S.F. residents ask governor to veto cell phone tower bill

A group of San Francisco residents and leaders are urging the governor to veto a bill they say would eliminate community involvement on where cell phone towers are erected.

A state Senate bill, sponsored by state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, would prevent cities and counties from taking actions to prevent cell phone companies from building cell phone towers next to ones built after Jan. 1, 2007.

The bill was passed by the Assembly on a 69-6 vote on Tuesday and now must be reconciled in the state Senate and then signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by Sept. 30.

At a news conference on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday, residents spoke out against the bill and the health impacts they allege it could have on their communities.

“I’m convinced that this bill is rolling back citizens’ protection against cell phone towers,” said Loretta Lynch, the former chairwoman of the California Public Utilities Commission.

There are at least 2,400 antennas in The City, according to a 2000 study by the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna Free Union. Residents living near Fulton Street and Masonic Avenue have recently been organizing to fight a cell phone antenna from going up in their neighborhood.

Nancy Evans, a health science consultant with the Breast Cancer Fund, said there have been 30 years of scientific studies “linking chronic microwave radiation exposure from cellular antennas to serious, potentially life-threatening health effects, including leukemia and other cancers.”

But federal laws prohibit cities from preventing cell phone towers based on health concerns. An aide for Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who abstained from voting, said this is “one of those bills you like some parts, but you don’t like others.”

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said he changed his mind about the bill after initially opposing it because last week an amendment was made that would prevent cell phone companies from “endlessly” collocating along existing sites.

If approved, the bill would require companies wanting to install cell phone towers to appear before the Planning Commission in The City and detail exact plans for future towers and how they might expand over the years, according to Leno.

“They will have to be completely straightforward with their future plans,” he said. “I think in a place like San Francisco, where there is often a lot of neighborhood opposition, they are going to say if you want to do all that collating later we are going to say no.”

In The City, cell phone towers cannot be installed on residential buildings and are preferred on public buildings, according to the Planning Department. To install a tower, an applicant must have a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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