No day at the park for antennae opponents

Judge says cell-phone tower lease to Verizon is legal

A San Diego Superior court judge says the City of San Diego can continue to lease portions of public parkland to cell-phone companies in order to install wireless antennas.  

On October 31, judge Judith Hayes ruled that the Don't Cell Our Parks residents group did not show that the city violated state environmental laws, nor did it violate the city charter in granting use of public park space to wireless companies. 

The group filed its lawsuit in August 2015, one month after the city agreed to allow Verizon Wireless to install a a 12-antenna faux-eucalyptus cell-phone tower at Ridgewood Park in Rancho Peñasquitos.

According to one of the founding members of the group, Marc Kuritz, the law is clear: “In our city parks, the law says you’re not allowed to solicit funds. You can’t sell merchandise. You can’t pass out advertising flyers. You’re not even allowed to pick flowers. But our mayor and city council hand over chunks of our park land to private corporations for cell phone towers. It’s not legal, it’s not right, and it makes no sense, unless you are the politician getting the revenue or the telecommunications giant making the profit.”

In their lawsuit, the group cited Charter Section 55 of San Diego's Municipal Code: "All real property owned in fee by the City heretofore or hereafter formally dedicated in perpetuity by ordinance of the Council or by statute of the State Legislature for park, recreation or cemetery purposes shall not be used for any but park, recreation or cemetery purposes without such changed use or purpose having been first authorized or later ratified by a vote of two-thirds of the qualified electors of the City voting at an election for such purpose."

Judge Hayes was not convinced. In her ruling, Hayes wrote that Section 55 grants control of public parks to the city council.

"The Court further finds a significant history of legal opinions and policies applying the city's interpretation of section 55 to provide for the use of wireless communication facilities in city dedicated parks as long as those wireless communication facilities did not detract from park uses or interfere with park purposes."

Lastly, Hayes found no evidence that the city abused its discretion in granting Verizon the permits to build the antenna. 

The group, says their attorney Craig Sherman, has not yet decided whether to appeal Hayes' decision. 

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The City spends a lot of time getting around the regulations for parks in the city charter, which is all too clear and simple - - "park, recreation or cemetery purposes shall not be used for any but park, recreation or cemetery purposes." For this reason, the city no longer dedicates parks. Instead they use "designated parks." This is just another city lot that the city can sell or build a hotel on tomorrow. For dedicated parks, how about Surveillance cameras? and oh, yes, Surfing Schools with Millions in income every year. That's recreation, right? And they just changed two Charter requirements for Parks which will enable more hotels in Mission Beach parkland, and the citizens voted YES to all. That's where we are with parks.

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