By Doug Oakley
In a move to stop the growth of "very ugly" cell phone antennas on telephone poles, Berkeley's City Council passed an emergency law Tuesday night to regulate or deny them based on aesthetics and safety.
|Berkeley has granted T-Mobile nine permits for cell phone antennas on telephone poles like this one in the Oakland hills. But the City Council hopes to slow the growth with a new ordinance regulating them.|
"They are really very ugly," said Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, describing the boxes on telephone poles she has seen in Oakland and San Francisco. "The way our ordinance was written, there is no way to have any discretion about the installation."
Wengraf represents residents in the Berkeley Hills. She said the city approved five permits from T-Mobile for telephone poles in her district, but she was able to convince the company to "hold off" on two of them based on complaints from neighbors.
"These antennas also make noise, so depending on how close they are to your house, they could be very intrusive," Wengraf said.
Rod Delarosa, a spokesman for T-Mobile of Bellevue, Wash. said it has submitted 10 applications for antennas on telephone poles all over Berkeley and has received approval for nine. One is currently under construction at 3023 Dwight Way, he said.
Delarosa said the company is simply responding to consumer demand and needs to put the antennas somewhere.
"There is an urgent need in this country to transfer data, like photos and text messages," said Delarosa. "We're building a robust network across the country to satisfy that demand. The demand is unprecedented, especially in residential neighborhoods."
Council member Gordon Wozniak, whose district also includes much of the Berkeley Hills, agreed the antennas are unsightly.
"The concern is that they are fairly large," Wozniak said. "Already wires and stuff on telephone poles are an aesthetic issue. You're putting all this stuff up there and it adds tremendously."
Added Berkeley Public Information Officer Mary Kay Clunies -
Ross: "The city is concerned about aesthetics and we have received complaints. This law gives the city manager the power to adopt regulations regarding aesthetics."