Wireless antennas proposed for the Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center on Walnut Street are causing consternation in some quarters.
A public hearing on the antennas at the Zoning Adjustments Board will be held next week.
The antennas were proposed as a way to pay for a pressing JCC expense.
The JCC needs a new smokestack. The old one is corroded, and since the building is a historical structure, the smokestack has to be replaced, rather than removed.
Because the cost of the work is prohibitive, center administrator Joel Bahevkin was looking for a way to pay for it. Enter Sprint telecommunications.
The company was searching for a site in the area for additional antennas used to power its wireless devices.
Sprint offered to pay for the new smokestack if the JCC would allow antennas installed on its structure.
But not everyone thinks that’s a good deal. Jane, who asked that her real name not be used, has a child in the center’s pre-school program.
“The antennas are controversial,” she said. “There’s not enough information to make a decision.”
Moreover, she said, the JCC planned a parent meeting to take place only one day before the public hearing on the antennas at the city’s Zoning Adjustment Board, not giving them enough time to prepare for the hearing.
Bahevkin said he knows the antennas are controversial. That is why the JCC hired an independent company, Sonoma-based Hammett and Edison, to study the project, he said. The independent company will make a presentation to the parent group next week. Representatives from Sprint will also attend, he said, noting that Dec. 13, the day before the public hearing, was the only day available for all the parties to come together.
City planner Matt Le Grant said the city has little power over telecommunications antennas that are regulated by federal law. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 determines how much radiation the antennas can emit. The city cannot create its own regulations in that regard. The city’s regulatory power is limited to aesthetics. It can require the telecommunications company, for example, to hide the antennas from view.
The Zoning Adjustment Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed JCC antennas at its Dec. 14 meeting beginning at 7 p.m.