By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
A growing number of residents of the San Carlos area along Navajo Road think they’re being bombarded by microwave cell phone frequencies, and they might be correct.
They’ve taken to begging the Navajo Community Planning Group for help, but there’s not a lot the planners can do other than offer a sympathetic ear.
This all started when residents saw there was a request for planning group approval for a renewal of a 10-year conditional-use permit for a fake pine tree cell phone tower on the 7800 block of Tommy Drive just a block from Cowles Mountain Boulevard.
As upset residents — many of them senior citizens — see it, they’re in danger, not only from the fake tree, but from cell phone towers concealed in the rooftop structure of the East San Diego Masonic Lodge as well as a church steeple a block or so away.
Ruth Benjamin had complained at a meeting a month prior, and was back at the latest meeting saying she’s afraid of the signals, and worried that they’re affecting her husband’s brain.
Dan Fischer asked people to join in a nationwide effort to eliminate such towers on health grounds, and John Pilch says Crown Castle, the company that actually owns the fake tree, has been dishonest with the city in the past, and shouldn’t be allowed to do it again.
Interestingly, the complaints about the fake tree were about evenly divided between worry about the signals swirling around the area and the appearance of the fake tree itself.
To be honest, the tree looks old, decrepit and badly in need of care and improvement, something Crown Castle consultant Mark Linman said is in the plan if the tree is allowed to remain in operation. Crown Castle actually owns the tree, but it’s being operated on a lease by T-Mobile US, Inc.
While sympathetic to the health complaints, planning group chairman Matt Hall pointed out that the Navajo Community planners cannot and do not consider or get involved in the health aspects. The planning group deals almost exclusively in land use matters.
“We understand your concerns, but it’s not within our power to do anything about the health concerns. We might be able to have some influence on the appearance of the tree and the ratty looking facilities around it, but that’s about all we can do for you.”
After some considerable debate, the planning group voted 10-4 in favor of approving the application for a new conditional use permit, but attached several conditions the city may or may not accept.
They will ask that a new conditional use permit contain a maintenance program for the tree; that Crown Castle comes back to the planning group at least once a year to report on progress and conditions, and that power outputs from the tree’s cellphone relays not exceed the signal strength now being transmitted.
The city may go along with the first two conditions, but the signal strength and power output conditions are believed to be governed by federal law.
—Contact Doug Curlee at firstname.lastname@example.org.