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Is Verizon Wireless Building Its Cell Tower in Pinole Valley After All?

Residents want questions answered about recently spotted surveyors in Pinole Valley.

By Julie Maier

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.

In 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?
It will be interesting which questions local residents determine are most important to find answers to, and who will provide them with those answers. In the meantime you can expect these attentive local watchdogs will keep an eye out for their pristine parkland and best interest of their neighbors and families.

SalthePlumber January 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM
The local propertyowner that is the focus of all this attention is an elderly gentleman. I wouldnt put it past Verizon Wireless to take advantage of someone who may not realize the implications of signing a "Deal with this Devil". After all, the City of Pinole, with "professional" Staff and a City Attorney made a HUGE mistake by signing documents with Verizon. I hope someone is looking out for this resident. It cedrtainly WONT be the City...
Vanessa January 25, 2014 at 12:03 PM
So now that the truth has been uncovered of the TOTAL mismanagement by the city of Pinole in all their dealings with Verizon...they are pushing off their 80 foot cell tower debacle on my Pinole neighborhood. I live off Pinole Valley Road past the last bridge leaving the city. Resident / Tax Payer for over 30 years. I was against the tower in the park....a designated open space for our community..since its inception, doesn't it amaze you that the City knew "nothing" about the restrictions (state & federal) on use of Pinole Valley Park land? Our park and all the valley area, has major historic importance. I am certainly Against Verizon..surely with the city's blessing..pushing their corporate giant onto a steep hillside in my quiet neighborhood surrounded by families and homes. The homeowner in question who's property is the new proposed sight has been being courted as a "backup location" since late fall..their corporate mindset of we truly don't care about the community, we will push and power their way in to get this tower in place to earn More MONEY at any cost! The city should be insisting any new proposed site should be away from family homes..high ip on a ridge or farther in the valley on open land. Verizon was not welcome in my community park, And is certainly not welcome in my front yard! "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?"
Bill January 25, 2014 at 02:42 PM
But hey let's build a skate park in the same park and open up the city to liability and let's not forget, unwanted drug use, just like the one in Concord that seldom ever used. Build the tower on the same parcel as the skate park I say and it's a win - win. The city will get their tower and the uninformed residents keep their open space!!!!!!!
SalthePlumber January 25, 2014 at 05:52 PM
Wow! Bill you must have used all 5 electrons to concoct that rant. Bravo! Are you a victim of unwanted drug use? Sounds like it...
Ronald Caldwell January 25, 2014 at 07:29 PM
I have been told that a private resident near this site donated property to the city for the fire station this is going back a few years. It may be that this is the new site or it will be part of a swap that will allow the tower to be built on the original site.
SalthePlumber January 25, 2014 at 08:45 PM
The site of the Verizon Tower proposed last year, and the land under Station 74, was purchased for parkland, using Federal funding. That funding comes with rules and the rules do not allow for commercial use. There is no swap here. The new site is on private property, not far from last years proposal in the park. The Cell Tower cannot be built on parkland.
Ronald Caldwell January 26, 2014 at 09:42 PM
I know Sathe, but the land that was donated was not used for the fire station due to various issues I think the Indian ruins or something but the City still owns the parcel that was donated.
SalthePlumber January 26, 2014 at 11:21 PM
Ron, the City of Pinole owns all of the land known as Pinole Valley Park. I am unaware of any donated land. The land and developed parcels (ballfields, bathrooms, playground, etc) were paid for by a series of 12 grants. The grant money is Federal in origin and comes with heavy restrictions. The Fire Station was approved by the State (even though they dont have jurisdiction) on parkland. Station 74's legitimacy is in question, but will be worked out, hopefully sooner than late...r
LC January 27, 2014 at 06:19 PM
This is so hilarious! And now thanks to all of the squawking, the City of Pinole won't get any money and the private home owner will. Great job! Hat off to whomever reaps the money from Verizon.
SalthePlumber January 27, 2014 at 09:17 PM
The money was a pittance. Many Pinole residents near the Tower will suffer and this Tower hasnt been built and hopefully will never be built. Perhaps you can lease out YOUR backyard to the VerizonCorp, LC. It comes with a pointy hat...
Julie Maier January 27, 2014 at 11:36 PM
This is in response to Bill about the location of the skate park. The skate park site is not the same location that had been selected for the cell tower when the city leased park property. The skate park site is near the smaller soccer field at th base of Wright Avenue. Additionally, unlike a commercial cell tower, the skate park meets the requirement that the park land be used exclusively for outdoor recreational purposes. Skateboarding is a sport and many young people in this town enjoy and excel at this sport and have never had an appropriate place to practice and enjoy their sport of choice. As to the comments about drug use those have no merit in my opinion. The Concord skate park is located just beneath the BART tracks not in park used by dozens of residents each day for multiple activities. What facts do you know about what drug use occurred in Concord and who used the drugs? Your comments imply that you think skateboarding=drug use and that is NOT factual or fair but it is certainly prejudicial.
Ronald Caldwell January 28, 2014 at 05:53 PM
Saithe: it may be that in fact a parcel that was donated by a private party for the Fire station not the park and therefore was never included as part of the park. That is what a person mentioned to me and felt that it was about the size of the plot to be used for the cell tower and could also be used as an offset.

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