Sutro antenna decision upheld

Supes reject residents’ beefs that tower affects health, safety, wireless connections

Twin Peaks residents will not see the kind of extensive review they were hoping for when it comes to the addition of more antennas on Sutro Tower.

The four television stations that own the 977-foot tower have requested permission to replace four existing antennas, add another one and place four new ones on a nearby control building’s rooftop. There are 200 antennas on the tower, which was constructed 35 years ago.

Concerned residents had appealed the Planning Department’s ruling that the project did not trigger the need for an extensive environmental review. The residents said the proposed antennas, along with the existing ones, present health and safety risks as well as cause interference with other telecommunication systems.

The Board of Supervisors voted 8-0 on Tuesday to uphold the Planning Department’s decision, saying the scope of the project warranted no environmental review.

“Those of us who live in this community are bathed in radio frequencies,” said Robert Nachtigall, who lives near the tower. “It affects us every day. It affects our ability to have wireless communications in our homes. It affects our garage door openers. … The long-term effects for all of us who live there are still as-yet unexplored. This tower has never had a single, in-depth environmental review.”

Paul Maltzer, city planner, said the project does not represent any “real expansion of use or activity” and is “a minor alteration,” making an environmental review unnecessary.

Responding to concerns over the impact of radio frequencies, Maltzer said the Federal Communications Commission sets those limits.

Robert McCarthy, an attorney representing Sutro Tower Inc., said the proposed antennas are all “receive” antennas, suggesting that the question of the impacts of radio frequencies was irrelevant. McCarthy added that the frequency emissions of the antennas on Sutro Tower fall well below the requirements mandated by the FCC.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin asked whether taking cumulatively all the additions to Sutro Tower over the years, along with the newest proposal, would trigger an environmental review.

“All of [the antennas] together do not have an adverse impact,” Maltzer said.

The Planning Commission is expected to take a final vote on the proposal Nov. 2. This is the most recent clash between the tower owners and nearby residents, who eight years ago sued The City to block the installation of a new 125-foot television antenna on the tower.

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