Neighborhood Action


Neighbors Convince Property Owner to Break Contract with Wireless Carrier.

by David Mihaly

In the late Spring of 2002, a wireless carrier notified my household that it was planning to install 12 panel antennas on the roof of a parking garage adjacent to St. Mary's Hospital on Hayes Street near Stanyan at the edge of Golden Gate Park. I attempted to attend the Planning Commission hearing with a neighbor, but upon our arrival, we found this issue had already been discussed and approved. Following this approval, we formed a group in our neighborhood and began circulating a petition for those opposed to the installation. We also began the work of attempting to get signatures of property owners within 300 ft. of the Hospital to qualify for an appeal before the Board of Supervisors. Because of problems with public notification of the Planning Commission hearing - the required sign was posted behind the iron bars of a window grate and was difficult to read - we faced an uphill battle because little record of neighborhood opposition existed prior to and at the Planning Commission hearing. We nevertheless hand-delivered letters to each Supervisor, met with each of their aides and pressed ahead with our plan to appeal.

After using the SNAFU network to consult with members of other neighborhoods who have attempted to resist antenna sitings, we arranged a meeting with the Director of Facilities at St. Mary's Hospital in early July. We were accompanied by a local resident with expertise in radio frequency radiation and the health impacts of constant microwave exposure, as well as a resident of the Richmond District who had recently successfully appealed an antenna installation in her neighborhood to the Board of Supervisors. The St.Mary's official came to the meeting accompanied by 5 members of the wireless carrier's approval team.

Our group of neighbors stated their concerns, listened to the comments of the wireless carrier's representatives, and then asked to meet with the St. Mary's official alone. The carrier's representatives left, and the neighborhood members continued to express the concern that the neighborhood was becoming an "antenna farm" - nine antennas already exist in the area. We also informed the St. Mary's official that New Traditions public school (located within a block-and-a-half from the area) had been notified of the proposed installation, and that every parent from the school who had been approached with the petition had signed. At the same time, we also let it be known that many of the neighbors within a 300-ft. radius of the site claimed that they had never been notified of the project or the above-mentioned Planning Commission hearing. The Richmond District resident emphasized the controversial nature of such antenna installations and the burden that was placed on her neighborhood in mounting their successful appeal before the Board of Supervisors. The Saint Mary's official listened to us for an additional 20 minutes and then the meeting was adjourned.

Later that afternoon, I learned that as a direct result of the meeting, St. Mary's Hospital had decided to withdrawal itself as a site for the cell phone antennas. The St. Mary's representative who conducted the meeting stated that his relationship with the neighbors was more important than his relationship with the wireless carrier. We no longer had to pursue an appeal from the Board of Supervisors and we were free to enjoy our Fourth of July holiday weekend.

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