South City residents want input on cell tower 

Residents who opposed a 70-foot cell phone tower in their backyard said they have yet to be contacted by the cellular giant looking to install the pole after a decision to allow it to be tabled for a chance to compromise.

The decision whether to build a 70-foot-tall cell tower in a residential area of South San Francisco was tabled by the City Council last month at the request of the applicant, Verizon Wireless. However, residents objecting the project say the height and location would need to change before they would approve of it.

Michael Allen, 47, who lives on Derry Way, said a 70-foot-tall pole is much taller than any other tower in the city.

“If they were to do it now, it looks like a 70-foot Christmas tree inside a big planter box,” he said.

Allen said the pole is also only about 65 feet from the nearest homes, but the city code says it needs to be at least 210 feet from homes.

Roughly eight other applications for cell phone towers have been submitted to South City’s Planning Department in the past month, according to Planning Department representatives.

Verizon Wireless applied for use of the abandoned school site, Foxridge Elementary School, last year. The application was approved by the Planning Commission, but was appealed by a group of residents, including Allen, who were concerned for their health because of the supposed radio waves that would be emitted from the tower, and the aesthetics of the pole, among other reasons.

The approved permit would give $2,000 per month for the next five years to the South San Francisco Unified School District for use of the school property.

During a South San Francisco City Council meeting on Jan. 27, Russ Benson, radio frequency engineer, said the pole would help close the coverage gap in the area.

“There is a small pocket of dropped service in the Westborough area,” he said during the two-hour discussion. “There are hills all around the area, which is why we cannot get a signal from existing sites.”

Allen said he did not have Verizon as a cell phone carrier, but noted some neighbors did and said they did not have coverage problems.

Verizon representatives could not be reached for comment.

South City Senior Planner Steve Carlson said during the meeting that the growing demand for cell phones and better coverage will ultimately increase the number of applications for towers.

“This is the first of many applications to come before you,” he told the council. “We’re beginning to see a wave of new applications in response to [new technology].”

The council is expected to vote on the issue at its April meeting.

Can you hear me now?

Verizon Wireless plans to build a cell tower near homes in South San Francisco.

Resident objections
- Height
- Proximity to dwellings
- Noise from generator
- Aesthetics of the pole
- Potential for future antennas at school site
- Condition of existing trees

Reasons to install
- Better coverage for cell phones
- Complies with federal regulations of cell phone towers

Source: South San Francisco

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