Oct 25 2017

Andersen Sworn in as New Council Member, Wireless Transmission Sites, Sanctuary City Status for Piedmont, Preferential Parking

Reports on the Oct. 16th City Council Meeting –

On Monday, October 16, 2017, five of my fellow classmates and I attended a City Council meeting. The Council convenes twice every month in the Council Chambers of Piedmont City Hall.  At the beginning of the meeting, Betsy Andersen was sworn into the council as a newly appointed council member.

Following this, City Council called the Piedmont Chief of Police and then the Piedmont Fire Chief to discuss the recent Sonoma County fires and give thanks to those who contributed to relief for the victims. The Fire Chief explained that after the fires broke out, the Piedmont Fire department was able to send two fully staffed fire engines to the north bay while still being completely staffed back home. Both the Police and Fire Chiefs also explained how monetary donations to the Red Cross were the best way to help victims of the fires.

Next, the Mayor called for the approval of the consent calendar which unanimously passed. This motion then led straight into the Public Forum in which three of my classmates spoke.

Mira Tellegen spoke first in an eloquently delivered speech detailing her upbringing in Piedmont and how city representatives, law enforcement and residents have affected her life for the better.

Following Mira, Abby Wilson expressed her interest in making Piedmont a sanctuary city in which city law enforcement does not enforce federal immigration and deportation laws, and a statement against the current anti-immigration policies implemented by Congress and the President. Abby referenced how many other U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego have declared themselves sanctuary cities in similar protest to U.S. immigration policy.

Closing out the public forum, Alec Opdyke gave a heartfelt thank you to the Piedmont police force for making him, and the rest of Piedmont, feel safe in comparison to the actions of the Los Angeles police force where Alec spends many weekends.

Following the Public Forum, the council introduced a new City Hall employee, Mark Anito, who was chosen out of 70 applicants to be an employee of the Department of Public Works.

The continuing controversy over the implementation of the Crown Castle Wireless Communication facilities was addressed.

Next, began the discussion for the consideration of the many wireless communication networks that Crown Castle had proposed to be set up throughout Piedmont. The first site to be discussed is located at 352 Jerome Avenue. At this time Betsy Andersen recused herself in discussing this specific site as the site lies very close to her own home.

The council started by making clear that no member of city staff selected any of the sites for wireless communication facilities proposed by Crown Castle and that although staff did give suggestions for certain sites, none of them were included in the final proposal. After much discussion surrounding the potentially dangerous radio waves emitted from each facility and their incredibly close proximity to households in Piedmont, the council moved to deny the application set forth for the site at 352 Jerome Avenue.

After similar discussion and ultimate denial for applications at four other sites (located at 150 Highland, 303 Hillside, 1159 Winsor and 428 El Cerrito) public commentary was allowed in which 6 employees of Crown Castle spoke in response to the issues raised against the applications for their facilities.

The government relations manager for Crown Castle explained how the plan for these facilities had been developed over two years and had undergone many revisions to accommodate both Piedmont residents and city staff. He expressed his disappointment in the council’s decision to deny the applications; then brought up the Crown Castle attorney who discussed many of the same points but also touched on the allegations of noncompliance with city noise ordinances.

Finally, Morgan Hunt, the manager of engineering for Crown Castle spoke on the antenna size and coverage. In his speech, he referenced Palo Alto’s use of smaller antennas on every street block but didn’t add any real argument for why Piedmont should do the same thing.

I personally thought the arguments on behalf of Crown Castle were extraordinarily weak. Both the Government relations manager and the Crown Castle Attorney did not especially make any real effort to prove the need for these sites or disprove any of the allegations against them. Instead, they chose to appeal to the council through continued references to the amount of work they personally had put into the project and how hard they had tried to make ends meet for us, as though the council and the city of Piedmont were inconveniencing them with this decision. Needless to say, the council did not reverse any of their decisions.

It was at this point at about 9:00 p.m. that school policy requires us to not be at events required for school, so my fellow students and I filed out of City Hall. We would find out the next morning that the meeting adjourned just before 1 a.m., due to the number of community members who spoke as well as the time spent by the council addressing more Wireless Communications sites.

As we exited, we encountered a group of adults waiting for discussion of a different issue regarding preferential parking on Rose Avenue which is partly in Oakland and partly in Piedmont. Tanya Liv and Sebastian Liv felt that because the preferential parking district affected citizens in Oakland, they and all Oakland citizens living on the 5 Piedmont-Oakland border streets, should have a say in Piedmont city government.

David Weiner intended to speak on the same issue and said that the first step they needed to take was to get a proposal passed that limited preferential parking districts to only apply between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Although they hope to get rid of preferential parking districts altogether, they hoped that the passage of this first proposal will be a step in the right direction.

by Reece Proctor, Piedmont High School Senior


At the October 16, 2017, Council Meeting, the Piedmont City Council primarily discussed the eight-new cell towers proposed by Crown Castle and citizens’ concerns regarding the towers. This is the second meeting to discuss this, the first being two weeks earlier, and the next meeting concerning the towers will take place on Oct. 30. In addition to the main topic, the City Clerk swore in a new member, Betsy Smegal Andersen, and discussed the new preferential parking spots adjacent to the intersections of Kingston, Linda & Rose in Piedmont.

Acknowledging Betsy Smegal Andersen, a member of the League of Women Voters spoke giving congratulations to Mrs. Andersen, and telling the audience how proud she was that there were three females on the Piedmont City Council again.

Then three students spoke on the Public Forum, Mira Tellegen, Abby Willson, and Alec Opdyke. Mira Tellegen spoke about how influential Piedmont has been in shaping her life and who she is today. Abby Wilson talked about how the Piedmont City Council should turn Piedmont into a sanctuary city, following other nearby cities (Berkeley, Oakland, Etc.). Finally, Alec Opdyke thanked the Piedmont police for keeping Piedmont safe, comparing police involvement in Piedmont to police involvement in Glendale, California.

Moving onto the main subject of the meeting, the council members started off the cell tower discussion by saying that they had no part in deciding where the five towers were to be placed. They went on to discuss how Crown Castle has changed their building plans to try and satisfy all residents.

Representatives from Crown Castle came up to defend their locations and their reason to build them, but were not able to gain support from the crowd. Six Crown Castle representatives spoke about how they were able to make the poles shorter and move the power supplies underground, but were not able to make the sound emissions under 60 decibels (Piedmont City Law says that it must be under 50 decibels).

While Crown Castle had addressed some problems, sixteen members of the public still came forward to voice their opinion against the towers. Their complaints ranged from the risk of cancer increasing around the poles, to their property value decreasing because of the polls. By the end of the discussion, the Council had decided to not approve five of the sites, leaving the decision for the other three sites until October 30.

The last topic that was the new permitted parking spots for five proposed blocks. The local residents talked about how hard it was to park around their homes because people who work in the surrounding area took spots in front of their houses, therefore they needed parking restrictions on non-residents. The Piedmont City Council decided to try a six-month trial period where local residents would have permitted parking between 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

At the end of the meeting, I interviewed David Weiner who was at the meeting to discuss the parking issues. The reason he was there was to “discuss the times proposed (10pm-7am) on the parking permit signs” and how all of the five blocks being considered should have preferential parking, including those parts outside of Piedmont in Oakland. He said his next steps are to extend the times on the signs, and in the long-term to find permanent parking for the Kaiser Permanente employees, who are the primary ones taking parking in front of their homes.

By Alec Opdyke, Piedmont High School Senior


    On Monday, October 16th, the Piedmont City Council met at City Hall. The meetings of the City Council, open for public viewing and comment, occur twice a month at 7:30 p.m.

    The City Council, once called to order, began the meeting by swearing in a new member of City Council, Elizabeth Andersen. Andersen has two daughters at Piedmont High School, senior Jane and freshman Ellie.

    Following Andersen’s swearing in, the Council formally thanked the Piedmont League of Women Voters for the work they do each week to present information on the agenda for the City Council meetings.

    The Council then welcomed Fire Chief Warren McLaren and Police Chief Jeremy Bowers to update activities on the Napa Fires. The Piedmont and Alameda County mutual aid programs allowed the Piedmont government to send law enforcement officers and firefighters along with two fire engines to aid those in the Napa and Sonoma areas.

    “[The fires] were devastating to so many people and will take years to recover from,” Bowers said.

    McLaren said that the aid sent to the fires did not prevent the Fire Department from responding to their usual call volume in Piedmont.

    “At no time were we short staffed here in Piedmont,” McLaren said.

    Mayor Robert McBain then addressed the audience as to the importance of the “AC Alert” program, which sends messages to subscribers in times of crisis. Those interested can sign up on the City webpage, McBain said.

    “Please take advantage of AC Alert,” McBain said.

    In the Public Forum section of the meeting, senior Abigail Willson advocated for Piedmont to take on the status as a sanctuary city and senior Alec Opdyke spoke in support of the police’s efforts in the city. I, senior Mira Tellegen, spoke about how Piedmont as a city and the programs the City Council supports shape children and adolescents in the area, and how the transition to college life will be laced with sadness as the graduates leave the haven of Piedmont.

    The City Council next addressed an application for wireless communication service facilities, or cell towers, in Piedmont, an issue a crowd of citizens had been protesting outside City Hall before the meeting.

    “At no time did any member of City staff select a site or design a facility,” a member of the Council read. “To do so would be unethical, and we hold ourselves to a high ethical standard.”

    The Council considered sites at 340-370 Highland Avenue, 740 Magnolia Avenue, 799 Magnolia Avenue, 150 Highland Avenue, 303 Hillside Avenue, 428 El Cerrito, 352 Jerome Avenue, and 1159 Winsor Avenue. They approved none, and will discuss further at the meeting on Oct. 3o.

    Crown Castle Government Relations Manager Sharon James said that Crown Castle has spent two years planning to install wireless service in Piedmont and redesigned the plan to consider the concerns of the community.

    “Opposition is very strong and unusual,” James said. “Good for you, you have a strong community.”

    James said that Crown Castle’s goal is to provide extra wireless capacity for the city.

    “It’s not about now, it’s about down the road,” James said. “It’s not about kids streaming videos, it’s about being able to contact public safety.”

    James said that whether the push comes from Crown Castle or a different company, the issue of wireless service facilities will continue to be pushed in Piedmont.

    “I’m very disappointed,” James said.

    A member of UC Berkeley Physics Department and Piedmont citizen Peter Harvey said that the current site plan is more intrusive than previous proposals, especially to the environment.

“They should be checking for tree health,” Harvey said.

Other citizens spoke out about concerns over the property values, the health concerns of electromagnetic energy, and the negative effects on Piedmont historical sites like the Park and Community Center.

Outside City Hall, Piedmont and Oakland residents waited together to speak on the issue of preferential parking, as some streets affected contain both Piedmont and Oakland addresses.

“We are trying to make sure that everyone is treated with equity,” Piedmont resident Dawn Margolin said. “We don’t feel that it’s okay to leave people that are on the Oakland side of the street out of this whole equation, without a voice.”

Lake Avenue resident David Weiner said that the issue of parking is not new.

“People have been talking informally for a long time,” Weiner said.

Margolin said that civic engagement is essential in any community.

“I am at City Hall because I believe that we are responsible for our own government,” Margolin said.

    The Oct. 16 meeting adjourned shortly before 1 a.m., and the full agenda can be found on the Piedmont Civic Association website.

by Mira Tellegen, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Leave a Comment