anthony Gutierrez argued that "some terrorist, or some other deranged person" could turn the tower's 100-plus-gallon diesel tank into a bomb.
Still others said a 78-foot antenna, even one disguised as a tree, would spoil the pristine quality of the eastern end of the park. Resident David Ruport likened it to installing a cell tower on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, adding, "this part of Pinole ... is my Yosemite."
Several residents who said they are Verizon subscribers questioned the need for a tower in the area, saying their cellphone reception is fine. But Albritton noted that the proliferation of mobile Internet applications is driving the need for more antennas.
The vote to reject the lease was 4-1, with Councilman Roy Swearingen dissenting.
Albritton did not say what his company would do in reaction to the council's vote. He was not available for comment at his San Francisco law office Friday. But earlier in Tuesday's meeting, before the council vote, Albritton said:
"If this lease were not to go forward, that doesn't mean that there isn't going to be a Verizon Wireless tower in that area. It just means that it's going to be perhaps slightly displaced."
"Verizon Wireless will provide the service under its federal mandate to do so," he added.
Earlier, Albritton had rejected a suggestion by Councilman Peter Murray to build the tower near a eucalyptus grove deeper inside the park, noting the current site was chosen after a lengthy and costly environmental review.