Complaints from residents and concern over unbridled expansion of the 5G wireless infrastructure prompted city officials to implement new rules limiting where the devices could be placed.
(TNS) — It’s not perfect, but the San Rafael City Council says an urgency ordinance would give the city the best defense for now against the rollout of the next generation wireless network known as 5G.
“We’re constrained folks,” said Councilwoman Kate Colin before the council on Monday unanimously approved the ordinance regulating the installation of small cell antennas, effective immediately.
“I urge you to be reaching out to your congressman, Congressman [Jared] Huffman,” she said. “Contact Sen. (Mike) McGuire, Assemblyman (Marc) Levine. … This conversation is being had at the local level, but I truly believe big change needs to come from the levels … above us.”
In a replay of a hearing on the same topic two weeks ago, the council deliberated and heard public comment for two hours with about 30 Marin residents voicing opposition. Many cited potential health concerns associated with electromagnetic field emissions and radio frequency radiation.
The majority of speakers implored the council to block telecommunications companies from installing 5G technology altogether and to join the legal fight against the Federal Communications Commission, which recently placed limitations on local authority over the issue. That ruling takes effect Jan. 14.
“I would like to see one of you say no, just one of you,” said resident Sangrita Moscow, who complained that having staff write the urgency ordinance was effectively “arranging the chairs on the Titanic” for the citizens of San Rafael.
She said, “I don’t feel like you’re representing us.”
After community feedback on a draft ordinance two weeks ago, the council asked staff to make regulations more stringent. As a result, the ordinance approved Monday establishes a 500-foot setback from residential districts and 500-foot separation between small cell wireless facilities; it requires public notice to those within 500 feet of a proposed device and requires expanded review, among other regulations.
Resident Joseph Elbernd, who works as a scientist, said he was in support of 5G technology.
“The data I’ve reviewed doesn’t show harm from wireless signals, and in my professional opinion they do not cause harm,” he said.
Representatives from Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless also addressed the council, saying that while neither company has imminent plans, they want to work with the city on future planning, urging the council to hold off on adopting an ordinance.
Chris Villegas, a community development associate with Verizon Wireless, said legal counsel representing his company submitted a letter outlining ways that the city’s ordinance was noncompliant with the FCC ruling.
He said Verizon would be willing to defer applications until after April 15 and proposed that the city form a working group with telecommunications companies “so that we can continue to work together to further align the ordinance and the policies with the FCC order.”
Residents said what is most worrisome about the recent FCC ruling is that it prohibits local jurisdictions from making decisions based on concerns about potential health risks associated with emissions, as long as emissions are compliant with FCC’s rules.
Ross, Mill Valley, San Anselmo and Fairfax have all adopted urgency ordinances to tighten rules, while officials of each jurisdiction continue to explore ways to make them stronger. The county of Marin and town of Fairfax have joined the legal battle against the FCC.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the jury is still out on the health risks of exposure to EMFs.
“Studies have shown that some workers exposed to high magnetic fields have increased cancer rates,” the CDC reported on its website. “But such associations do not necessarily show that EMF exposures cause cancer (any more than the springtime association of robins and daffodils shows that one causes the other). Scientists have looked carefully at all the EMF evidence, but they disagree about the health effects of EMFs except to say that better information is needed.”
©2018 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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