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School board halts consideration of proposed SRVHS cell tower

Officials want to wait to learn results of emissions testing near Cal High antenna

The San Ramon Valley school board decided last week to postpone deliberations on a proposed Verizon Wireless cellular tower at San Ramon Valley High School, opting to wait until district officials review emissions data to be collected near the pending cell antenna at California High School.

Verizon, which earlier this year gained board approval a cell tower on a Cal High stadium light pole, submitted a letter of intent to the district last month with the goal of starting negotiations to lease space at the San Ramon Valley High stadium, including a replacement light pole that would house the proposed antenna.

Board members received a report from district administrators about the telecommunications company's proposal and weighed input from seven citizen speakers during their regular meeting Oct. 4 in Danville before deciding to defer further consideration, according to district spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich.

The board wanted to wait "until local emissions data from the California High School cellular project can be independently studied and verified to be in compliance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations," Graswich said in a statement.

The cellular equipment project at the Cal High stadium in San Ramon was the first ever for the district when the board approved it last winter.

The system at Cal High is not yet operational, but installation is nearly complete, according to Graswich.

The district's lease with Verizon for Cal High included a board-added provision requiring the wireless company to reimburse the district for annual emissions testing to assure residents that safety standards were being met.

That testing has not yet occurred because the system isn't up and running, Graswich said, and the board last week decided it did not want the district to engage in any discussions regarding future cellular projects until Cal High emissions testing is conducted and results reviewed.

Graswich noted that during the Cal High project review, district engineering consultant Hammett and Edison reported that antennas used for cell and personal communications service transmissions "result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits."

"These safety limits were adopted by the FCC based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by agencies of the federal government responsible for health and safety. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students," Graswich said, citing the consultant's report.

With its Cal High project nearly completed, Verizon sent the district a proposed non-binding letter of intent Sept. 16 regarding its desire to add a cellular equipment to central Danville's San Ramon Valley High.

The letter described radio equipment cabinets in a fenced area under bleachers, replacement of a stadium light pole with a cell antenna and an access path to the site.

The company seeks a lease with an initial five-year term that could be extended up to four additional five-year terms upon mutual agreement -- the same time-frames as the Cal High lease.

The letter of intent did not include a proposed lease price.

It did stipulate Verizon would pay a one-time, non-refundable $2,500 fee to reserve the lease area for one year until the future lease starts. Once the lease commences, Verizon would pay a one-time fee of $25,000 within the first 60 days.

The lease agreement at Cal High called for the wireless company to cover the costs of the new pole, plus $25,000 to replace or upgrade the light fixtures on the pole, located on the northeast side of the football field. The company leases the space from the district for $26,400 per year, with a 2% annual increase available.

While putting the San Ramon Valley High cell tower proposal on hold last week, "the board made it clear that a proposal to install a cellular tower is a lengthy multi-step process that includes community input and research-based science," Graswich said.

Board member Ken Mintz recused himself from the board's discussion because he works for AT&T, according to Graswich.

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