Nov 13 2017

Wireless Installation Proposal and Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan

Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan and problems with the wireless communication installation – 

The Piedmont Park Commission met on November 1, 2017 and the major issues were “Approval of Park Commission Minutes for September 6, 2017 and October 4, 2017,” “Consideration of a Recommendation to City Council regarding Proposed Wireless Communication Facilities Permit Installation in Piedmont Park across from 314 Wildwood Avenue,” “Update on the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan,” “Update and Discussion on a Heritage Tree Program for Trees in Piedmont Parks and Open Spaces by Park Commissioner Jim Horner,” “Monthly Maintenance Report: Park, Open Space and Street Tree Update for the Month of October.”

I stayed for three hours, but I was only there for the first two subjects and a couple minutes of the third subjects.

Eileen Ruby and a few other members of the Commission were upset and confused with Planning Director Kevin Jackson’s opening statement, because they had just been given information at 10 a.m. that morning and asked to decide on it that night. The first topic discussed was anger and confusion expressed by the Commission at the late notice and demands of Kevin Jackson’s new agreement on a wireless communication facility located on City property.

The second topic was heavily discussed for the majority of  time I was there. Basically, there are wireless communications towers trying to be put around Piedmont, but they haven’t been meeting City regulations.

Laura Mazel, a long time Piedmont resident who lives on Wildwood Avenue spoke up to argue against the tower being put up outside the entrance to the dog park near Witter Field. She argued that there was research showing that the radiation coming from the towers would harm wildlife, especially the ancient redwood trees. She also expressed concern about the narrowness of the street and if trucks would be on the street doing work on the tower that would create a problem for drivers.

A former physicist from Berkeley also expressed a lot of concern with the damage the radiation can do. He cited multiple studies and said that flies and bees also can be destroyed by the radiation, soil is affected negatively as well, and birds would have to move nests.

I agree with Laura Mazel and the physicist in that these wireless communication towers are not necessary and they do more harm than good.

The Commission after long discussions and a great amount of staff input hesitantly and with concern made a recommendation to the City Council to approve the communication site while adding new conditions to any approval.

Moving onto the third topic, the City is developing a new Master Plan for the Beach Playfield that involves fixing up the bathrooms and drinking fountains, as well as making the tennis courts full sized. An informational meeting about Beach Playfield will include both parents and kids.

My classmate Jessica Xiong spoke and said it was a good idea to have both adults and children in the meeting because kids are going to be the ones primarily using the field.

I spoke as well and reflected on my younger years as one of the kids playing t-ball and soccer on Beach Field. I remembered how gross the bathrooms by the Field are and let them know that the kids would definitely appreciate a renovation there. I think the plan is a good idea, because it will let kids play and exercise, which is extremely important.

I interviewed Patty Dunlop, a member of the Park Commission. The difficulties she encountered were trying to figure out if the plans for the cell towers were “in harmony with the City Code.” She has learned about the government elements of the cell towers and protocols (making complicated motions), and the delegation of responsibility between the Park Commission and the City Council. The next step concerning her is paying more attention to applications coming forward for additional cell towers/cell antennas, because she thinks they will be coming.

The Park Commission of Piedmont California meets monthly on the first Wednesday at 5:30. They make recommendations to the City Council about the beautification of public parks and the street tree improvement program.

By Emmett Reed, Piedmont High School Senior


    On Wednesday November 1, 2017, I attended the Park Commission meeting at Piedmont City Hall. The Park Commission meets monthly, on the first Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. The Park Commission meets to discuss issues relating to the public parks of the city and manage the street-tree improvement program, and make recommendations to the City Council relating to these topics.

I attended the meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and during that interval, the Park Commission discussed two major topics. The first topic discussed was on behalf of a design plan made for a light post and wireless communication installation “in Piedmont Park across from 314 Wildwood Avenue.” The second topic, which I was only able to stay for the beginning of, was regarding an update of the developing Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan.

To start off the meeting, Kevin Jackson, Piedmont Planning Director, discussed the proposed plans for a lamp post. Crown Castle, the applicant, is a telecommunications contract service based in San Jose.

Jackson wanted the Park Commission to recommend the design and placement of the proposed lamp post, which is proposed to be located in Piedmont Park across from 314 Wildwood Avenue. He revealed that the initial plans were denied due to the fact that it was not consistent in the design of the lamp post and city planning. If the city doesn’t take action by a certain date, the plan will be deemed approved.

Eileen Ruby, a member of the Commission, inquired about the lightpost and its practicality, suggesting that the light post should be in a position to illuminate a pathway or add something of significance in the Park, rather than just a small patch of greenery.

I absolutely agree with Eileen Ruby on this particular topic. It seems like it would be a waste to use these resources and money on a purely decorative utility. The light post should be both practical and nice to look at.

The color of the light post was also discussed by Jim Horner, member of the Commission.

I believe that, in order to fit in with the “look” of Piedmont, it should be dark green or black in order to blend in with the foliage.

Ruby also questioned if the plans were different than those that were originally planned to be discussed, to which Jackson responded that they are in fact new plans from that morning at 10:00 a.m. Jackson reminded that the Park Commission makes the recommendations, and City Council takes action.

Pierce MacDonald Powell, a representative for Crown Castle, told those present that the light fixture is to be decorative, and listed specific conditions that the plans must meet in order for the light post to be approved and built. For example, light pollution and the sound of the light post was a major concern.

Betsy Goodman and Patty Dunlap, both members of the Commission, asked about sound from the installation, what the requirements are, and how to meet them.

Then, a few members of the audience went up to the podium to speak on this issue. Sharon, who was there on behalf of the light post, commented that the reason for the last minute design was due to new options proposed. Their new proposal was based on the lumieres at ‘Ole Miss.

Chairperson Jamie Totsubo shared that she finds this news very frustrating as they spent so much time on the planning already. Commissioner Betsy Goodman shared her concern about the location of the vault, because it is located at a handicap area of the park in the plans. She also requested that the deadline of the Commission’s recommendations be moved to a later date due to the last minute plans.

Sharon from the audience responded that it is very unlikely that this would happen. Then, another member from the audience shared his opinion for the energy vault. He believes it should be above ground, such as a mailbox design, in order to cut the issue of the sound.

Commissioner Jim Horner asked the man about the mailbox design, and if it completely gets rid of the noise issue. The response was yes; it does so because the design will make it allow the heat to be removed.

Peter Harvey, another audience member, spoke on behalf of the environmental impacts of these new installations, sharing previous data that the microwaves produced negatively impact flora and fauna surrounding it. Additionally, he noted the microwaves have affected both the behavior and development of animals.

I agree that this is an issue that must be considered when drafting any new installation plans. Since Piedmont prides itself on its beauty, the City must keep in mind the impact their plans will have on the beauty and wellbeing of the City’s natural surroundings.

Laura Menzel stepped to the podium and stated that she does not want cell phone towers located on Wildwood Avenue, as the road is already very tight and she does not want the beauty of nature around it to be diminished.

The Commission’s consensus was that the vault must be moved to a different location.

City Planner MacDonald proceeded to reiterate the Commission’s recommendations from the notes she made during the discussion. The Commission moved that the light should illuminate the path, have a single arm, be similar to the design of the lights on Oakland Avenue Bridge, be relocated outside of the pedestrian path, and be a dark color. The vote was unanimous on the first motion.

The second motion, to consider communication equipment at an alternative location, and be concealed was not unanimous, but it still passed.

After a short intermission, the meeting moved to the next topic, Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. Nancy Kent, the Commission Staff Liaison, shared the developing plan and stated that it is fairly new. They have ideas to redo the bathrooms at the Field as well as hold a Public Forum with both children and adults to learn about their opinions and suggestions on what to do.

The Commission asked if anyone from the audience would like to speak on behalf of the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. At this time, I went up to the podium to share my thoughts on this particular topic. I commended them on their plan to hold a public forum, because kids are going to be the ones primarily using the field, so having both them and their parents along with other adults participate and give input in the plans is very essential. I also pushed for the remodeling of the bathrooms, as they are barely used since they are not in great condition. Additionally, I also shared that I think they should install more water fountains on the field, as it is used for sports and recreation.

Fellow classmate Emmett Reed went up to the podium and spoke about the Field, and how he agreed with me on the topic of the water fountains and bathrooms. He also shares that he believes having such a place for kids to play is beneficial. After the audience statements, I left the meeting.

During the intermission, I interviewed Betsy Goodman, the Vice Chair of the Piedmont Park Commission. She stated that she was interested in ” the hearing of Resolution PHS 09, which had to do with a telephone antennae, light fixture, and vault at the 314 Wildwood location.”  She noted that since the vault was located in the handicap ramp, the Commission had to come up with an alternative location. There were also sound issues regarding the vault which needed to be resolved. Goodman shared that in this meeting, she learned about the procedural work with the City Council, and how they need to “effectively make recommendations and motions and findings…through a long process to get there.” Goodman revealed that this meeting was a “complicated process” that they must consider in order to meet the requirements of the City and to be able to make the “best recommendation.” Goodman stated that the Commission must always try to do what they believe is “fair and necessary” for the community. In order to get their next concern addressed, Goodman and the Commission will hold further discussions with the City staff to ensure that they have a clear understanding for taking the next steps when making recommendations.

by Jessica Xiong, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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