No Cell Tower next to Assumption-St. Bridget School

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We have significant concerns about a proposed cell tower to be erected across the street from the Assumption-St. Bridget School.  The project will involve building a new 70-foot-tall utility pole with three communications towers.

1.  Based on the background research presented below, we believe that the City did not provide proper public notice of the project and an opportunity to comment, as required by law.  The Seattle Municipal Code requires that the City mail written notice to all property owners, businesses and residents within 300 feet of the proposed project.  No such written notice was provided to the school or any of the surrounding homes or businesses.  

The only public notification was a small sign posted to the north side of the utility pole at issue.  The sign is not visible from the street nor from the Assumption-St. Bridget School, which is just across the street.  The sign was posted on December 22, 2016, the first full day of Christmas vacation for the Assumption-St. Bridget School.  As a result, the 14-day comment period ended on January 4, the first day the students resumed school after Christmas break.  No one from the school was aware of the proposal because they were all on Christmas holiday.  And by the time they found out, it was too late, as the public comment period was over.

2.  We have concerns that the proposed project may have harmful health effects on community members, especially children.  The proposed cell tower will be across the street from, and well within 100 feet of, the school gymnasium, which houses two classrooms and the school’s before- and after-school-care programs.  Hundreds of students occupy this space for hours upon hours each day.  The World Health Organization has classified RF electromagnetic radiation as a possible 2B carcinogen.  Long term effects of RF electromagnetic radiation exposure have not been fully studied, but researchers generally agree that children are more susceptible than adults to potential dangers.  Some studies suggest that long-term lower-level exposure might cause hormonal changes leading to memory changes, anxiety, depression, mood changes, sleep disorders, concentration problems, increased rates of suicide and other neurophysiological effects. (See http://www.saferemr.com/2015/04/cell-tower-health-effects.html.)  In a letter to the FCC, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that “Children are not little adults and are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation.  Current FCC standards do not account for the unique vulnerability...” (See https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7520941318.pdf.)

3.  We have concerns that a project of this scale and nature will have an adverse effect on the character of the neighborhood.  The proposed structure will be more than twice as tall as any of the surrounding structures, which include historic homes, two small businesses and the Assumption-St. Bridget School.  The nature the project will give a perception of unhealthy, mechanical and discordant surroundings in what has otherwise been a quaint neighborhood that feels wholesome and pleasant.  We fear this could impact people’s desire to live, work, shop and attend school in the immediate vicinity.

We request that the City decline to permit this project.  We encourage our City Councilman, Rob Johnson, and Mayor Ed Murray, to take action to stop the permitting of the proposed project.  We urge Nathan Torgelson (Director of Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection) to withdraw his department's recommendation regarding the project.  We urge Larry Weis (General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light), Sephir Hamilton (Chief of Staff of Seattle City Light), Scott Kubly (Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation) and Michael Mattmiller (Chief Technology Officer of the Seattle Information Technology Department) to deny final approval of the proposed project.  We urge T-Mobile CEO John Legere to stop the project. 

 


Background Research

(by Jessica Jackson, JD, University of Washington 2006, mother of Assumption-St. Bridget student)

T-Mobile has applied to affix a communication utility (a cell tower) on Seattle City Light Utility Pole #1347883, located on NE 65th Street, just across the street from the Assumption-St. Bridget School (just in between the Bryant Corner Cafe and the dentist office of Karl Eberhardt, DDS).  According to project documents, the existing 41.7 foot pole will be removed and replaced with a new 70-foot pole.  Three T-Mobile Wireless antennas and one equipment enclosure will then be attached to this 70-foot pole.  The total height of the proposed new structure is unspecified.  The current zoning height limit for the neighborhood is 30 feet. (See http://web6.seattle.gov/DPD/LUIB/Notice.aspx?BID=1224&NID=24718.)

T-Mobile is making an application for a “Class II attachment” to the new utility pole.  (See http://web6.seattle.gov/DPD/LUIB/Notice.aspx?BID=1200&NID=24043.)  Under Seattle Municipal Code §15.32.300 C.4.b, “Class II attachment requests are subject to public notice and comment.”  The same section specifies that if a request for Class II attachment is made and certain conditions are met (the proposed location is on an arterial street located within a Neighborhood Commercial-1 zone with a height limit less than 40 feet and a requested pole height above 60 feet), then “the applicant shall pay for an attachment siting review and recommendation consistent with the application, fee, notice, timeline and criteria for an administrative conditional use permit” (emphasis added).  Here, the specified conditions are met.  The proposed location is on an arterial street (NE 65th St) within a Neighborhood Commercial-1 zone with a height limit of 30 feet and a requested pole height of 70 feet.

Section 23.76.12 of the Seattle Municipal Code covers the procedural notice requirements for administrative conditional use permits.  Specifically, it requires that the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) provide mailed notice upon the completion of the application and an opportunity for public comment.  (See SMC §23.76.12 A.2 and §23.76.006 C.2.F.) (Also see SCDI Tip 211B, http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/Publications/CAM/cam211B.pdf.)

Under SMC §23.84A.025, “Mailed Notice” means notice mailed by the SDCI to “such property owners, commercial lessees, building managers and residents of properties including and within 300 feet of the boundaries of the specific site.”

The SDCI did not provide such mailed notice.  Neither the Assumption-St. Bridget School nor the Assumption Church received any such notice.  The Assumption-St. Bridget School is just across the street from the proposed project, well within 100 feet.

The owners of the Bryant Corner Cafe received no such notice (the pole is about 15 feet from the cafe).  The dentist office of Karl Eberhardt, DDS received no such notice (the pole is just a few steps outside his front door).  All the residents that we contacted within the 300-foot radius also received no notice.

In addition, the SDCI has assured the public that it will “post four placards on or near the development site.”  (See SCDI Tip 211B.)  The SMC defines “placard” as a “highly visible notice at least 11 by 14 inches in size with headings that can be read from a distance of 75 feet by persons of normal visual acuity.”  (SMC §23.84A.030.)

Only one sign was posted regarding the project, on the north side of the pole at issue.  The sign is entirely out of sight from the street and from the Assumption-St. Bridget School, which is just across the street.  The headings, and even the sign itself, are not visible from 75 feet away.

The timing of the application and signage is very curious.  The application was first published online (in the City’s Land Use Information Bulletin), and the sign was first placed on the utility pole, on December 22, 2016, the first full day of Christmas vacation for the Assumption-St. Bridget School.  As a result, the 14-day comment period ended on January 4, the first day the students resumed school after Christmas break.  No one from the school was aware of the proposal because they were all on Christmas holiday.  And by the time they found out, it was too late, as the public comment period was over.

This petition is being submitted to the directors of Seattle City Light, the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Seattle Information Technology Department (among others), because the Seattle Municipal Code requires approval of all three such departments prior to the issuance of a permit to attach to City-owned poles. (See SMC §15.32.300 C.3.k.)

 



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