Mayoral candidates' positions on cell towers on residential streets

Thursday, 03 May 2012 19:57

The Alameda Neighborhood Association, working with Concordia and Eastmoreland associations, recently asked the leading mayoral candidates for their position on siting cell towers in residential neighborhoods. Their answers are below.

The question to mayoral candidates:

Alameda, Concordia and Eastmoreland neighborhood associations are opposing wireless companies' efforts to locate cell towers in residential neighborhoods while the City's Office of Community Technology is revising its pre-application process. Claiming their hands are tied, City has mainly helped companies. What will be your position as Mayor?

From Jefferson Smith, April 25, 2012

I appreciate this question from the neighborhoods listed, as well as the other neighborhoods allied in support of further oversight for cell tower siting. I share your doubts about the safety of cell towers in residential neighborhoods and near schools. I also support the precautionary principle in general. Concerns about decreased property values and aesthetics provide further cause for better regulation. I know that the City has expressed that their hands are tied by both federal law and by lack of resources. But, clearly, for over two years now, residents have come together to demonstrate that Portland's neighborhoods want more restrictive policies regarding cell tower siting.

As Mayor, I would be open to what other jurisdictions have done, working within the federal legal structure to make it harder to erect cell towers in residential neighborhoods. I'd start by championing a stronger resolution against Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as Los Angeles, Santa Fe, and many other jurisdictions have done. I would also consider how Portland can promote the use of fiber optic broadband over wireless. Although I understand that resources are limited, it strikes me that the checklist you have shared serves almost no purpose without enforcement.

As a state representative, I championed increasing broadband access in our rural areas and served on the State Broadband Task Force. I have expertise on the issue and have relationships that can help move us toward a solution.

I hope that you and your allies on this issue will get together with either me or my staff as soon as possible, in order for us to be brought (and kept) up to date. We're listening - and we're open to your ideas.

From Charlie Hales, May 1, 2012

The Portland Way, or the Portland form of government begins and ends at street level.  We have a unique process where neighborhood input is not only respected, but also actually sought out and implemented.

Though the City has a long tradition of seeking and implementing neighborhood input, the City doesn’t always get it right when it comes to neighborhoods.  Right now, the City is going against the neighborhoods and is on the wrong side of the cell tower issue.  Neighbors across the City have made it clear that they do not want cell towers in their neighborhoods.  The City says their hands are tied but I disagree.

There are several ways for the City to ensure cell towers are not built in neighborhoods that don’t want them there.  First of all, the fact that the cell tower debate is one about public health, as Mayor I will ensure that the City allocates resources to OCT to properly investigate information in submitted plans.

I also believe we can champion a Glendale, California-type ordinance to limit towers from residential areas or near schools.  Additionally, we should be proactive and work to increase fiber-optic broadband access throughout the City instead of relying on wireless and thus the need to build more cell towers in the first place.  Finally, as Mayor I’ll work closely with our Congressional Delegation to support neighborhood-friendly changes to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. 

We have a long tradition of neighborhood involvement in Portland, especially when it comes to issues of public health and neighborhood livability.  As the next Mayor of Portland I’ll continue to advance our rich tradition of neighborhood involvement and fight to ensure that cell towers are not forced upon those neighborhoods that don’t want them.

From Eileen Brady, May 1, 2012

I am very aware of the priority 4 cell tower issue, I have been in regular contact with neighbors involved in this issue – specifically in regards to the use of Priority 4 streets. Residents in Portland deserve a policy that protects their standard of living. Priority 4 streets are the place of last resort for the building of cellular infrastructures. I will recommend that the City of Portland create a master wireless infrastructure plan. Cellular companies will be able to “apply” for the right to use our right of way (vs. the administrated procedure currently being used) and the City of Portland must verify all information in their application, resulting in either an approval or denial, not a rubber stamp approval.

Finally, the voice of the residents must be heard in a different manner, there must be a better avenue to give neighbors full access to this conversation. The current neighborhood meeting structure does not seem to be reaching all of the interested parties. Providing an equitable access social media platform for neighborhood feedback is one of my proposals for how to update our landmark neighborhood association program. RespectPDX has reached out to other candidates for their positions, we will include them as we receive them.

From Scott Fernandez, May 3, 2012

Thank you for your question on cell towers. We discussed this at a town hall I held a couple of weeks ago. My position is that the concerns and voices of neighborhoods hold a high priority at Portland City Council. I have heard from Council their hands are tied because it is under federal regulation and I do not agree. Council has the power and obligation to make our Congressional representatives help in meeting the concerns of the citizens they represent. As a scientist with an understanding of physics, I am concerned about unrestricted and unshielded enhanced electromagnetic radiation especially near schools and residential areas. I support your position.

My mayoral campaign has not taken money from groups that would have business related to Council issues. It allows me to remain free of undue influence and make decisions in the best interest of the community.

Note: Thanks to Steve Backer and George Smith at the Alameda Neighborhood Association for sharing this information.


Welcome to RespectPDX

Did you know that the City allows wireless carriers such as cell-phone companies and wireless Internet providers to replace any existing utility pole in a residential neighborhood with a cell tower? Take a look out your window, if you can see a utility pole then read on!

RespectPDX advocates for respectful and responsible regulation of wireless facilities across Portland. We are working to ensure that the current regulations, weak as they may be, are being enforced by the City. We are also working toward improving to the regulations at both the City and State level. This site is a resource for Portlanders to learn about this issue, connect with others in their neighborhood, and to give us all a stronger voice.


The City's OCT proposes new Administrative Rule for cell towers on telephone poles

Sunday, 22 April 2012 09:33

The City's Office for Community Technology (OCT) has drafted a new "Administrative Rule" regarding the "pre-application process required of applicants for wireless facilities in city rights-of-way in residential areas." In other words, the City is proposing a change of rules for wireless companies planning to erect cell towers in place of telephone poles in residential neighborhoods.

[See below for a link to a RespectPDX-annotated version of the proposed Administrative Rule.]

A public hearing regarding the proposed Administrative Rule will be held on Tuesday, April 24th. See the City's announcement of the hearing for time and location details.

While RespectPDX welcomes any public discussion of cell tower regulation, we have significant concerns both about the content of the proposed Administrative Rule, and about the fact that the Rule is being presented to citizens in a pre-written format, apparently leaving little or no room for significant public contribution to the structure and content of the Rule.

The main problem with the content of the pre-drafted Administrative Rule is that it appears to be largely written to serve the needs of the wireless companies at the expense of the needs of the public. Indeed, sections of the Rule seem to grant powers to the wireless carriers well beyond what is required by the Federal Telecommunication Act of 1996.

Despite the apparently deep flaws in the content of the proposed Rule and the process being used to present it to the public pre-drafted, we encourage citizens concerned about the siting of cell towers in residential neighborhoods to attend one or both of the public hearings to participate in the process to the degree possible.

Click here for a RespectPDX-annotated version of the City's proposed Administrative Rule (clickable annotations - good for reading online)

Click here for a printable version of the RespectPDX-annotated proposed Administrative Rule (annotations on separate pages - good for reading on paper)

Our annotations draw attention to, and raise questions about, some of the concerning sections and phrases of the Rule. Inside the PDF, click on the yellow "comment" bubbles to read the RespectPDX annotations.


T-Mobile begins cell tower construction at NE 31st Avenue and Prescott without required public notice, neighborhood meeting, or valid permit

Alameda / Concordia
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 08:23

During the week of July 27th, work began on the southwest corner of NE 31st Avenue and Prescott to install a cell tower in place of an existing utility pole. The work began without the notification to neighborhood residents and neighborhood meeting required by the City. Neighbors inquired and learned that T-Mobile had leased space for the cell tower's ground-based equipment from a private homeowner at the location, which is entirely residential. They also learned that T-Mobile's permit for the cell tower had been approved in 2007, but had since expired, meaning that T-Mobile had begun work without a valid permit. The City's Office of Cable Communication and Franchise Management, which oversees the permitting of utility-pole cell towers, was apparently unaware that work had begun at the site. A stop-work order was issued after neighbors questioned the work, and construction has stopped for the time being. Several pieces of already-installed ground-based equipment for the cell tower are clearly visible on the south side of NE Prescott, between 30th and 31st Avenues.

Neighborhood residents are organizing to oppose the construction of the cell tower. People interested in learning about the issue are welcome to attend either of these two neighborhood meetings:

  • Concordia neighborhood, August 9th at 7pm, Kennedy School
  • Alameda neighborhood, August 22nd at 7pm, 2620 NE Fremont


KATU News report: Neighbors get a second chance to fight new cell phone antenna


World Health Organization classifies radiofrequency EMFs as "possibly carcinogenic to humans"

Tuesday, 14 June 2011 09:30

The World Health Organization recently issued a press release stating that it is possible that environmental and personal exposures associated with the transmission of radio frequency signals may be carcinogenic to humans. Read the full press release here.

World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Director Christopher Wild said "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting."

Section 704 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act specifically blocks local governments taking any potential health effects into account when regulating the placement of towers and other personal wireless services facilities. It is time to repeal this section and allow our local government to regulate the placement of these facilities in a responsible manner. Please contact your representatives in congress and request that section 704 of the Federal Telecommunications Act be repealed, or sign the CLOUT petition.


Clearwire withdraws cell tower applications from multiple Portland sites

Monday, 28 March 2011 15:51

We have some great news regarding some planned cell towers in our neighborhoods! Recently, Commissioner Amanda Fritz posted this on her blog:

"Clearwire has formally notified the Office of Cable Communications & Franchise Management (OCC/FM) of the withdrawal of already-filed wireless applications for the following sites:"

  • NE 37th and NE Fremont
  • SE Yamhill and SE 32nd
  • SE 65th and SE Reedway
  • N Greeley & Holman (Rosa Parks)
  • SE 70th and Flavel

You can read more on the Commissioner's blog.

This is good news for the hundreds of Portlanders who spoke out at public meetings, wrote to officials, put signs in their yards and more to make it clear that they oppose siting cell towers in-front of people's homes and near schools. While Clearwire was ultimately hampered by business issues, the strong reaction of Portlanders definitely resulted in a number of cell towers not being built in front of peoples homes as planned. We have heard from City Attorney's office that any provider who wants to use a site previously approved "will have to go through the whole City siting process." Thank you all for your hard work to date!

While many neighborhoods may have dodged a bullet, the story doesn't end here. Clearwire will likely be back soon. Both AT&T and Verizon have recently announced that they will begin building new networks in Portland this year.

RespectPDX will continue to advocate for regulation that respects people's investments in their homes and character of our communities. In November last year, RespectPDX and Southeast Uplift co-sponsored a workshop. There we presented a comparison of Portland's ordinance with those of Glendale, CA, Hempstead, NY, and Bend's proposed ordinance. All these cities strike a better balance in regulating wireless companies in a more responsible manner than the current Portland ordinance.

The powerful community response to date has helped make the City aware that we expect them to do everything possible to stop cell towers being built in front of our homes and our schools. Let's continue to make ourselves heard and demand a better system so that what we have been through for the last year and a half doesn't happen to others!


RespectPDX featured in Neighborhood Notes

Monday, 14 February 2011 13:15

RespectPDX is discussed in this Neighborhood Notes article:

What to Do if a Cell Tower is Proposed in Your Neighborhood



Cell towers in residential neighborhoods: a workshop for Portland residents

Are you concerned about cell towers going up in your neighborhood near homes, schools and parks? Find out what you can do about cell towers in Portland's residential neighborhoods.

  • Learn about Federal, state, and local regulations governing cell towers and what we can do to change them.
  • Network with other Portland neighbors dealing with cell towers in residential areas.
  • Learn what you can do when a cell tower installation is proposed in your neighborhood.

When: Monday November 15, 2010, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Southeast Uplift, 3534 SE Main, Portland

Co-sponsored by Southeast Uplift and RespectPDX

For more information:
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Phone: Leah Hyman, SEUL 503-232-0010


Second Clearwire Neighborhood Meeting Elicits Strong Emotions from Neighbors

Woodstock / Eastmoreland
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 12:54

Clearwire's second Woodstock/ Eastmoreland neighborhood meeting took place Tuesday November 2nd at Duniway Elementary School.  This most recent meeting took place because the first meeting in September was deemed invalid by the OCCFM when Clearwire representative Steve Topp chose only to invite property owners, not residents.  Approximately 60 neighbors attended the 11/2 meeting and emotions ran high.  The meeting was billed by Clear as a chance for neighbors to choose between four different pole locations along SE Cesar Chavez Blvd.  During the meeting Topp provided information that showed properties adjacent to installations have increased in value; he insisted his data proved that there were no health risks; and he stated that the opinions of the meeting attendees and both the Woodstock and Eastmoreland Neighborhood Associations held absolutely no weight.   After an hour of heated discussion Topp asked neighbors to vote for the location that they favored.  Residents immediately stood and began leaving the auditorium.  

On Monday 11/8 Topp notified the residents for whom he had email addresses that Clear was now planning to place the pole in front of Vu's Car Care at SE Cesar Chavez Blvd. and Knapp.  This is a change from the original location in front of a home at 3924 SE Ogden St.  The new proposed location is directly across the street from Holy Family School. 

Citizens continue to work toward their goal of keeping Clearwire entirely out of their neighborhoods.  Meetings are scheduled with Commissioner Amanda Fritz's office and Mayor Sam Adam's office.  A demonstration at City Hall is in the planning stages.


Clearwire targets Pearl District

Pearl District
Tuesday, 02 November 2010 12:40

Clearwire will be meeting with the Pearl District Neighborhood Association's Planning and Transportation Committee meeting on November 16th to pursue a right-of-way permit with the intention of mounting a cell tower on a power pole in the middle of the Pearl District. You are invited to attend that meeting and speak out about ClearWire's proposal. Your voice could make a difference.

The meeting will be at the PREM Group Offices (NW Flanders & 12th Ave) from 6 to 7pm. If you have any questions, please contact committee member Michael Hall at 503.853.5718.


Mount Tabor Middle School PTA passes resolution opposing proposed cell tower at SE 60th and Ash - immediately adjacent to Mt. Tabor Middle School

Mount Tabor
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 08:42

TO: Amanda Fritz, Commission of Public Utilities, Portland City Council;
David Soloos, Office of Cable and Franchise Management;
Anthony Barber, Oregon Operations Office for Region 10 Environmental Protection Agency.

FR: Mount Tabor Middle School, PTA
Mt. Tabor Middle School
5800 SE Ash St.
Portland, OR 97215

RE: Letter of Concern regarding Clearwire's request to site a Cell Tower adjacent to Mt. Tabor Middle School, 5800 SE Ash St. Portland, OR 97215

CC: Oregon's Congressional Delegation; Clearwire; PGE; Portland Public School Board; PPS Superintendent Carol Smith; Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association; South Tabor Neighborhood Association (see detailed list at end of letter)

September 28, 2010

The Mt. Tabor Middle School PTA is writing to express concern over Clearwire's plan to replace an existing PGE power pole with a new cellular antenna tower on the right-of-way at SE 60th and Ash -- immediately adjacent to Mt. Tabor Middle School, academic home to 580 students ages 11 through 14 years. Clearwire failed to adequately inform neighbors (including residents and a preschool), as set forth in the City's ordinance, and the site is located on a Priority 4 street (low traffic volumes; residential streets) rather than the City recommended Priority 1 streets (freeways, highways, and streets in industrial areas).

Please see the attached resolution opposing siting of that cell tower passed by a vote of the PTA general membership on September 13, 2010.

There continues to be considerable debate and uncertainty within the scientific community as to the potential health effects to individuals, especially children, from exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic and radio-frequency radiation. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/National Institutes of Health recently concluded that enough evidence exists to support the classification of electromagnetic fields as a possible human carcinogen. In California, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors passed a resolution calling for a 1500 ft. distance between a cell tower and a school or day care center.

Therefore, we request the Portland City Council and the Office of Cable Communications & Franchise Management to reject Clearwire's cellular tower application. And, we petition the City Council to revise city policy to explicitly prevent the location of cellular telecommunication towers within 1500 ft. of sensitive communities such as schools, day care centers, and residential neighborhoods.

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