More appeals expected
By Daniel Borsuk
Over a volley of citizen complaints about potential neighborhood blight and health cancer risks concerns linked to Verizon Wireless’ plans to install five small cell wireless facilities on PG&E poles in bucolic unincorporated Alamo and Walnut Creek residential locations, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously upheld the county Zoning Administrator’s and Planning Commission’s rulings approving the telecommunication corporation’s requests on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
According to the staff report for agenda item, “On December 21, 2018, Ms. Alice Lee filed an appeal with the Department of Conservation and Development, Community Development Division, over the decision of the County Planning Commission to deny the appeal and uphold the decision of the County Zoning Administrator to approve the Wireless Facilities Access Permit. Ms. Alice Lee submitted a revised appeal letter on December 24, 2018.”
With Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood absent from the meeting because she was recuperating from successful heart surgery on Monday, supervisors voted 4-0 to sustain favorable county zoning administrator and planning commission rulings on Verizon Cell Wireless’ requests to install five small wireless cell facilities in the right-of-way of 401 Horsetrail Court, 1524 Alamo Way, 184 Creekdale Road, 1955 Meadow Road and 20 Francesca Way, but threw in a carrot that might sway residents to feel more comfortable about Verizon Wireless installing the antennas. (See PowerPoint presentation, here).
Board Vice Chair Candace Andersen, who represents the unincorporated Alamo and Walnut Creek areas where Verizon Wireless plans to install the cell wireless facilities, each valued at an estimated $200,000, recommended that Verizon Wireless mail to affected homeowners living nearby the five proposed wireless cell antennas to be offered free, independently conducted, in-home health tests. Verizon Wireless will pick up the costs for the health tests.
Verizon Wireless attorney Paul Albritton said the communications company would agree with Supervisor Andersen’s in-home health test request. Other supervisors also approved Andersen’s proposal. Albritton said residents must live within 300 feet of a proposed small cell wireless antenna. He said the offer will be valid for one year.
Even with the in-home health inspection provision, one Alamo resident, Ruth Strong, who lives with her aged mother near a PG&E pole that is slated to have one of the Verizon Wireless antennas installed directly across from her mother’s bedroom window, told supervisors, “I don’t trust them (i.e. Verizon Wireless) from coming into my house.”
Dr. Alice Lee, one of the five appellants, told the Contra Costa Herald it is too early to tell what course of action she and other appellants might pursue. Dr. Lee said Verizon Wireless has plans to install as many as an additional 87 small cell wireless antennas on PG&E poles in unincorporated areas including Alamo, Walnut Creek, and Orinda. “There will be other carriers. There will be more towers,” she told supervisors.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said it is difficult for counties to overturn requests of telecommunication communication companies requesting to install new equipment such as small cell wireless facilities on existing PG&E poles because of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 that has been amended numerous times. California counties and cities are contesting certain aspects of Telecommunications Act in the Supreme Court because the federal law supersedes local or state law.
Among consent item supervisors approved without comment from the public, were:
Hazardous Materials Response Vehicle Funding
Spending $1.3 million from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District budget to buy a Type I Hazardous Materials Response Vehicle that will be owned and operated by the county fire district. The acquisition of a new Type I Hazardous Material Response Vehicle will allow the fire district to own and operate its own vehicle. Since the formation of the county’s Hazardous Materials Team in 2016, the team has operated a vehicle on loan from the California Office of Emergency Services. That vehicle was recently out of service for over 30 days while it received warranty related repairs in Sacramento. That compromised the Contra Costa County team’s ability to respond to hazardous response incidents. Buying this vehicle will permit the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District to respond to future hazardous material response incidents.
Emerging Aeronautical Technologies to Be Promoted at County Airports
Supervisors permitted County Airports Director Keith Freitas to promote and market Buchanan Field and Byron Airport as testing locations for emerging aeronautical and aeronautical related technologies. There will be no financial cost to the county general fund associated with the promotion and marketing campaign. Airport staff and any county counsel staff time will be charged to the Airport Enterprise Fund.
Kirker Pass Road Truck Lane Funding
Supervisors awarded a $14,153,763 contract to Granite Rock Company to construct the Kirker Pass Road Northbound Truck Climbing Lane project. Construction is set to begin this summer to add a truck lane on Kirker Pass Road from the Concord Pavilion to Hess Road. The addition of the lane is designed to reduce accidents caused by trucks traveling up Kirker Pass Road. Other contractors and their bids at the Jan. 22 disclosure were: Bay Cities Paving & Grading, Inc., $14,886,666; Ghilotti Construction Company, Inc., $15,225,077. 60; Gordon N. Ball, Inc. $15,528,038.20; Flatiron West, Inc. $15,528,038.20; Granite Construction Co, $16, 073, 185.10; O.C. Jones & Sons, Inc. $16,073, 788 and DeSilva Gates Construction, $17,500,000.
Waterfront Initiative Funding
Supervisors approved the new funding allocations of $142,500 to implement approved Northern Waterfront initiatives planned for 2019-2020. Those expenditures included $50,000 for the Hercules site exploration for bioscience, $12,000 for a May forum, $10,000 for State Lands/Crockett waterfront access, $70,000 for collaborative marketing and a marketing video. Supervisors had budgeted $500,000 in 2017 to cover Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative projects. Since the initiative’s launch, the only expenditure since then has been the $263,000 to consultant contracts or grant match.
Paying Additional $11,000 to Winchester for Sheriff’s Department Ammunition
Supervisors agreed to pay an additional $11,000 to buy Winchester ammunition for the Office of the Sheriff because after more than 20 years, Winchester has changed its ammunition distributor in Northern California from Adamson Police Products to Dooley Enterprises. In 2017, the Office of the Sheriff executed a new purchase order with Dooley Enterprises as the new Winchester ammunition distributor to meet future training and duty ammunition demands. As a result of the change in the purchase order. the county will have paid $411,000, not $400,000 for the purchase of ammunition for the period of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.
To see the entire meeting agenda, click here.