Some Rancho Peñasquitos residents and a nonprofit group called ‘Don’t Cell Our Parks,’ have spent three years fighting a proposed Verizon tower in Ridgewood Park. The California Supreme Court recently declined to review a March appellate court ruling that vindicated the city of San Diego.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, their litigation focused on whether the city can continue to lease parkland to cell phone companies without following a city charter provision requiring a public vote when parkland is shifted to commercial use. Residents say “yes” since a cell tower is a non-park use of land.
Resident Alisa Cassell said, “They don’t want us to vote on this. The charter says very clearly that if it’s a dedicated park and it’s a non-park purpose, the people have to vote.”
“[T]he city of San Diego [is] stealing dedicated deed-restricted parkland and turning it into a commercial wireless cell facility. It’s about the city of San Diego ignoring the citizens and saying it is up to them and it’s okay to deny the public the opportunity to vote on the matter,” she added.
San Diego officials receive more than $1 million a year from roughly three dozen leases with cell companies for city parkland. They say adding a cell tower doesn’t make parkland commercial if the tower doesn’t interfere or conflict with park use, reported the Union-Tribune. Attorneys for San Diego say it’s up to the discretionary decisions of city administrators whether a wireless communications facility interferes or conflicts with park use, not San Diego voters in a citywide election.
Craig Sherman, a San Diego attorney who filed the lawsuit, said that city officials don’t want to give up the lease revenue while City Council members don’t want to stop getting generous campaign donations from cell phone companies.
Don’t Cell Our Parks sought state Supreme Court review of the ruling, but the court declined to take the case. Marc Kuritz of Don’t Cell Our Parks said, “It’s very cozy and quite regrettable. This ruling opens the floodgates for other commercial uses in city parks.”
August 3, 2018