AT&T Files Appeal in San Rafael Over Denial of a 33-Foot Tower Proposal

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Marin County Planning Commissioners are preparing for an appeal hearing in September after AT&T contested the commission’s decision to deny a 33-foot cell tower in San Rafael, CA. 

Plans for the faux bell tower at St. Luke Presbyterian Church were filed on behalf of AT&T in May by Epic Wireless. According to the Marin Independent Journal (MIJ), residents opened an online petition securing over 100 signatures of opposition to the construction of the tower. 

Residents expressed concerns that the tower would block bay views of surrounding homes, violate residential zoning laws, and would expose the church congregation to unsafe electromagnetic emissions, reported MIJ. 

Resident Thomas Barrett, who lives across the street from the proposed cell site, said, “I am very concerned about the health risks associated with putting cell towers in neighborhoods, where they work 24/7 emitting radiation.” 

Responding to the planning commission’s denial of the application, AT&T attorney John Di Bene cited the need for the tower to close a “significant” service gap and to support first responder communications in the event of an emergency. In a letter to the commissioners, Di Bene said, “The county cannot deny the application on this basis, nor can the county deny the application based on a small number of general concerns about aesthetics. Indeed, federal law requires approval of the proposed facility because denial will effectively prohibit AT&T’s ability to provide and improve wireless services in this portion of the County, which violates the Telecommunications Act of 1996.” 

According to a staff report, the county recognized the need to fill a service gap but said “AT&T has not submitted proof that this design or location is the least intrusive means of bridging that gap.” 

County zoning administrator Michelle Levenson said she denied the May 28 proposal on the grounds of size and location. 

“I have been to the site, I looked through the project material, including visual simulations and plans, and I concur with staff’s recommendation that the proposed structure would be prominently visible from Bayview Drive,” said Levenson. 

Originally scheduled for July 27, the appeal hearing has been postponed to September.

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