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East Bay Homeowners Challenge Proposed Cellphone Towers

PIEDMONT (KPIX 5) -- Concerned homeowners in the East Bay are fighting to keep new cell towers away from their property. One is even moving.

Among the new proposed cell tower locations is one on Wildwood Avenue in Piedmont.

Peter Harvey, a scientist at NASA and UC Berkeley is one of hundreds of residents protesting the installation of Verizon cell towers in this community.

Harvey wrote a letter to the Piedmont City Council.

"I wrote that I was very annoyed, very disappointed in city council," he said.

When Harvey learned his letter didn't sway the council's decision -- he decided to move.

"I bought a house elsewhere, far from any curb, far from any microwave tower they could ever put in," Harvey said.

He's lived in the community for 25 years, but said he couldn't in good conscience live near a tower himself, or support a community that put them in place near schools, which he believes endangers children. He's not alone.

People protested at multiple city council meetings last month.

Nine cell tower installations were proposed. Three have been approved, five rejected, and the fate of the final tower is in the council's hands on Monday.

Harvey said, "They caved. They threw in the towel and were afraid to get sued."

Piedmont City Administrator Paul Benoit said, "We can't just deny it because people don't like it."

Benoit says the city's hands are tied, at least when it comes to regulating health problems cell towers could pose.

The FCC maintains cell towers cause no risk to public health. State and federal law prohibit cities from weighing in on that part of the matter.

So Benoit says the city can only legally deny on smaller infractions within city code.

"Pedestrian safety issues, aesthetic issues, design review issues, street tress," Benoit said. "If placement of one of these cell towers was going to require removal of a tree or massive pruning of the tree, we said no."

Harvey said, "I would have liked to have seen the city deny all the cell towers in town and bring this up in court, if need be."

Regardless of what happens on Monday, city leaders say it's unlikely this fight will be over because Verizon can apply for more applications at any point in time, as can every other cellphone carrier. And the expectation is that they will.

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