Wednesday, it signals the middle of the week, just two days away from TGIF. It’s especially meaningful to those of you working for a living. It’s the 9 to 5, the grind, the job, the shift, the boss, you know, it’s what we do, or in my case, have done, in order to reap the benefits of that almighty paycheck. That paycheck pays for a lot of things, some we control, others we don’t.
When you invest in a home, you are investing in a community. That gives one the right to speak out in favor of, or in opposition to, decisions and policies that may impact you.
The dozen or so residents who attended the Planning Commission Public Hearing on Monday the 25th, to hear the discussion on the proposed cell tower in Pinole Valley Park, are representative of those community “investors”.
The seven member Planning Commission consists of, Chair, Norma Rubin, commissioners, Paul Sekins, Tom Brooks, John Bender, Patty McGoldrick, Maureen Toms and Dave Kurrent.
The staff member is Winston Rhodes, City Planner.
Those in attendance raised several concerns:
* The noise from the back-up generator.
* The addition of more cell providers to the proposed tower.
* The safety of the generator which will house 132 gallon diesel tank.
* The visual impact of the 78 foot Monopole that will rise above the tree line.
Much discussion took place regarding all of the above concerns, but, by far, the greatest concern centered around the aesthetics of a 78 foot green cell tower in this part of beautiful Pinole Valley.
I use Verizon as my cell phone carrier. I have limited reception from my home on Simas Avenue. So when the idea of improving reception came up, I was all for it. I believe in technology, and now that more and more residents are eliminating landlines and opting for cell phones, it is important that cell users in the valley have reception in case of emergencies.
That said, last week I took a walk to Pinole Valley Park and sat in the upper baseball stands facing the baseball field.
It’s a favorite spot of mine, I enjoy the view, soak in the rays, watch the kids play and appreciate this quiet and pretty part of my neighborhood.
That day, I sat back, and then, I noticed a big bright balloon in the distance above the tree line.
I thought for moment that some kid had lost a balloon up in the trees, it was way up there. But, then I realized that what I was observing was the balloon the city had placed at the location where the proposed cell tower would be.
An ugly antenna/cell tower in that beautiful location?
Suddenly I wasn’t so keen on the idea.
The Planning Commission’s task was to approve (per staff recommendation) or reject, the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the 78 foot monopole.
The monopole as presented will be painted green in an effort to camouflage it. The commission debated the topic and Verizon presented their case.
Verizon, or for that matter, T-Mobile, AT&T or other service providers, have everything to gain from the relatively small annual payment to the city, a reported $24,00-$25,000 a year for the site, yet they offer few if any options for making these cell towers more palatable and community friendly. These companies have deep pockets, they need our location more than we need their towers.
The city should be able to demand better from them, better design, better options a better partnership.
It seems a foregone conclusion that once they build the tower then other carriers will jump on board. The plan is to enable the tower to accommodate up to a total of three carriers, therefore, three different antenna groupings.
A question was asked of me yesterday, I don’t know the answer.
“If there are three carriers sharing the pole, will the city of Pinole receive annual payments from these carriers as well? Or, does Verizon pocket the other carriers’ fees?” Good question.
Update: Sources now tell me that Verizon as the “lessee” will sub-lease to other carriers. Therefore, the fees derived from other cell carriers would not go to the City.
I want to know how the city will use the revenue from this cell tower. It seems to me that a new source of revenue, for a facility that resides smack dab in the middle of Pinole Valley Park, should NOT go into the General Fund, but should be earmarked for recreational programs. This is, after all public property, not private property.
There is a precedent for this, AT&T’s current franchise fee (UUT) has a set aside for $6,000 for the Youth Foundation. Let’s set aside the fees from this tower for important recreational programs in our city.
The Pinole Swim Center was given an ultimatum in 2011 by the city. We will shut it down unless we can bridge the funding gap of $22,000 needed to operate and maintain it.
A small but dedicated grass-roots committee said, no, we will not let that happen without a fight. The priorities of this community demand that certain services be retained. Measure M was meant to keep these services, we approved it so that we could continue to enjoy the things that are important enough to pay for. As the Measure M campaign slogan aptly put it, “Let’s Keep Pinole, Pinole”. What’s more “Pinole” than its parks, recreation and sense of community?
Why not direct this annual revenue to maintain and operate the swim center? That money hasn’t been included in the budget, yet. We should, as a community, decide how it is spent and allocated.
After several hours of debate, with the commissioners swinging back and forth, the vote was 4-3 in favor of the staff recommendation.
The no votes were: Commissioners Kurrent, Rubin, and McGoldrick. The yes votes were: Bender, Brooks, Sekins and Toms.
Chair Rubin, after stating she favored staff’s recommendation and the monopole ultimately voted no.
The next step is for the City Council to “bless: their decision. It may be a consent calendar item and simply require a perfunctory vote by the Council.
But, If we are to have this pole in Pinole, then the public should and must have a voice in how this new-found source of income should be used.