Town Square

Post a New Topic

Residents fret over Palo Alto church cell tower

Original post made on Oct 28, 2010

A proposed 50-foot-tall cell-phone tower at St. Albert the Great Church in Palo Alto has some neighbors upset about the mix of the sacred and the profane, which they fear could hurt their health.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 28, 2010, 4:55 PM

Comments (46)

Posted by VK, a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm

"The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields" - Thursday, Nov 18th, 2010
Time: 11:15 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Price: Members $20, Non-Members $32, Students $10 - includes complimentary light lunch
Location: Commonwealth Club of California, 595 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

This half-day program organized by the Commonwealth Club's Health and Medicine Forum and will be the largest public forum yet in the United States on the known and potential health hazards from cell phones and wireless technologies, including new wireless utility technologies such as Smart Meters.

Scientific and policy experts from 5 countries (Canada, Sweden, Norway, U.K. and USA) will present the science showing biological effects from electromagnetic fields and discuss health and environmental policy recommendations in light of the risks.

Important new research will be presented on EMF impacts on DNA, heart function and the role of electrification in the diseases of civilization, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and suicide. Special focus will be paid to greater risks for children, impairment of reproductive function, environmental impacts and whether ‘Smart' Meters are actually smart.

Presenting experts receive no funding from the telecommunications industry.

Press Release
Web Link

Program and Expert Bios
Web Link

Tickets: Commonwealth Club: 415-597-6700 or

Co-organized by in association with Citizens for Health, the
American Academy of Environmental Medicine, EMF Safety Alliance, Radiation Research
Trust and the International EMF Alliance.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm

"The AT&T tower, would have a cross mounted on the top segment of the tower, which would be in a "churchlike" tower. But the church's neighbors don't want a cell-phone tower sprinkling signals above their heads like holy water."

But God works his miracles in so many mystical ways!!!

Posted by Chris, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I live 2 blocks away.

Welcome! I'd love to get: (a) more bandwidth for my phone and other portable devices, and (b) a nearby tower so my phone won't have to broadcast as strongly when I hold it right next to my head. As a bonus, this will improve my battery life as well.

If you live in a neighbourhood where lots of people already have cell phones, the way to decrease exposure to EMF is to put in more antennas, not less -- with more sites the antennas and phones don't have to broadcast as strongly.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 5:41 am

The largest threat to your health from cell phones is inattentive drivers talking, reading their email, reading their messages, writing messages, and checking the score in the Giants game. Unfortunately, these risks will remain regardless of whether or not the cell phone antenna is installed.

Posted by Bless my texts, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2010 at 6:22 am

Texting God, Texting, Texting ...

Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2010 at 7:18 am

I thought this thing was going to be a monstrosity and then I looked at the plans. It looks nice! Won't even know a cell tower is there! Kudos to the architects, church, etc.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2010 at 7:22 am

Oh, and BTW, I live right down the road from that church and the service on my iPhone is terrible. I can't call anyone without having at least 1 drop. This seems like an elegant solution. The "blue air" folks need not worry. The radiation for a tower is far less than yuo get from the sun in any given moment (although the sun's radiation catalyzes vitimin D production in exchange for bombarding you . . . )

Posted by EcoMama, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2010 at 7:40 am

As an AT&T user, I'm pretty excited about the prospect of a new tower in our area, as I can't use my iPhone in my house at all. As long as the EMF is within regulations, what's the concern here?

As for putting the tower at Rinconada fire station, isn't that very near the Walter Hays elementary school? So much for keeping it away from kids!

I support the installation of the tower in my neighborhood, but I do feel that the Catholic schoolchildren's parents need to be notified and given a chance to air their concerns, if any. Mostly, I'll bet they'll be glad of the revenues the tower will generate.

Is there any process in Palo Alto where neighbors don't act like busybodies trying to shoot each other down? Between unneighborly neighbors and "the Palo Alto process," I'll be surprised if we see the tower anytime soon ... and I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by enough!, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

Palo Alto residents fret about EVERYTHING!

Posted by Moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 10:40 am

Dear AT&T,
Please put a church in my neighborhood.

Posted by Garden Gnome, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the separation of church and state. Just out of habit, of course.

The antenna is on church grounds, so I'm sure none of our dear neighbors would even consider infringing on the church's right to place it there.

And to Tru Love: the government isn't forcing those kids to attend St. Elizabeth Seton. If they or their parents are concerned about ETs, UFOs, or EMFs, please allow them the courtesy to make their own decisions.

Posted by Carl, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 29, 2010 at 11:44 am

On one hand, detractors talk about the dangers of radio signals from cell phone antenna towers on them and their children. While on the other hand, they and their teen children don't mind using their cell phones transmitting radio signals right next to their heads. Something's disconnected here.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

How many of you are aware of the cell 'phone tower at Mitchell Park? It is very close to the school for the handicapped, and next door to the Challenger School. It is also very close to Fairmeadow Elementary and JLS. I never heard of anyone expressing concern about it's location because very few people even know it's there.

I'll give you a hint, it's buried in a pine tree!!!

Posted by Five Dresses, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Come look at our tree cell tower next to Blockbuster Video at El Camino & Los Robles. Looks just like a tree. It has been installed at this location for 3 or 4 years and is not an eye sore,

Posted by Rex, a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

How much is AT&T paying the church for the rights to use the tower?

Posted by ODB, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2010 at 2:19 pm

The City of Palo Alto should be getting in on this action. Put the cell phone antennas on existing utility poles and have the city collect the tower fees, not the church.

Posted by bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online.]

And the Mitchell Park pine tree tower tree is a fake and has been there for years.

It's better to have the antennas on a tall structure. Telephone poles are too short and limit transmission strength and distance.

Mr. Wallis has again made use of hyperbole to show how ridiculous the fear of low level electrical radiation is. Did most of you appreciate it?

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2010 at 11:27 pm

The Catholic Church has always had a balance between Faith and Reason---in this case St Albert s Church is using reason and logic--- good for them--and for att subscribers as their coverage in Palo Alto is terrible.

Posted by susan, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2010 at 6:52 am

First Congregational Church at Louis and Embarcadero has had a cell tower for about 10 years. Good for the church and good for phone reception. I don't hear any of their neighbors complaining.....

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2010 at 11:10 am

"Tru Love"

She proposes putting a cell tower next to Firehouse 3?

Fire Hall 3 is next to a library, pool and a park, and if she feels its not healthy why would she propose subjecting the firefighters and paramedics at the firehouse to those waves 24/7?

Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm

All the people who use cell phones glued to their ears get far more radiation exposure. Look up the INVERSE SQUARE LAW and apply it to the amount of radiation your cell phone emits.

This would explain the stupid behavior of many cell phone users; their brains are already fried when it comes to common sense.....

I use the speakerphone option on my cordless phone and have NEVER owned a cell phone.

I know what the long term effects of RF radiation can do...

It's not pretty. Stick your head in a microwave with the interlock disabled to see the speeded up version of this type of exposure...

Or just nuke a's the same as many people's heads....

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Please put a cell tower on every library and Steve's house.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 31, 2010 at 12:25 am

>> The radiation for a tower is far less than yuo get from the sun in any given moment (although the sun's radiation catalyzes vitimin D production in exchange for bombarding you . . . )

I'm guessing that people who complain about this stuff are reacting to this kind of statement. A lot of people who know a "little" just wave their hands and try to embarrass people who may not be experts in physics, even though they themselves are far from experts, they just like to try to intimidate people.

EDUCATION is the key. Radiation of different wavelengths behave differently on different things. You can broadcast all day from your cell phone and you will not output any energy from a solar panel right next it. There is no one size fits all statement for light and electromagnetic radiation. No, it's not the same as nuclear radioactivity, but there are similarities in that it is electromagnetic. The subject is complex and not understood well by the public.

There have been studies that have shown cells subjected to very strong electromagnetic fields can be affected negatively by EM energy. I'm no expert in the current state of those studies, (and neither will be the self-proclaimed expert who pops off after me about everything was settled long ago) but when the public hears those studies dismissed off-handedly with a joke, they are right to be hesitant, and the public should never be met with jokes, intimidation, or ridicule.

No one is born with this knowledge, and even scientists have not figured it all out yet, let alone everything about bio-physics.

One of the big reasons we have such a problem with science that is tearing the country down is the irresponsible and haphazard way these subjects are treated in our media. The main message anyone gets is that companies just feed simplistic lies to the media and the media presents them in as cutesy and condescending way as they can to make the whole issue go away. The US had better get going on educating people on nuclear power, and this kind of rhetoric is not going to do it. It's an important subject, and our media needs to develop a little credibility in science anyway.

I think everyone who lives near a nuclear plant who wants one ought to be given or subsidized in buying a geiger counter. Maybe give some people EMF meters if they are so concerned. Find things to measure!

We have to grow up. Fight with facts, and present them straight. Eventually the people will come around. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online.]

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2010 at 7:55 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Disguising cell towers as trees is as offensive as was the Victorian practice of pantaloons on piano "limbs". To me, a functional work of man's skill and art needs no cover up.

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2010 at 8:02 am

NIMBYs whine when their iphones don't work around town. Then they whine again when AT&T tries to put up more towers. If you don't cell phone towers around town, then don't buy cell phones.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 31, 2010 at 9:25 am

As typical our usual suspects are trying to make this a foolish black and white issue of great thinkers versus the ignorant sissies or something.

Perhaps some with stock in telecommunications like everyone to have to see cell towers to be reminded of their bottom line so they have something to impress others with, but most people do not want to live in a place that looks like the inside of a factory. Comparing the urge to NOT want to see big antennae around town - maybe especially on a church - to putting pants on piano legs is ridiculous. How many of us would want to constantly view the "functional work of man's skill" by seeing the power and telephone lines that break up our mostly beautiful scenery if there was a cheap and reasonable way to hide them or put them underground? Not me.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"cheap and reasonable way to hide them or put them underground?"
Well, Anon, we know you are not an electrical engineer or contractor from that statement. Some people might object to fire hydrants, but you still must install them every 300 to 500 feet or you don't build. I consider cell towers just as important for public safety. For those offended by the works of man, I suggest blinders. And I hope your daughter, having car trouble, is not in a dead spot.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 31, 2010 at 9:59 pm

> Well, Anon, we know you are not an electrical engineer or contractor from that statement.

You don't know jack, and it was not mean to be a engineering suggestion. Go down the Mississippi or go boating in the Houston Ship Channel and tell me about how beautiful the works of man are. or drive down Hwy 5 down through the pass where all those windmills are that will make your eyes go crazy as you drive by. There is nothing wrong with being concerned with aesthetics and I don't know why people like you always have to be abrasive when people mention things that are important to them. You can make the point about functionality without hyperbole. Lately I have never had any cell connection problems anywhere in Palo Alto anyway.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Things we need as amenities don't have to look ugly. Anything that can be done to make them look unobtrusive should be something to be pleased about.

Bridges are necessary but don't have to look ugly. Modern windmills have a pleasing, restful look. Utility poles and cell towers are ugly but we need them. The more that can be done to take away that ugliness the better.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2010 at 6:02 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

One of the most abhorrent works of man now in progress is the East Bay replacement of the Bay Bridge. 7 billion dollars to put a suspension bridge across a mud flat just to un-Gertrude Stein Oakland. An architect was bought into the design of the original Bay Bridge and all he contributed was that non functional pipe rain that obscured the bay view of car passengers. Tacked on "beauty" is as abhorrent to the discriminate as were pantaloons on piano legs. The transmission line out San Antonio is a thing of beauty, and the subtle differences between the two transmission lines near Dixon are both beautiful in their accommodation to the different operating conditions. The catenary curve is as natural as is the oak tree, and just as beautiful. There is a bit of the Elsworth Toohey in your criticisms.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 9:27 am

I agree that the Bay Bridge is a mess, but I would not call it "one of the most abhorrent works of man" except in terms of politics.

I liked the old Bay Bridge well enough, and that is something I had no say in in any case, so you can shove your Ayn Rand reference up your pantaloons please.

You'd replace the Golden Gate Bridge with a causeway that looks like the San Mateo Bridge or what we are going to get to replace the Bay Bridge I suppose?

Posted by VoxPop, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2010 at 10:25 am

Re the headline: Palo Altans fret over everything, so the act of Palo Altans fretting is hardly newsworthy.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

We need adequate AT&T cell coverage in Crescent Park; when an emergency strikes, cell coverage may be quite important.

At the moment, though, I'm one of quite a few with trouble connecting with existing AT&T cell phone towers. As a result, I sincerely hope the City approves this tower.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 11:33 am

I'm in Crescent Park and I have never had even one problem with AT&T cell phone coverage anywhere around the area. No dropped calls or anything. I'm contrasting that with when I lived over in the Midtown area off Greer I had to walk into the middle of the street to make a call around 1998. Things are getting much better, and there is no reason to make bad judgements that may be a permanent eyesore in a hasty manner.

Posted by Cell-u-lite, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I read somewhere that a tinfoil hat will protect one from cell tower radiation. Seriously people, you have a lot less to worry about from a cell tower than a phone glued to your ear. That is especially true for those folks who yack or text while driving.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The GG Bridge? I'm glad you asked. I would widen the road through the towers by strengthening the outer two thirds of the tower with high strength steel, then whacking off enough steel to accommodate three full lanes in each direction, a fixed center barrier, and except at the towers an emergency parking strip of 8 feet. The pedestrian walks would be dropped below deck level and fully enclosed to stop pedestrian jumpers. I would remove the toll booths from the South end, and collect tolls instead at the on ramps to 101 in Marin.
Then, just for the heck of it, I would repaint the assembly gold.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Anon, you are perhaps closer to the tower(s) than I; I live between Lincoln and Center and, with no doubt, the AT&T cell coverage here is less-than-optimal.

I've never had dropped calls; but, many times, the call quality has been sub-optimal with 'break-outs' and 'chopped dialogue'.

I sense this new tower proposal is not hasty in the least. In my opinion, these towers are relatively common devices; the laws -- and related regulations -- governing same have been on the books now for quite some time.

I hope we continue to innovate; but, to do so, we need coverage, whether via cable, fiber, WiMax, or cell.

Posted by matthew, a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm

electromagnetic fields ,yea god helmet,search google, Michael A. PERSINGER

Posted by AT&T sucks, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Now that Verizon is selling the iphone, new AT&T cell towers are no longer necessary.

Posted by Jerry, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

The recent study published in the British Medical Journal shows no increase incidence of cancer living near cell phone towers; however, they define "near" a tower as someone living 1100 meters from a tower -- that's over a half mile away.

If you live closer than that, you need to look at the few peer reviewed studies on this subject and these studies show an increased rate of cancer for people living within 400 meters of a tower. It would make sense to move this tower away from the school to be on the safe side....

(Wolf R, Wolf D. Increased incidence of cancer near a cell-phone transmitter station. Int J Cancer Prevention 2004;1:123-128)

Posted by LowKey, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 5, 2011 at 6:30 am

I just want to know when we are going to stop talking on our phones and start talking to people in person again.
I could swear we have completely lost that skill.
It seems like we are now entitled to never come in contact with another human being again simply because some genius invented the cell phone!!

I actually see people choosing not to find a way to interact face to face with someone, and substituting it with electronic interaction because it is convenient. Well I think it is really addictive, and we have no idea how to live even for ONE DAY without our toys and devices. We would all die!!

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 9:52 am

> I just want to know when we are going to stop talking on our phones and start talking to people in person again.

Get an iPhone and use Apple's Facetime program to videoconference, that's about as close to person-to-person as you can get.

Posted by jackson, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 11, 2011 at 9:15 am

the scientific evidence supporting radiation emissions is existent, but very minuscule. So minuscule the people behind this movement (those against the cell tower) are being incredibly ignorant. It has been proven that radioactive emissions from land line bases (those in homes, usually 2-3 per home in Palo Alto) are more substantial than cell phones or even towers. This whole scare is ridiculous. You people should grow up. And im not surprised that a bunch of church folk, of all people, are the ones who are scared. Totally devoid of science.

Posted by Max, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Okay the problem with tru love's proposal is that, it is in Rinconada park! where CHILDREN are at. And it is right next to Walter Hays School. Plus, having 2 towers over the same spot? Is it just me or is that dumb? if she is worrying about radiation, I guess she just won't ever go into the sun, not ever talk into a cell phone, or even go to the doctor for an x-ray. the point is, the radiation she is so afraid of will not do anything to her, just look at the research. do you really think they would be putting one there if they knew the radiation was going to turn them into flying monkeys? No, and to think it will is just ignorant. As jackson said, there is more radiation coming from the land lines, but nobody cares about that!

like bill cosby said about children i will say about the nay-sayers of this project. They have Brain Damage!

Posted by just thinkin', a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Has anyone had the thought of where anti-tower people got their info? They got it from the satellite broadcasted news media!

Posted by Gary B, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Decade long study of 350,000 cell phone users shows, once again, that: radiation too low to cause any damage ... does not cause any damage. This time in real life.
Web Link

Great news! Now, can we have a city wide art contest so that we have:
1. Cool looking artistic cell phone towers all over the place
2. Awesome cell phone coverage everywhere
3. City, not just Church, revenue from the above 2 benefits?

Glad this is finally settled! Let's get cracking.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

The dress code
By Jessica T | 24 comments | 2,006 views

September food and drink goings on
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,398 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 15 comments | 1,266 views

It Depends... Disguising Real Characters in Fiction
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 414 views

Twenty-five years of wedded bliss
By Sally Torbey | 0 comments | 64 views