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.
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 and court nearby homeowners to lease portions of
their property for development of an 80 foot cell tower.
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 approve 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?
- 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 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?