and the Cell Tower also rises


Palm-Tree-Cell-Tower January 24, 2014

Neighbors in Pinole Valley and in close proximity to Pinole Valley Road, reported today that unmarked survey vehicles were spotted shooting property lines at a home, long thought to to be Verizon’s location of choice in Pinole Valley. One of the neighbors asked one of the surveyors if they charge by the hour. The surveyor replied that they charge by the project and that yes, Verizon is putting a cell tower behind the home on Pinole Valley Road. Members of the Tower Topplers, who have kept an eye on possible Verizon activity in Pinole Valley are speaking out:

Is Verizon Wireless Building Its Cell Tower in Pinole Valley After All? For readers living in Pinole, especially in Pinole Valley, you may be aware that the City of Pinole signed a contractual agreement in December 2012 to allow Verizon Wireless to build a 80 foot cell tower in Pinole Valley Park behind the soccer field at Wright Avenue.

This decision led to months of contentious questioning, debate, and calls for action by many Pinole Valley residents to the City Council and City Staff. The history of the closed and open City Council meetings, special forums, and actions by the City Staff are too lengthy to lay out here but more information to get you up to speed on this matter of Verizon vs. local residents of Pinole Valley can be found at: Life as I know it blogsite and City of Pinole website

In short, the contractual agreement between Verizon Wireless and the City of Pinole is on hold due to the fact that a cell tower cannot be built in a public park that was purchased with State and Federal Parks grant money.
By October of 2013 many local residents fighting the building of this tower had hoped the matter had resolved itself, albeit with quite a heavy financial loss to the city for failing to meet it’s contractual obligations to Verizon. However, these residents have remained vigilant and attentive as they suspected Verizon would follow through with it’s commitment to build a tower in the park regardless of local opposition and with full knowledge that the City Staff and City Council feel as though they cannot legally stand in their way.
Now it appears these fears have come to fruition.
In the late morning on Friday, January 24th, several unmarked surveyors’ cars were seen parked at the entrance to the fire road at the furthest end of the park. Two surveyors were seen talking to a local property owner in that resident’s driveway. One resident in the neighborhood noticed this action and took a walk up the fire road behind the park and met some of the surveying crew who told him they were completing this surveying job for the Verizon cell tower that was being built.

We know the tower cannot be built in the park. We also know the City Council approved plans on Dec. 17, 2013 to enter into a 60-day tolling agreement with Verizon. During this period Verizon would waive it’s legal right to sue the city of Pinole for breaking their contract, but this also provided Verizon with time to solicit & court nearby homeowners to lease portions of their property for development of an 80 foot cell tower (see City Council Meeting Minutes 12/17/13).
It now appears this is exactly what Verizon has been doing and they now plan to try to move forward with building a cell tower on a private residence property in Pinole Valley as they vowed to do in October 2013, regardless of objections from local residents and growing concerns about the health risks, disturbance of protected Native American remains and artifacts, and potential erosion and creek damage that could occur if a tower was built in this area.

The location Verizon has targeted for the towers are the properties just past the Wright Avenue intersection of the park and very near the site of original tower slated for the parkland. It can safely assumed those are the residents that Verizon is now courting, as well as City officials who have been completely silent about any actions Verizon has taken since October 2013 and clearly seem to be approving the surveying of a new site. This brings up many unanswered questions that the residents of Pinole Valley may want to try asking the City Manager, Belinda Espinosa, and her staff, Mayor Banuelos and the rest of the Pinole City Council, and Verizon representatives if they would care to provide any answers.

The questions that seem most important to ask include: ·
Do the neighbors of this property owner know that an 80-foot cell tower is being built next to their homes? If not, how will they be informed? Do they have any legal or civic right to object to a cell tower so close to their homes?

What are the short-term and long-term health risks related living so close to a radiation-emitting cell tower? What are the health risks to the residents in the hills above the valley floor, which will be at the level of the radiation-emitting devices atop the tower? ·
Is the property and hillside beside the homes in this area next to Pinole Valley Creek stable and safe to build a tower on? Will it cause erosion? Will it damage the creek and wildlife that live there?
What compensation is this property owner receiving for allowing a tower be built on their property? What is typically paid for leasing property space for a cell tower? (Verizon was going to pay the city $2,200 a month to as payment when it was to built in the park).
Will Verizon be able lease out space on the tower to other providers (e.g. AT & T or T-Mobile)?
Will any of the revenue generated from additional leases be passed on to the property owner or is that Verizon’s financial gain alone?
Are there city or local municipal codes that regulate building of cell towers and large diesel-powered generators on private property adjacent to other private residences?
Will the property owner who leases the land space to Verizon be liable for damages that could occur due to fire, erosion, and health problems of nearly residents related to exposure to radiation from the tower?
What attempts has the city staff or city council members made to ensure this property owner is aware of the risks that might be involved for his own property and health and those of his neighbors?
Has Verizon informed this property owner of all liability they will hold for any of unforeseen consequences or legal actions taken related to the cell tower? Has the City staff diligently worked with Verizon to locate an alternate site a safe distance from private residences such as the open space at the top of Wright Avenue or closer to Castro Ranch Road?
Does the City staff and City Council plan to inform residents of these new developments in public meetings?
How do they plan to alert local residents of these meetings? It will be interesting which questions local residents determine are most important to find answers to and who will provide them with those answers.
In the meantime you can expect these attentive local watchdogs will keep an eye out for their pristine parkland and best interest of their neighbors and families.

The Cell Tower – Year in Review


Cell Tower

January 17, 2014

I have been following the Pinole Cell Tower situation since March of 2013 when I became aware of the City’s intent to place an 80 Foot Verizon monopole in Pinole Valley Park. I was against the installation of a cell tower in one of the most beautiful parts of Pinole Valley and against the use of the Park for commercial purposes. I soon discovered that many fellow Valley residents were against a cell tower in this location and for more than just aesthetic reasons.
What followed has been a  hard-fought 10 month battle by residents to prevent Verizon from building a cell tower in Pinole Valley Park. The City has been between the devil and the deep blue sea since March of 2013.

Verizon has threatened to sue the City of Pinole for breach of contract. Several Council members believe that Verizon will do exactly that and that Verizon has a cause for action. Other council members believe that the lease agreement, never ratified by Council, precludes litigation.

The City has attempted to appease residents and Verizon. But, neither the Tower Topplers nor Verizon is ready to throw in the towel. A 60 day “cooling off period” ended on December 17, 2013. On December 17, 2013 the City announced that they were entering into a tolling agreement with Verizon, allowing 6-9 months to seek a resolution.

Verizon’s deep pockets and stable of lawyers may have a case against the City of Pinole based on the fact that the City Manager signed the lease agreement on December 12, 2012, prior to Council ratification. Others believe that with the new found information relative to the Park’s grant Deed restrictions (Tower Toppled), that the City can avoid litigation.

Regardless of what Verizon does or how the City offers to compromise, there is still an estimated $350,000 in fees that Verizon has spent to locate the tower in Pinole Valley. If, Verizon finds a private property owner in the Valley willing to place the tower on their property, (word is there are two property owners interested in earning the estimated $20,000 a year), what becomes of the fees already paid by Verizon to the City of Pinole? Chances are the City will have to “eat” the fees or offer to waive all fees for the new location. This situation has been a drain on City resources. The $20,000 in projected annual revenue for the City (estimated) for the Cell Tower is a drop in the bucket compared to what the City has paid thus far and may yet have to pay to extricate itself from this administrative foul up.

The “Topplers Knock One Out of the Park
” uncovered by the Topplers has the City in a most uncomfortable spot. The Topplers discovered that Pinole Valley Park land was purchased with State and Federal Grants, and therefore can not be used for anything other than outdoor recreational use.

This discovery has really thrown a monkey wrench into the City’s plans for the Tower. But it is also facing possible sanctions for not properly converting the land used to build Station 74. The conversion process is expensive and lengthy and will result in more costs to the City and ultimately to the taxpayer. The City has had to allocate staff resources as well as increased attorney fees to try handle this fiasco.
The final tab is still undetermined, but it is safe to say that the City of Pinole has lost money due to this mishandled affair at a time when our City can ill afford to be losing money in this manner.

Sources tell me that Fire Fighters Union Local 1230 has won its court battle against the City of Pinole and that the city is now filing an appeal. This lawsuit and its potential costs to the City of Pinole could be crippling.
More on that at a later date.

This story has not ended. The Tower Topplers I have spoken with are poised to continue to fight to keep a cell tower out of Pinole Valley.
Other residents throughout Pinole are wondering just what the final tab will be to the taxpayer.

Tower Topplers, Cell Tower, 2013 in review:
I asked members of this very active and passionate group, referred to as the Tower Topplers, to sum up the almost 12 months of controversy in a recap of 2013.
Their comments are below.

The Tower article links for 2013:
March, March 27. The Cell Tower
June, June 15. NO to the Cell Tower
July, July 12. Tower, to be or not to be.
July, July 18. Council Reverses its decision.
August, August 20. The Smoking Gun.
September, September 4. Topplers knock one out of the park.
September, September 17. Topplers vs. City, Part One.
September, September 21. Tower Toppled.
September, September 27. Topplers vs. City. Part Two.
October, October 3. Nearing the Finish Line.
October, October 8. Let them eat cake.
October, October 11. Follow the bouncing ball.
October, October 15. Pay the plumber.
October, October 22. Julie Maier sounds off.
October, October 22. Tower talk spark fireworks.

The following comments and opinions expressed are those of certain members of the group known as the Tower Topplers as submitted to me for posting on Life as I Know it.
Ivette Ricco

As you know the costs of the Verizon Fiasco in 2013 were immeasurable.   Many in this town have lost faith completely in the City Government and the Elected Officials who are elected to provide policy decisions to the city staff.
 What started out as a stealth attempt to ram through a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), back on March 23, 2013 at a City Planning Meeting by the City Planning Staff morphed into one of the largest fiasco’s that the City has probably faced since its inception.
At the January 15, 2013 City Council Meeting, Council and Staff were going through all City owned properties to see which ones could be jettisoned or sold to make good on two Assembly Bills that were passed by the State Legislature which is the Law on how the various Redevelopment Agencies across the State were to be dissolved.  
The mandate was coming from the State of California’s Department of Finance.After going through a list of the properties that the City had transferred to the City of Pinole from the Redevelopment Agency to see which ones were revenue generating and to determine which ones could be sold, Patti Athenhour remarked that the Verizon Cell Site could be added to the list of rental properties.   Patti had just filed a memorandum of loan agreement with the Contra Costa County Assessors office that afternoon, January 15, 2013.
On March 23, 2013 the Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), which was further conditioned on Verizon Wireless obtaining a lease for the property in question, 1270 Adobe Road, situated on A.P.N. 360-210-002.
There were a handful of residents at this meeting, who voiced their concerns with the health risks of the cell radiation, the back up diesel generator, the noise from the generator, the destruction of view shed, amongst other issues.   Their concerns and opposition fell on deaf ears and it quickly became obvious that it was a “stealth job”.
 Little did anyone know at the time, that this was basically a game of charades because City Staff had already signed the lease with Verizon Wireless on December 12, 2012 and City Staff was just going through the motions of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.   
The planning commission spent more than an hour, on March 23, 2013, debating whether a faux tree was more appropriate than the 80 foot “monopole” design that had come to the Planning Commission.
At the February 5, 2013 City Council Meeting, Ratification of the Verizon Wireless Lease appeared on the consent calendar, with a Staff Report written by Belinda Espinosa, indicating that Staff had provided approval to Staff to sign a lease with Verizon Wireless in closed session on February 21, 2012.  
Pete Murray, who was Mayor at this time, never announced that any decisions had been made or actions taken in closed session.  The tape does not lie. Despite this Pete Murray has stated in open session on at least one occasion that the City Manager did indeed have authorization to sign the lease with Verizon Wireless.
At the February 5, 2013 City Council Meeting, Sheila Grist asked that the Verizon Wireless Lease item be pulled from the Consent Calendar.
The ruse was up. Mayor Long pulled the ratification of the Verizon Lease from the Consent Calendar.
At the April 16, 2013 City Council meeting Staff brought back the Verizon Wireless Lease as item 9C. Approve the Lease Agreement with Verizon Wireless For A Cellular Tower at Pinole Valley Park [Council Report No. 2013-34; Action: Approve Resolution and Lease per Staff Recommendation (Allison)].  
 By this point Matt Bielby, Valley resident, who had been present at the March 23, 2013 Planning Commission, started a door to door campaign and had gathered up a handful of residents and organized a protest complete with signs and everything for the April 16, 2013 Meeting.   Item 9C was pulled and no action was taken on the Verizon Cell Tower Lease. 
Once again, at the May 7, 2013 City Council Meeting Staff brought back the Verizon Cell Tower Lease for Ratification as item 9C Ratify the Lease Agreement with Verizon Wireless For A Cellular Tower at Pinole Valley Park [Council Report No. 2013-44; Action: Approve Resolution and Lease per Staff Recommendation (Espinosa / Allison)] CONTINUED FROM APRIL 16, 2013.
 Once again, the Tower Topplers were present and protested before the Council and, once again the Verizon Wireless Lease issue was continued to the June 4, 2013 Council Meeting as a closed session item 3A CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATOR – GC §54956.8  Property Location: Pinole Valley Park – APN: 360-210-002
Pinole CA 94564 Agency Negotiator: Belinda Espinosa, City Manager & Dean Allison, PW Director Under Negotiation: Verizon, LLC – Lease Price & Terms
At this juncture, June 4, 2013 Council thought that they could appease the opposition to the Verizon Cell Tower in Pinole Valley Park by just re-negotiating the terms of the lease.  Many on the Council were unhappy with the “Monopole” and were adamant about the faux tree concept and thought that they could kill two birds with one stone.   Council negotiated an additional $200 per month on the already low $2000 per month, the faux tree, and a few other minor concessions.  Wow, yippee!
 At the June 4, 2013 the vote to Ratify the Lease item 9C was once again continued to the June 18, 2013 City Council Meeting.  9C Ratify the Lease Agreement with Verizon Wireless For A Cellular Tower at Pinole Valley Park [Action: Continue to June 18, 2013. (Espinosa / Allison)]
 By the time that the June 18, 2013 City Council Meeting rolled around, the Tower Topplers were a force to be reckoned with.   By this juncture the group was about 50 residents strong and showed up in force at the June 18, 2013 City Council Meeting.  Along with the people that showed up to speak at the meeting, a signature petition along with a petition was in full swing.    
 Well in any event in front of a packed house the Pinole City Council Voted 4-1 to NOT ratify the Lease with Verizon Wireless.  The only dissenting votes was Councilmember Swearingen; Mayor Pro-Tem Banuelos and Councilmember Swearingen were extremely confused with the negative vote.  The motion which was provided by Council member Green was to not ratify the Verizon Cell Tower Lease in Pinole Valley Park despite the issue being brought back by City Manager Espinosa and Public Works Director Allison in the affirmative.   
9C Ratify and Approve An Amendment to the Lease Agreement with Verizon Wireless, LLC For A Cellular Tower at To Be Located at Pinole Valley Park [Council Report No. 2013-68; Action: Adopt Resolution Per Staff Recommendation to Approve the Lease Agreement (Reyes/Allison)]
The victory was short lived because Verizon came back to Council Meeting on July 2, 2013 as a closed session item.  Immediately following the closed session Council voted to bring back the Verizon Lease under threat of Litigation by Verizon Wireless.   The vote taken to reconsider the Verizon Lease was a 4-1 vote with Council member Green being the only dissenting vote.   The motion was put forth by Pete Murray and seconded by Mayor Pro-Tem Banuelos.
 The City Council brought back the Verizon during Closed Session on July 16, 2013 under 3A CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL- ANTICIPATED LITIGATION Pursuant to GC Section 54956.9(d)(2) (1 Matter) Verizon Wireless. 
 And at the same meeting Council brought back the Verizon Lease as 9C Reconsideration of the City Council June 18, 2013 Action Related to Ratification and Approval of an Amendment to the Lease Agreement with Verizon Wireless, LLC For A Cellular Tower at To Be Located at Pinole Valley Park [Council Report].  
On July 16, 2013 a day that will live infamy, Council voted to ratify the Lease with Verizon Wireless.  The vote was 3-2 with Mayor Long and Council member Green in the Nay column.
Verizon Wireless also attempted a very weak and not statistically significant phone campaign and had the audacity to present the results at the July 16, 2013 City Council Meeting.  Basically, Verizon asked their wireless customers if they wanted better cell coverage without offering a NO option.
This is basically equivalent to asking an arsonist if they want to go see a big bon fire.
I say in infamy, because little did Council know that by making this historic reversal, they were setting themselves up for utter and dire failure.  
While, Councilmember Swearingen, Mayor Pro-Tem Banuelos, and Publics Works Director were yakking it up at Mel’s Diner, with comments like, “We showed those guys who runs this town”, amongst other trash talking comments, the Tower Topplers were not happy with the vote.
 During an all out brain-storming session, the Tower Topplers had identified a possible path to keep the Verizon Cell Tower out of the Park.   
Two members of the Tower Topplers had contacted the California Departments of Parks and Recreation and had spoken to a Christelle Tallion.  Christelle assured the individuals that the location of the Cell Tower site was on land purchased by the City of Pinole with funds obtained in the early 1970’s offered by the Federal Government to the States to distribute and to enforce.
The one caveat that came with the monies was that the land purchased with the funds provided by the Congressional Open Spaces act of 1965 was to be “used for outdoor recreational use only in perpetuity”.   Well, well, well, it looked like the Tower Topplers were onto something.   
 Christelle Tallion attempted to contact the City of Pinole on numerous occasions and each time she was rebuffed by City Manager Belinda Espinosa and Hector De La Rosa.  Christelle took it upon herself to do a 5 year site visit since she had not visited the Pinole Valley Park in ten years, so a visit was due.
Christelle Tallion came and toured the proposed cell tower location and found that it would be out of compliance with the Open Spaces Act of 1965 which had provided the funding to purchase the lands if it were to be built. 
Not only did Christelle determine that if the Verizon Cell Tower were to be built it would be a violation, she also discovered that Fire Station 74 had not gone through the proper conversion process as required by the Congressional Act and immediately determined that the City of Pinole was in violation of the Open Spaces Act of 1965 whose enforcement falls to the State of California.    Christelle put the Pinole Valley Park in the classification of “Conversion”.
This has huge significance for the City of Pinole because it has been determined by the City Manager of Pinole, Belinda Espinosa, that while in conversion the City of Pinole is of:
(1) Not able to apply for California State Grants while in conversion,
(2) Not able to apply for Federal Grants while in conversion,
(3)  Possibly not able to borrow the $24 Million loan from the California Low Interest Rate Revolving Fund to Upgrade the Sewer (Alternatively the City would have to go to the open bond market and get a higher interest loan that citizens will have to pay for), and
(4) Possibly needing to repay the Federal Government for the two SAFER Grants that were awarded to the City of Pinole in December of 2012 (Technically only the $1.2 Million grant is a SAFER Grant, whilst the smaller $65 Thousand dollar grant is an equipment grant and will be used to buy a new water hose, however both are FEMA Grants).
In any event, the City Council had a special 9/11/2013 Cell Tower Workshop to address all of the Citizens’ concerns.   
This was the biggest Dog and Pony show that I attended since I was a kid and went to Barnum & Bailey.  While at the meeting it became obvious that the presentation and the Staff Report had been prepared by City Attorney Reyes.  It was full of legalese, guarded and plain outright fraught with blatant lies.
Ironically, City Manager Belinda Espinosa broke ranks with Council and Staff and admitted for the cameras that she did not have authorization to sign a lease with Verizon Wireless on December 12, 2012, despite the first Slide of Mr. Reyes PowerPoint presentation asking the Billion dollar question, “Did the City Manager have Authorization to Sign the Lease with Verizon Wireless?”  This was followed by the succinct answer, “Yes.”  The first bullet point was a flat out pokerfaced lie.
 I guess the succinct answer makes it a little lie, but then again it is still a big freaking whopper.  
Now at the time, September 11, 2013, Staff and the Majority of the City Council were in complete denial about something that the Tower Topplers had understood since the beginning of August.
This is that the City had screwed the pooch when they decided to let Verizon dictate to them where they wanted to put the Cell Tower.
Eventually, the City Council and Staff woke up and realized that they were in quite a predicament with Verizon threatening to litigate on one hand and the State of California Department of Parks and Recreations reading the City the Riot Act. 
So what does the City do?  Follow Verizon’s lead of course.    
Paul Albrittion, lead attorney for Verizon comes to the Pinole City Council Meeting on October 15, 2013 and meets with Council in closed session, encouraging the City to enter into a 60 Day Tolling Agreement with Verizon.  Verizon promises to not apply for any building permits and the City promises to not rescind the lease and neither party can litigate during the “Cooling off Period”.  Council votes for a 60 Day Cooling off Period.  No Tolling Agreement just a cooling off period.
Well December 17, 2013 rolls around, officially ending the 60 day cooling off period and City Attorney Ben Reyes provides a 1.5 page Staff Report on the Verizon Cell Tower with absolutely no new information.  And what did this 1.5 page report cost the Citizens of Pinole.   While I am sure it has cost the City much more than the fees that Meyers Nave has charged; here are the numbers taken from the Warrant Lists.  Yup, we got 1.5 pages for $25 Thousand Dollars.   Amazing!
Warrant List Date
10/1/13 – 10/11/13
10/12/13 – 11/1/13
11/22/13 – 12/13/13
 Well, not to be outdone in 2013, the City Council also instructed City Attorney Ben Reyes to enter into a Tolling Agreement with Verizon while Verizon finds an alternative place in the valley to put their cell tower.   Council nor Staff have reported out the terms of the Tolling Agreement but based on the fact that Verizon will need to first find a suitable location (Either rent from a private citizen or purchase a property), Apply to the FCC for a license, undergo CEQA, undergo NEPA, and obtain a Conditional Use Permit, it looks like 2014 will be another stealth year for the Pinole City Council.  Attorney Ben Reyes says the Tolling Agreement could be for 6-9 months.
But wait there is more; after the Tolling Agreement expires Verizon will be free to sue the City of Pinole for the damages it incurred, $350 Thousand.  Unless, the City has a “wink and a nod”, i.e. quid pro quo  back room deal with Verizon to walk away from the $350 Grand if the City helps Verizon put a tower in our pristine valley.     

Tower Talk Sparks Fireworks

Tuesday October 22, 2013

An amazing display of kicking the can down the road took place at the Tuesday, October 15, City Council meeting amidst anger, heated council exchanges and a speaker’s mic being cut off.

Among the highlights (low-lights), took place about an hour into the meeting when Valley resident and citizen Julie Maier was cut off during her speech and her mic was turned off. The Mayor then asked that Julie be removed from Chambers.
Mayor Long told Julie, “Put it in writing and have it posted somewhere.”
It is in writing and it is posted right here.

The Mayor had instructed all speakers to limit their time to 2 -2 1/2 minutes.
As Mayor she has the authority to “set the rules” for conducting the meeting.

Mayor Long took exception to the length of Julie’s Maier’s speech stating that at a previous meeting Ms. Maier had spoken for six minutes.
The record will show that Mr. Jack Meehan’s comments began at 9:18 pm and were completed at 9:23 pm. Mayor Long allowed Mr. Meehan approximately 5 minutes to speak.

Mayor Long on accountability and the process:
“People were accountable.
“We all make mistakes in our lives and we don’t cut our hands off because we did something wrong.”
“We could all have done a better job of bringing this to the public.”
“The thing is we jumped into this.”
“I still support your cause.”

Resident, Jack Meehan on competency:
“Extricate yourselves from a bad and costly situation. When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
“There’s no need to be a lawyer to know and follow the law.”
“Not having competent authority, because you did not have and still don’t have the authority to abrogate, circumvent or ignore the Grant’s prohibition on commercial use of the parkland, that is the meaning of having competent authority.”

Resident,Soon-Young, on the process:
“As a community we want to be involved in the process. We were left out.”

Resident, Sal Spataro on the city government:
“I have to say that I have lost faith in the City government, we have a very weak city manager.” “She couldn’t be hired anywhere else and we hired her twice.” “The City Attorney, “he’s doing a good job for Meyers Nave, but for Pinole, not so much.”

Councilman Swearingen on the lease agreement:
“I don’t think we have the ability to rescind the agreement.”
“You just can’t say no.”
“We will try to please you people.”

Councilman Banuelos on the tower:
“Right now I’m still kind of torn, but the more time that goes on, the less I am in favor of this tower.”

The most heated exchange took place between Councilman Green and Councilman Murray:
Councilman Green demanded the Council take action immediately and rescind the contract. A contract he stated was signed by the City Manager without proper authorization. The City Manager was not present at this meeting.

Councilman Green on the lease:
“I think it’s ridiculous that we don’t rescind the agreement. “Let us show some courage and defend the citizens of this community.”

Councilman Murray:
“I’m not going to bother going into re-arranging the facts, because I’ve done it several times.”

Councilman Murray defended the council’s actions as well as staff’s and stated.
“Look it Phil, we know you don’t like the City Manager.”

Councilman Green:
“That’s not true Pete. That’s not true at all. Don’t be saying that if it’s not true.”

Councilman Murray:
“She signed a conditioned lease. The lease was not ratified until we ratified it.”
“But the point being is we re-negotiated.
“Blame us because we wanted to re-negotiate the contract.
“We asked for the moon and Verizon gave us the moon.”

Councilman Green:
“No. They did not. They did not give us what we asked for.”

Councilman Murray:
“God. Where do you come from? Where were you?”

Mayor Long steps in:
“Ok, stop. I have to agree with Phil. (Speaks to Murray) “You viewed it as negotiation. I viewed it as looking at deal points.” “That itself does not constitute the signing of a lease.”

Councilman Green:
“The City Manager did not have the authority to sign the lease. You did not (to Murray) come out and announce that decision in public. “Did you as Mayor announce that she had the authority to sign that lease?”
“Something wrong here.”

Councilman Murray:
“You’re re-writing history again.”

Councilman Green:
“These are the facts. “Let’s talk about the facts.”

Councilman Murray:
“These are not the facts. “You don’t know the facts.”
“When I listen to what you say sometimes I say, whoa, where is he at?”

Councilman Green:
“The council didn’t have the courage to say no to Verizon  is why we’re in the mess we’re in.”

Members of the opposition group wondered why the presentation, when published with the agenda, had not indicated that these were Verizon’s suggestions. Further, why was there no mention that a meeting had taken place with Verizon on October 7?
The lack of background information for the power-point offered the opposition no time to properly prepare for the meeting or to address the various options and in fact raised alarm throughout the community.

The most troubling options appeared to have been the possibility of placing the cell tower at Fire Station 74, directly across from Ellerhorst Elementary School and the possibility of Verizon invoking eminent domain on existing park property.

What seems abundantly clear is that Verizon is not going to walk away from their goal, to place a cell tower in Pinole Valley. What is also clear is that the City is spending large sums of money on legal fees due to this series of miscalculations and missteps. To date the legal fees charged by Meyers Nave for the Cell Tower since August 2013 exceed $17,000.

What is also clear is that the City is caught between a rock and a hard place.
If they rescind the lease Verizon may be poised to sue.
If they attempt to place the tower in the Park the State and Feds, who have deemed both the cell tower and the Fire Station as non-compliant, will face the likely prospect of all future grant funds being “frozen.”

What is the exit strategy? How will this besieged council handle this dilemma? They have opted to take a “time out’, giving everyone sixty days to look at the alternatives. But decisions must be made soon.

If the city and/or Verizon can locate a residential property owner in the valley whose location meets Verizon’s criteria then they may be able to extricate themselves from the Park Grant issue as it regards the tower.

I have been told that Verizon has approached at least one property owner on Pinole Valley Road about this possibility. My source tells me that Verizon has offered to take this individual on a casino junket and basically wine and dine him. Thus far he is resisting their overtures, but other adjoining locations could be considered.

Finding a comparable location that meets Verizon’s criteria could offer a way out of this major debacle. Verizon would get its tower, Pinole Valley Park would be left untouched and the City could avoid a legal battle with Verizon.

However, that $26,000 projected revenue source? Kiss that baby goodbye.
In its stead the City is incurring attorney fees daily and will likely have to reimburse Verizon for some of its fees.

On the heels of the Tower Horror the City will need to decide how to move forward with the non-compliant status of Fire Station 74. More expenses, more work, more time, more legal fees and bottom line, more costs to us, the taxpayers.
Conspicuously absent from these machinations, the Concerned Citizens of Pinole.

The City Council on Tuesday, October 15, decided to take the path of least resistance. They have signed a tolling agreement with Verizon which allows the city 60 days to continue to research city files and records, communicate with the State and attempt to mitigate the cell tower location.

There are many lessons to be learned from this frustrating exercise in futility.
Clearly, transparency, accountability and due diligence have proved to be kryptonite for this council on this issue.

But, perhaps, the most troubling and unfortunate reality is that this is not a new lesson we are learning.  Rather, this is a repetition of previous contractual errors made by the City when dealing with corporations and signing contracts.

It is a lesson the city should have learned from past flawed development contracts, contracts that were one-sided and did not favor the city (us) contracts that were only reviewed by legal council as to “form.”

The need for better oversight and greater due diligence, was an issue discovered by Interim City Manager Charlie Long during his tenure. We were promised better government and better standards.
These standards should have been in place long before Verizon entered the picture.

Julie Maier Sounds Off

At the Pinole City Council Meeting, Tuesday, October 15, 2013, resident Julie Maier was in the midst of her speech regarding the cell tower, when Mayor Long turned off her mic and asked that she be removed from the Council Chambers. Mayor Long said to Julie, “Put it in writing and have it posted somewhere.
Here it is.

Julie sent me this email:

“I am attaching my written speech from the other night that was cut off. The portions in italics I did not read at the meeting since I knew I only had 2 minutes, but as you saw I still went over. It is the last portion with bulleted points when my mic was turned off and Debbie continued to interrupt me. I am especially proud of my final comment about earning our respect and admiration but I have no idea if they heard that at all. You can use all or portions of it, whichever you like.”

“Still two days later what is most upsetting to me is that I spent almost two hours writing and careful preparing what I wanted to say, in large part due to the alarm the copy of the staff report caused among our group and the Ellerhorst community, and I was only afforded 2 minutes to present my views. If staff had included just a single slide at the beginning of the handout of their presentation that clearly stated that these are options Verizon suggested in a brainstorming session and the staff has not agreed to any of them or is not recommending any of them tonight, then all of these people would not have spent 5 days sick with worry and outraged that staff did not appear to be listening to council’s direction. I still had a lot to say about the entire process of this lease and also wanted to share what I am looking for in terms of values and leadership skills of my city council. I found it impossible to condense that into a three minute or two minute speech. While I can understand the need for time limitations when speaking at council meetings, I also think they are arbitrarily applied since many speakers that evening were not stopped at 3 or 2 minutes and because I have also spoken longer than 3 minutes in the past. I do wonder if I was stopped because the mayor and some council members did not want to hear the challenge I was placing in front of them. I will need to continue to work on my editing skills and also consider other venues to get my views, concerns and questions across to the council. I was very appreciative of Phil Green’s support of my right to heard and finish my speech.”

The Speech

Thank you forgiving me the opportunity to speak to you tonight.

Cell Tower lease site and Station 74, although connected by the fact that both are in the boundaries of Pinole Valley Park, are separate issues. That was very clear in the comments made by the council and many speakers at the Oct. 1st meeting. Staff was told at that meeting to proceed on their fact-finding mission and bring back information on Station 74 conversion and the cell tower lease as separate issues. Most of the council members also stated at that meeting that the cell tower was obviously not going to be built, but that we had to deal with issue of Station74 and that Verizon had to be informed of these new restrictions from the State and National Parks.

A very big concern for the council has been fiscal ramifications of Verizon’s lease being rescinded and conversion of the Station 74 site. You said you had to consider the effect on current and future state and federal grants—this was especially a concern for Councilmember Baneulos and Councilmember Swearingen wanted “whatever deal was best for taxpayers”. Losing grants would certainly not be good for the taxpayers. Having to repay for Verizon for costs they have already incurred in addition to some restitution for rescinding lease is also not ideal. However, I don’t see how the city is going to avoid losing some money on this bungled lease development that should have been fully researched and vetted before any memorandum of lease or permits were signed. The city staff and the committees and council members who approved their actions without doing their homework are responsible for this financial mess.

Since the state parks grants have clearly delegated that no commercial use is allowable in park, therefore I do not believe eminent domain is an option for Verizon. Although this commercial phone company claims to be a public utility they have no right to this property without exigent need which they have never proven.

Due to those state park grant restrictions, the City manager and City attorney were not legally competent to agree to a lease without being fully informed, so lease is voidable as Mr. Meehan so clearly explained at the Oct. 1st meeting.

Yet now, two weeks later staff returns with the most ridiculous idea yet, building a cell tower at the gateway to the valley…across the street from our local elementary school. You cannot kill two birds with one stone in this case. Remember they are separate issues. I unfortunately no longer trust that staff has the best interests of the Pinole residents at all.

Here is what I am requesting tonight of my elected officials:

First, I want you to stop treating these presentations, suggestions and recommendations from the staff as holding merit or serious of consideration.

Second, I want you to stop allowing the city staff to stall the end of this cell tower lease. I am not sure of staff’s motives, but they either are still trying to hide their incompetence or they more interested in Verizon’s interests than those of Pinole residents.

Third, please to stop spending precious time and energy protecting staff and extolling all that has been learned from the uncovered mistakes and blunders that have been discovered. Our city manager admitted at the 9/11 meeting that she made a mistake by signing the addendum to the lease without your approval and accepted full responsibility. This was big step forward. She made a HUGE mistake and admitted it. There is no need for you to continue cover that up or take partial blame. She expected she would get your approval, but then you voted against approval so she was left with a BIG mess to extricate the city from. Don’t spend your time helping her to find a “duct-tape” solution or explanation. They were not competent to execute the lease, so stop trying to protect them and say they are competent and were not responsible for the disaster that has occurred.

Fourth and VERY importantly, please stop backing down from Verizon’s threat. They are acting like a big schoolyard bully. Our park, our elementary school, our city does not belong to Verizon! Pay them for their expenses so far and perhaps some other other restitution for their time & trouble and then tell them to move on. I am not scared of Verizon and they are NOT going to build a cell tower across the street from my daughter’s school or restricted state park land and scared Native American sites. I don’t want you to be scared either. I don’t really care how committed they are to a site in a valley. We are just as committed to keeping our families, our neighbors, our children and our school staff safe. Stand up to them. Demonstrate leadership. How about for once, following Councilman Green’s lead and taking action to protect the residents of our great city?!

I truly think that City staff and Verizon believe they can wear us down and eventually we’ll give up. We may be tired of these games, but we are not going away or backing down. Verizon is NOT building a cell tower in our park or next to our elementary school. It is NOT going to happen…with or without your leadership and support.

You have a choice to make tonight. It is choice I have challenged you to make at other meetings over the summer.

  • I challenge you TONITE to put your constiuents before city staff reputation and agendas.

  • I challenge you TONITE to put the safety, health and quality of life of the residents of Pinole before the corporate interests of Verizon or any other corporate entity that wants to do business in our town.

  • I challenge my City Council to choose citizens over paid staff, choose citizens over Verizon.

Rescind the Verizon lease tonight. It is the only ethically and morally correct action to take at this point. The state and national parks have told you it is not allowed and illegal. Your constituents, including children, have begged you for months to listen to their concerns and ideas. These concerned citizens dedicated their personal time, the legwork, and a fair bit of funds to uncover a lot of missing information about the park, safety concerns, and the history of the proposed site and we discovered a way out of this lease for the city.

You have a responsibility to us…your office does not obligate our respect or admiration. You have to earn that….and you have one more chance to do so tonight.

Thank you.

Cell Tower – Follow the Bouncing Ball

bouncing-ballFriday, October 11, 2013
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water….
The City of Pinole and Verizon’s effort to place an 80 foot monopole in Pinole Valley Park may have come to a screeching halt, temporarily, but that hasn’t stopped the City and Verizon from looking for another way to build a cell tower in the Valley.

At the October 1, 2013 Council meeting Mayor Long and Council member Green asked that the Tower and the Fire Station issues be separated.
Mayor Long asked that that action be placed on the agenda for Tuesday October 15, 2013. However, Tuesday’s agenda clearly shows that this chess match is far from over.
Agenda HERE

Among the options (below) being considered is the Co-Location of the Verizon Cell Tower at Fire Station 74 on Pinole Valley Road. Fire Station 74 has been the subject of controversy since its closing in July 2011.
This new option will have to go through a lengthy process before it is even viable, but perhaps the most significant, issue from residents’ point of view, is the close proximity of the Fire Station, to Ellerhorst Elementary School, which is 0.1 miles away and directly across the street.
Placing a cell tower in this location, in the shadow of the Ellerhorst schoolyard, may meet stiff resistance from environmentalists and from parents of students attending Ellerhorst.

Fire Station 74

Ellerhorst Elementary School

Action: Receive Report & Provide Direction (Reyes)Agenda item number 9C under Old Business:
C. Consider Options Regarding the Lease Agreement with Verizon LLC for a Wireless Cellular Facility at Pinole Valley Park [Council Report No. 2013-111;

Pinole Valley Park, Verizon Wireless Lease
Update on Verizon Cell Discussions

  • Continue to Research City Files
  • Legal Research
  • Meeting with Verizon
  • Follow Up with State Parks
  • Options

Legal Research

  • Review State Parks Regulations
  • National Parks Service – Furloughs

Meeting with Verizon
Verizon’s Options

  • Conversion
  • Temporary Use Permit (until alt. site is located)
  • Co-locating on Fire Station 74 property

Cost to Relocate Cell Tower

  • Estimated at $300 to $400K
  • Viable Sites

Meeting with Verizon

  • Process Timeframe
  • Three year process to obtain site approval
  • Committed to site
  • Site must address Verizon Plans
  • Coverage

Follow up with State Parks

  • Clarification on Conversion Process
  • CEQA, NEPA, Section 106, Build Plan
  • Timeframe

* Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment. The historic preservation review process mandated by Section 106 is outlined in regulations issued by ACHP. 

Use of Facility

  • Temporary and Long Term
  • Reuse for Outdoor Recreation Purposes


  • Conversion Process
  • Up to Five (5) Year Process
  • Current and Future Grant Funding
  • Temporary Use of Site
  • National Parks Service to determine replacement acreage
  • Appraisal of existing park and replacement site
  • CEQA, NEPA, Section 106 on existing and replacement site


  • Co-Location of Cell Tower/Fire Station
  • One application for conversion
  • Reduces risk of lawsuits
  • Use of facility while proceeding with conversion


  • Tolling Agreement (see legal definition below)
  • Allows time to discuss alternative options with Verizon and State
  • Furlough of Federal Workers
    A tolling agreement is an agreement to waive a right to claim that litigation should be dismissed due to the expiration of a statute of limitations. Its purpose is typically to allow a party additional time to assess and determine the legitimacy and viability of their claims and/or the amount of their damages without the necessity of filing an action. During this period, the parties waive any defense by way of any statute of limitations which would otherwise arise during such period.

    Termination of Lease

  • Legal and Financial Ramifications
  • Eminent Domain
    Definition of Eminent Domain:

    “Eminent Domain” – also called “condemnation” – is the power of local, state or federal government agencies to take private property for “public use” so long as the government pays “just compensation.” The government can exercise its power of eminent domain even if the owner does not wish to sell his or her property.

The City Council meets on Tuesday, October 15, 2013.
If you wish to address the City Council on its plans for the Cell Tower, Fire Station 74 and the options they are presenting, please attend the meeting.
Agenda here.

Cell Tower – Part Two

Friday – September 27, 2013

What began as an effort by residents who reside near Pinole Valley Park to stop the City from leasing park property to Verizon to build a cell tower has evolved into a much bigger issue with what may be long term ramifications.
The Pinole City Council has placed the Cell Tower, Station 74 and the California State Parks and Recreation Grant issues on the agenda for Tuesday, October 1.
At this point the City as well as the State are in the process of researching the deed restrictions and the processes used to convert Parkland.
Meeting starts at 7 pm, 2131 Pear Street. Tuesday, October 1, 2013.
Agenda Here

A. Update on the California State Parks Grants for Pinole Valley Park [Council
Report No. 2013- 106; Action: Receive Report (Espinosa)]

The following is an excerpt from the Staff Report on Agenda Item 10A:

“The City of Pinole processed and approved a Conditional Use Permit and a lease with Verizon Wireless for the lease of approximately 1,000 square feet of park space located in Pinole Valley Park. During the various discussions regarding the lease, numerous citizens expressed their concerns for the location of the cell tower, health issues related to radio frequency levels, and whether or not there were restriction on the park land. On August 29, 2013, Staff received a phone call from a State’s Park representative that the City had applied for a grant for the purchase of the Sobrante Ridge property (no known as Pinole Valley Park), and that there were restrictions on the allowed use of the property.
Staff was directed to investigate the facts and to confirm whether or not this was true. On September 19, 2013 Staff met with representatives from the California State Parks Department in order to determine the facts surrounding the issue of the park property being purchased with State and Federal Park grant funds and whether or not there were restrictions on the property that would disallow the cell tower to be located on park property.

Review and Analysis
As part of the City’s due diligence, Staff began pulling all records that the City maintained and found the following;
Grant Deed for the purchase of the Sobrante Ridge Property was filed on October 2, 1978
City Resolutions #1249, dated September 7, 1976, authorized the submittal of grant applications to purchase and develop the park. No resolution was discovered whereby the City received or accepted a grant for the purchase of the property.
Various maps of the parcel were reviewed.

During the meeting with the State, the State Parks Department provided us with additional background information and limited documents which we are reviewing now. We will present the information obtained and discovered at a public meeting to be scheduled in the near future.

For this initial report we have two issues to present. Information impacting the location of the cell tower and its lease, secondly, impact to Fire Station 74 which is also located within the park boundaries.

Use of the Park land
The basic issue is that Pinole Valley Park was purchased with State/Federal grant monies (1978) and at the time, according to State Park Representative there was a condition to restrict the property to “outdoor recreational use”. There is no evidence on the recorded deed or title of Pinole Valley Park that reflects this grant condition. The City Attorney’s Office is reviewing the documents to determine whether the restriction applies.

For the Cell Tower
With the Verizon cell tower located within Pinole Valley Park, the State has opined that the use of a cell tower is not in conformance with parkland use. Specifically, the State considers the cell tower a commercial use which is not allowed within the park. Furthermore, they do not consider a cell tower as a utility.
The State has stated that the park is supposed to be used only for “outdoor recreational use.”

Fire Station 74
It has been confirmed throughout the years that Fire Station 74 is also located on Pinole Valley Park property. This was also confirmed by State representatives at our meeting. By definition, a fire station is not designated as an “outdoor recreational use” although it is a public safety building.
Staff has reviewed its files and has determined that the City did subdivide the parkland to create a legal parcel for the location of the Fire Station, did perform an environmental review, did submit the property documents to the State Clearinghouse but sis not communicate with the State Parks Department for Conversion of the property. The State has indicated that they do not have any application for conversion of the property where Fire Station 74 is located.

Conversion Process
According to the State Parks Department, the parkland property is restricted for “Public Outdoor Recreation” purpose in perpetuity.
However, the grant funding regulations provide an option called a “Conversion” process. The “conversion” allows an application to be submitted to the State and National Park Service which permits a land swap for the conversion of the portion of park land being used for purposes other than outdoor parks. The converted land must be a new “outdoor recreational use”, not use of an existing park or existing open space.
State Park representatives informed Staff that the City has to be the applicant in order to process a conversion and that the conversion process could take a minimum of 2-5 years to process and some have taken as long as ten years.

Cell Tower
In exchange for the 1,000 square feet of cell tower space usage, additional square feet of new  “outdoor recreational use” property would have to be purchased and dedicated as such. in addition, a new study would have to be conducted to determine the “view shed” which includes the visibility of the cell tower from all angles which may or may not add additional acreage that has to be mitigated under the conversion process. This study is done by an independent consultant, to be retained by the City of Pinole.

Fire Station 74
As previously mentioned, Fire Station 74 is also located within the park boundaries. Moreover, it appears, through review of City files, that the City followed the typical process to establish a parcel and construct a facility including preparing an environmental document and sending it to the various agencies. It appears the City, at the time of building Fire Station 74, did not go through a “conversion” process to mitigate use of the park land. The State representatives indicated that they have no information/record that the City applied for or was granted a conversion.

Staff will continue to research old City files to see if there is any indication that a conversion was applied for and approved by the State. We are specifically looking through redevelopment project files for Fire Station 74 since the facility was built during this time period.

Non Compliance with Conversion Process
According to the State Parks Department, if the City does not comply with the allowed use of Parkland, the City may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, ineligibility for future State Parks and Federal grants.
Additionally, during the conversion process the City may be ineligible to obtain State and Federal Grants.

Due to the limited documents from City and State files, Staff continues to look through internal files as well as State’s files performing its research. Without a complete list of documents from the State, Staff is researching the information received and will be developing a list of additional questions for the State. The City Attorney’s office also needs time to review the documents and answer several legal questions.”

Cell Tower Gets Toppled!!


David has beat Goliath!
Yes, that persistent, hard working and passionate group of Pinole citizens that banded together to stop the City from installing a Verizon cell tower in Pinole Valley Park appear to have dealt the final and most crushing blow to this proposed project and claimed Victory!

Armed with just their passion and dedication, this group of residents  kept the pressure on the City as they fought for their park.
Their goal was to keep Pinole Valley Park for recreation use, not as a home for an 80 foot cell tower, and to ensure their park would be kept pristine for present and future generations to enjoy.

This battle has been waged at the grass-roots level. Grass-roots is defined as something that originates from the common people.
How appropriate that a grass-roots effort by common people has saved Pinole Valley Park’s grass, trees, creek and everything surrounding it.

The saga of the Cell Tower has been told on this blog from the time that the community first became aware of the City’s plans to move forward with the tower. I, personally, objected to the proposed location. But this fine group of citizens explored every possible method to derail this project and throw a monkey wrench into it. Monkey wrench delivered!

They won what appeared to be a major battle on June 16 when the Council rejected the lease by a vote of 4-1 with Swearingen dissenting.
But Verizon put the pressure on the City; on July 18 the Council reversed itself and voted to ratify the lease by a vote of 3-2, Green and Long dissenting.

This group (Pinole Preservation Society) has no officially elected leader, but, the monkey wrench hit its mark when Sal Spataro, with the help and assistance of others researched the Grant Deed used to purchase the park land.
Bull’s Eye!

Taking the proverbial bull by the horns Sal Spataro set out to contact someone at the State Park and Recreation department about the grant terms and conditions. He struck gold when he made contact with Cristelle Taillon, Project Officer Outreach/Special projects Grants and Local Services.
Ms. Taillon researched the Grant used to purchase Pinole Valley Park and discovered that the City was indeed out of compliance. Pinole Valley Park could not be used for commercial purposes and further that the City had improperly converted park land when they built Station 74.

It now appears certain that the City of Pinole will not be able to erect the tower and may be facing a difficult dilemma as it attempts to correct improper and incorrect actions taken by previous and present administrations.

This discovery raises serious questions about what has occurred over the last 40+ years with regards to this park land and how administration failed to realize that they were bound by grant deed restrictions.

What is unclear is how the City will deal with these issues.
Will Verizon select a new location in Pinole?
Will Verizon attempt to recover the monies it has spent to date for the proposed tower?
Will the city be embroiled in another legal action?
Will the City dismantle Station 74?
Will the City attempt to use the facility for recreation purposes?
Will the City need to review and revise its General Plan? The new General Plan apparently never uncovered the deed restrictions. How costly will that be?

It seems, at first blush, doubtful, that the City will elect to go through the lengthy and costly conversion process.
Every scenario points to new expenses at a time when the City is seeking ways to save money. The projected annual revenue from Verizon, $26,000 a year, pales in comparison what the City may end up paying to unravel this mess. The City has a projected reserve of 38%, will the City have to dip into the reserve to offset these costs?There remain many questions to be answered.

After months of research, meetings, communications, walking and talking to the community and challenging the City and Verizon, the PSP can claim victory. It is really a proud moment for the citizens of Pinole who took on City Hall, Verizon, all the legal pundits and everyone who thought this was a lost cause.

Kudos to all of you. I am honored to have played a very small part in this victory.

Matt Bielby: Comment

From your perspective what has been the biggest disappointment, lie, or flawed procedure during this entire process?
How do you sum up your feelings about our city?

“I am not quite as upset now as I was a few weeks ago, because I am optimistic that these grant conditions are going to keep this pole out of our park.  With that said this whole process has been frustrating and infuriating.  The thing that has upset me the most though, is to have one of the City Council members (who flip flopped, Pete Murray) turn around and on 3 separate occasions blame his constituents (the ones at the meetings) for not being more involved in the process earlier.  Especially in light of of the fact that he now admits to having given the City Manager authorization to sign a lease, a binding contract months before any notices or public hearing were even held.  Having been witness to the whole notification process (being one if the citizens within the 500 ft. notification area) I can accurately say that this process was done on the most minimal level possible, and in retrospect appears to have been a blatant attempt by staff to ram this thing through without anyone noticing.”

The community wins!

Tower Topplers Take on the City – Part One


On Wednesday, September 11, 2013, the City of Pinole held a public workshop to address the issues surrounding the installation of a proposed 80 foot Verizon cell tower in Pinole Valley Park.

The meeting was intended to answer the long and varied list of questions that had been raised by the group opposing the cell tower.
It was the first time the “Tower Topplers”, also known as the Pinole Preservation Society, had an opportunity to address the City Manager, staff and Council with the expectation that their questions would be answered.
I think this comment made by Julie Maier to the community speaks volumes about the effort this group has made:
“I just love my little city and PV park and I don’t like what the City Council, the city manager and Verizon is attempting to do.”
Even Pinole Historical Society VP, Jeff Rubin stated, “It’s just a crummy place for a tower”.

The meeting on 9/11/13 has been described by some in attendance as a “dog and pony show”, and a long one at that. I don’t think this city has seen such a passionate response and such strong community feedback, since the R word was being spread in 2007.

The timeline provided previously shows that the lease for the tower had been slated for approval on the consent calendar on several earlier occasions. Consent calendar agenda items are normally approved without discussion or debate either because they are routine procedures or already have unanimous consent. They are typically non-controversial. Were it not for Sheila Grist, a resident opposed to the cell tower, it is likely the lease would have been approved without any public debate whatsoever.
This not only implies that the City Council was fully aware of the proposal and the lease agreement being negotiated by staff, with Verizon, but that they did in fact move the process forward.

There are two very important legal terms we must be cognizant of when discussing contracts and agreements:
Execution of a contract:
to complete; to make; to sign; to perform; to do; to carry out according to its terms; to fulfill the command or purpose of. To perform all necessary formalities, as to make and sign a contract, or sign and deliver a note.
Ratification of a contract:
The confirmation or adoption of an act that has already been performed. A principal can, for example, ratify something that has been done on his or her behalf by another individual who assumed the authority to act in the capacity of an agent.

The City Manager stated that although the Council did not officially authorize her to execute and sign the lease agreement, that they gave her and staff implied direction to negotiate and execute the contract. The City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk and Verizon principals signed the lease and executed it on December 12, 2012.

The City Council, once they became aware of the strong opposition to the Tower, tried to extricate itself from the deal by rejecting the lease and not ratifying it at the June 18, 2013 meeting by a vote of 4-1, Swearingen dissenting.

Subsequently, as all hell broke loose and Verizon threatened to sue the City for not dealing in good faith (Verizon agreed to 9 of the 10 deal points the city requested) two of the City Council members who had rejected the lease in June, reversed their position, Murray and Banuelos,  and voted in favor of the lease at the July 16, 2013 Council meeting. The motion passed by a vote of 3-2.

Those in opposition believe that they have had the wool pulled over their eyes, that the city has not been honest and has not served the best interests of its citizens.

As the cell tower battle heated up the opposition banded together to fight the project using whatever means possible.

Among the arguments opposing the cell tower in Pinole Valley Park included, electromagnetic radiation, the desecration of Indian Burial Grounds, ecological consequences, the commercial use of the Park and the awful location chosen for the tower.
Last but not least the group’s research has uncovered another possible problem for the City; that the City accepted State and Federal Grants for the purchase of the land for Pinole Valley Park and therefore must abide by the Grant restrictions for its use.
The State of California has scheduled a meeting with the City for this week. It is not a public meeting, unfortunately.  But we are all very interested to discover if the City of Pinole has converted parkland without proper and prior authority.
The consequences of such a finding by the State and the Feds can be severe. If the City is found to have improperly converted land using State and Federal Grant money they could face financial consequences.