Cell towers are OK if smartly placed

The issue of where to place cell towers has cropped up again,
this time on Santa Clara County’s turf. The problem is that Santa
Clara County has no ordinance dealing with placement of cell
towers.
The issue of where to place cell towers has cropped up again, this time on Santa Clara County’s turf. The problem is that Santa Clara County has no ordinance dealing with placement of cell towers.

Cell towers, which house base stations that provide signals to mobile phones, emit electromagnetic RF signals. However, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration, those signals “travel toward the horizon in relatively narrow paths” meaning that “ground-level exposure from such antennas is typically thousands of times less than the exposure levels recommended as safe by expert organizations.”

We pointed that out when this issue came up in Gilroy more than two years ago. We also pointed out that John E. Moulder, Ph.D., a professor of radiation oncology at The Medical College of Wisconsin wrote that “The consensus of the scientific community, both in the U.S. and internationally, is that the power from these mobile phone base station antennas is far too low to produce health hazards as long as people are kept away from direct access to the antennas.”

We also noted that, according to the Web site (www.hps.org) for the Health Physics Society, a scientific organization that promotes radiation safety, “The consensus of scientific experts is that RF exposure from cellular phones and cellular base-station antennas, meeting the maximum permissible exposure levels set in the safety standards, is safe for all.”

There is simply no credible evidence linking cell phone towers or cell phone usage to health problems. Despite that, some folks with heart-wrenching stories of health problems blame cell phone towers for their conditions.

We don’t doubt their sincerity, but we hate to see government policy established based on emotion instead of science. That’s a dangerous precedent to set.

So, while we agree that cell phone tower placement needs to be regulated, we want to see that regulation based on sound reasoning. We believe that there are legitimate reasons for regulating the placement and height of cell towers, chief among them that cell towers are ugly.

We urge Santa Clara County officials to look at the cell tower regulations adopted by other agencies in our area to control the location and height of cell towers, see what works, what’s reasonable and to craft a proposal for the Board of Supervisors to consider.

What we don’t need is for officials to ignore this issue the way they have ignored unpermitted buildings and Williamson Act violations.

It’s simply unreasonable and unfair to all parties to expect the county planning commission to review cell tower requests on a case-by-case basis, as they currently do. It is incumbent on the county to adopt a reasonable cell tower policy that balances the interests of residents living near proposed sites with the needs of residents who depend on cell phone signals.

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