“What are they doing there?” asked a driver that pulled over before I did. We were on the shoulder of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard before it turns into Regents Road.
“I have no idea,” I responded, “it looks trippy though.”
On April 24, at about 2 p.m., we both ogled at the construction happening on the roof of the Baptist Church of Clairemont. There was a blue crane that had its arm extended into the sky and workers below on a scissors lift. We also noticed a slender structure with electronic panels surrounding it that was jutting from the shingles of the roof.
“Looks like something from Star Wars,” said my fellow-purveyor.
I jumped back into my car, and parked closer behind the church by Jutland Drive and Lunar Avenue.
From this point of view, I could see the crane cables attached to the cover for the electronic tower.
“It’s a steeple,” said the worker that was guiding it off the truck's long-bed, “it’s for tele-communications (a cell tower).”
He added that it was common for churches to do this, but when I asked what other San Diego church has done this, he refused to give me an answer.
About three years ago, Valérie Dufort-Roy started a petition on Change.org to Verizon Wireless’s then CEO, Daniel S. Mead, and 11 others that read: “We, the undersigned, strongly oppose cell towers and antennas at or near the First Baptist Church of Clairemont (3219 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego, 92117), which is also home to a Synagogue, a Korean church, a Spanish church, an Awana Club, a Karate Club, and La Petite École, a unique dual language school for 185 students (preschool to 5th grade) and 23 educators.”
The petition stated that the presence of the telecommunication hardware was “risking our children’s health from the radiation coming from the cell towers and antennas.”
The petition was signed by 842 supporters, and since 2015, it has been closed.
About 11 miles southeast from the church, there’s another tower being built that’s causing some controversy. The site’s a couple of blocks north of El Cajon Boulevard and the 805 Freeway exit.
“I drive by it every day and wasn’t sure what it was,” said Brian, “I was wondering why they would put a water tower over there.”
Brian’s been working at the Mid-City Smog Check Center for two years, which is a about two blocks away from the new cell tower site that’s being built on Boundary Street and Meade Avenue.
Some close by neighbors in North Park are concerned about the radiation that it will emit, as Dufont-Ray was about their cell towers in Clairemont. Another resident said it looked “ugly” like the three -legged robots from the War of the Worlds science fiction novel made into a movie.
“I think it’s cool, personally,” Kathy said, “and I’m really glad they intend to plant trees all around it.”
Kathy’s seen renderings of the AT&T Boundary Street Project that was approved by the Planning Commission in 2013, and then posted on the City website.
According to the plans, “The proposed WCF (Wireless Communication Facility) consists of a 49-foot tall faux water tank, concealing panel antennas. “North Park” signage will be added to sides of the tank. Equipment associated with the antennas is proposed in a building at the base of the water tank. Trees, shrubs, concrete bollards with lights, and hardscape are being added around the base of the WCF.”
At the direction of the Community Planning Group, AT&T developed a water tank design, to reflect the iconic North Park water tank (recently designated as historic).”
“That’s awesome,” said Michelle Rodriguez, 22, who lives a block away from the faux water tower construction site. “I have T-Mobile and my signal is like up and down here, and I don’t get a lot of good connection.”
“If it’s green in color, it wont be a big distraction,” said Nicole, Rodriguez’s friend, “and my Metro PCS cell service [reception] here sucks too.”
On the cellreception.com website, it lists the closest cell tower to be at University Avenue and the 805 Freeway. I drove by and couldn’t find the cell tower. I drove westbound on University Avenue to Hillcrest and found satellite dishes and antennas atop the AT&T building located at Robinson and 7th avenues. At this location, there were two cell towers listed, and although I couldn’t distinguish them with my own eyes, I assumed they were on the top of the building.
I drove eastbound towards City Heights and parked in front of the New Bethel Baptist Church on 39th Street (by Quince Street). It took me awhile, but I found a faux palm tree/cell tower behind the church. I then drove further east and found another faux palm tree that doubled as a cell tower, behind the Decisive Testing building at Myrtle and Euclid avenues.
There were over 100 cell towers listed on the San Diego County map provided by the cellreception.com website.
“Not every antenna needs to be registered with the FCC, and the map may not list all the towers in the area,” states the cellreception.com website.
(On the American Cancer Society website, under the cellular phone towers section, there’s a portion that reads in part: “Do cellular phone towers cause cancer? Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea.”)