In the absence of a moratorium and new, more protective
antenna-siting guidelines to provide some relief for
neighborhoods facing unwanted wireless antennas, City
residents by necessity continue to battle proposed
antennas on a case-by-case basis. Those who have the
wherewithal to do so have met with significant success
since SNAFU’s formation in 2000. In some cases,
residents have convinced landlords who signed lease
agreements with wireless carriers to break those contracts.
In other cases, they have pressured wireless companies to
withdraw from proposed antenna sites by conducting high-profile
public demonstrations. In still other instances, they have
successfully appealed Planning Commission approvals of antenna
permits to the full Board of Supervisors. Of the 15 appeals
brought by residents to the Board of Supervisors between 2001
and 2006, 12 have been successful.
The number of San Franciscans concerned about this issue is telling: 2,800 Richmond District residents who signed a petition against an antenna site on Geary Blvd.; 2,000 Sunset District residents who objected to antennas proposed for a church; 800 residents who resisted antennas in Chinatown; 1,000 neighbors who protested a wireless facility in Noe Valley; 7,000 postal workers and supporters who opposed antennas proposed for post offices; and the list goes on. Also telling is the wireless industry's response: a relentless attempt to wear down community resistance. After filing a suit in federal court in response to a Board of Supervisors denial of an antenna permit where residents waited until 2:30 a.m. to win their case, one carrier voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit and then reapplied for antennas in the same location. At the carrier’s first community meeting on this re-application, they were met by 35 to 40 residents who let them know they would fight them again if necessary.
In Congress, Senator Leahy of Vermont has prepared legislation that would overturn the health and safety preemption under the Telecommunications Act and fund U.S.-based research into the potential health effects of radiofrequency radiation. While this legislation was introduced with little fanfare in October 2002, it has not been re-introduced since.
It will take continued, massive, grass-roots organizing and mobilization to get this bill introduced and passed by the U.S. Congress and to ensure that the concerns of San Francisco residents and others around the country become a legitimate part of the equation balancing the convenience of wireless technologies with the health and safety of ourselves and the environment.