Spectre of Wi-Fi returns to Sebastopol council chambers
City seeks to control placement of wireless service facilities
by George Snyder
Sonoma West Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, July 9, 2009 1:03 PM PDT
SEBASTOPOL ”“ In a marathon, six-hour-plus meeting Tuesday, members of the Sebastopol City Council heard or voted on an eclectic potpourri of issues ranging from and including the dangers of Wi-Fi, the city”™s emerging wayfinding sign program, parks and public safety.
Dealing with what has become one of the major issues in town, the council voted to approve a resolution put on the agenda by Councilmember Guy Wilson asking the federal government to revise the law restricting municipalities from considering potential health effects from cellular telephone tower and related wireless facilities when reviewing where they can be located.
The vote was three in favor of the resolution with one abstention from Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer. Councilmember Linda Kelley was absent.
“We want the maximum ability to make informed decisions,” said Wilson of a provision of the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act which prevents local government from regulating the placement of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of environmental or health effects of radio-frequency emissions when the proposed facilities comply with FCC regulations.
“There has been a definite lack of research on this,” he said, adding that other local governments, including Los Angeles County, Glendale and Portland, Oregon have already passed similar requests.
The Wi-Fi issue came to the fore in Sebastopol following a vote in November of 2007 that would have enabled Sonic.net, a local Internet provider, to install the service downtown as it has in other cities such as Santa Rosa and Petaluma.
Wi-Fi opponents, including activist Sandi Maurer, subsequently induced the council in March of 2008, to reverse that vote, and indeed, was instrumental in getting the issue on Tuesday night”™s agenda.
For her part, Shaffer, who said she agreed with the idea of local governmental autonomy in the issue and who also said more studies need to be done on such emissions, nonetheless said she could not vote for the resolution following a local sampling she conducted that convinced her a majority of the city”™s residents had few problems with cell phone use or wireless emissions.
The council resolution also called upon the FCC to pursue “a comprehensive global analysis of best practices and scientific evidence in order to update their existing standards and to adequately measure the health impacts of wireless facilities.”
In other news, the council gave direction to the Santa Rosa consulting firm of Ross Luthin Creative to continue work on coming up with wayfinding sign designs, and signs, that will help tourists and others to find their way around the city, specifically to destinations such as city parks, City Hall, the library and the city”™s public parking lots.
In addition to in-city wayfinding aides, the project, which is being funded by the Community Development Agency and is scheduled to pay for the fabrication and installation of the signs in addition to one or two “kiosks” with map and other local information, are expected to be up this year.
Other elements, including “Gateway” signs at town entrances, are expected to be funded, and implemented, in future years when money is found to do so.
The council also authorized planning staff to issue a request for proposals to provide design services for the expansion of the Skategarden Park and for the Village Park Campground Conversion Project, which would turn the current mobile home park and campground property, purchased by the city several years ago, into a permanent city park over the long term.
In terms of public safety, the council approved pedestrian, bicycle and traffic safety improvements requested by Police Chief Jeff Weaver, all of which, in turn, had come from the public.
Included in the request was the establishment of a Red Zone on the south side of Walker Avenue east of Petaluma Avenue and on the west side of Petaluma Avenue south of Walker; the establishment of a Red Zone on the east side of Gravenstein Highway South between 871 and 899 Gravenstein Highway South; and a Red Zone on the south side of Palm Avenue westbound from South Main Street.
All of the improvements were made for traffic safety reasons.
In addition, Weaver, who gave a crime update report to the council, said his department is preparing to reinstitute a K-9 program.
He said the department has had a K-9 program since 1979 but ended with the retirement of dog handler Sgt. Sean Cuccaro and his dog, Radar, which had begun training in narcotics detection.
Weaver said having a police dog capable of searching out illegal narcotics and other drugs has become increasingly important.
“The intention is to obtain a K-9 that would focus primarily on the detection of narcotics, with an emphasis on methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin,” Weaver said, adding that the dog would be utilized to conduct educational programs at schools and community groups, conduct probation and parole searches of known narcotic offenders and assist officers with narcotic investigations.
He said the $10,000 cost of obtaining and training such a dog will likely come from private sources and through U.S. Department of Justice grants.Leave a reply →