The San Francisco Planning Commission handed anti-cell phone advocates in San Francisco some bad news last week. On Thursday, the commission voted unanimously to approve a plan by San Francisco Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann to rent rooftop space to T-Mobile to install new antennas. The plan seems like a win for everyone. The newspaper, facing a revenue crunch, like many across the country, will score a new source of income. And local residents on T-Mobile, the nation's fourth largest carrier, will get better cell phone reception. Surprisingly, numerous community activists came out of the woodwork opposing the project. They claimed it constituted a public health threat, despite being unable to provide any sort of compelling scientific evidence to back their wild claims. They did manage to convince the commission to hold a full public hearing, rather than including it in the "consent agenda", which is reserved for uncontroversial projects. Leslie de Taillandier, one of the activists, said she feared for the safety of her 11-year old child. She pleaded with the commission, "I ask you to help protect our children. Please, do not give the permit to allow another cellular antenna on top of the Bay Guardian." Other activists included Espanola Jackson and Sudi Scull, the latter of which wears a special hat to "protect" herself from invisible cell phone signals. Steven Krolik, another anti-cell phone activist, says that wireless towers are a threat to the U.S. and are unconstitutional. He warns, "It is un-American and unconstitutional not to address the harmful effects of radio frequencies. The domestic enemies of our Constitution are here, and not out there." The commission was not moved by the residents’ impassioned, but scientifically lacking testimony. While, it’s easy to conclude that this saga is complete following the unanimous approval of the construction, it's far from over. Yvonne Gavre, yet another cell phone fearing resident, is organizing an appeal with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The activists are confident that the approval will be overturned during the appeal, based on past successes. According to local anti-antenna activist Doug Loranger of the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union (SNAFU), 12 of 15 such appeals since 2001 have led in the wireless carriers' plans being scuttled. The SFBG may ultimately prove its own worst enemy, though. Some of the residents have latched on to a story printed in the newspaper's online section. The story discusses a self-published, non peer-reviewed San Francisco-based study by a New Zealand researcher which claims a link between cell phone towers and cancer, in addition to other health problems. While occasional studies, such as the aforementioned one, suggest a cell-phone cancer link, the medical community says there's no clear correlation or causation between towers, cell phones, and cancer. With Gavre already close to collecting enough signatures to file an appeal and with the SFBG receiving "dozens and dozens of calls and e-mails from members of the public", the anti-cell phone residents just might score a victory in the end. Across the country other projects face similar battles from fearful residents.
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