Council poised to battle 5G tech to whatever extent it can

CYNICAL RUSE Items left out as “free” for the taking, like this couch near Bayside Road apartment buildings, are often unusable, the offer just an evasion of responsibility for disposal. KLH | Union

Electeds ponder roadside debris, hear APD reforms

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – The City Council on Sept. 16 continued the Local Emergency related to the COVID-29 pandemic, as it does every two weeks in order to respond pro-actively, and to potentially gain reimbursements. 

“There is still a significant threat to our community from the emergency,” states a staff report.

It then proceeded to process several substantive agenda items, starting with reform of the city’s waste disposal policies and procedures, continuing on to 5G regulation and police reform. 

On Sept. 2, the council heard a state-of-the-waste briefing from Linda Wise of Recology Arcata covering recycling, program functionality and contamination of garbage recycling carts. In the offing are changes and amendments to the city’s agreement with Recology, with last week’s discussion setting the stage for negotiations.

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Issues identified by staff started with the omnipresent discards – from clothing to housewares to furniture – that find their way onto Arcata’s roadside, often under cover of night. To reduce the illicit and illegal 

dumpage, which costs the city to clean up, free, twice-yearly pickups of bulky items could be expanded to multifamily dwellings such as apartment buildings. 

“We that a lot of the roadside furniture, mattresses and things of that nature may be coming from the multifamily sector,” said Environmental Services Director Mark Andre. 

However, the expanded service could require changes to rates charged for such dwellings. 

With participation key to keeping costs down, up to 350 residential parcels in Arcata don’t get or have “opted out” of curbside collection service. However, the city can revoke the exclusions if the property owner is found caught dumping, as has happened. 

Andre said the city has “concerns” about some of the exemptions, and that compliance is hard to verify. 

A voluntary pilot green waste program currently has about 500 participants, or 10 percent of eligible residences, who pay $4 a month for bi-weekly pickup of a 96-gallon container. That could be made a regular voluntary service, as the pilot program has demonstrated the need. “It fills gaps for sure in green waste diversion,” Andre said.

Other tweaks include increasing education about recycling contamination, charging a fee for recycling that contains garbage, and providing smaller recycling bins for those with reduced need.

Andre said the city is discussing street sweeping service with Recology, as Arcata’s latest street sweeper is aging. An electric version is being researched as well.

Councilmember Paul Pitino was concerned about trash receptacles being left out all the time in many areas, blocking sidewalks. He wanted businesses and residences that don’t take them in to face potential fines. Andre said loose bins violate the Arcata Municipal Code, and can be more vigorously enforced. 

City Manager Karen Diemer said that duty might possibly be transferred to Recology, but Pitino was skeptical. Wise said Recology could charge customers extra for bins habitually left out, based on citizen reports.

Councilmember and Humboldt Waste Management Authority Boardmember Sofia Pereira said that agency’s staff has been asked to look into regional CRV redemption options, and that Recology could play a role. 

Councilmember Brett Watson was interested in expanding CRV redemption options in Arcata. Andre said staff would explore ways to improve CRV redemption accessibility. 

Mayor Michael Winkler wanted to know if Recology could handle graffiti removal, a particular interest of his. Wise referred the city to a company called Cleanscape in Seattle that does that.

Diemer said staff would firm up possible amendments and bring them back to the council. 

Small cell wireless (5G)

The next item, which brought the most public comment, was regulation of 5G or small cell wireless installations.

In August, an appeals court issued a ruling, which could still be revised by further litigation. The ruling severely limits the city’s power to regulate 5G. 

As it presently stands, the city may reasonably regulate small cell installations for aesthetic reasons “as long the requirements do not unreasonably discriminate between small cell facilities and other wireless technologies,” states a staff report. 

That, said City Attorney Nancy Diamond, could require revisions of the Land Use Code to enshrine whatever aesthetic criteria the city wishes to enforce.

However, the city has no power under current federal law to prohibit construction, other than some limited control on city-owned property. Further, it must process applications within 60 days for existing infrastructure and 90 days for new installations.

The city does have some wiggle room, but that’s about it. “Without further action by the City, installations of small cell facilities on City-owned property would be subject to the City’s encroachment permit process and to the fee structure imposed by the FCC Small Cell Order,” reads a staff report. “A City ordinance could provide greater detail to the processing of the encroachment permit process especially for small cell installations.”

Councilmembers acknowledged the limits on the city’s regulatory power, but were interested in maximizing whatever discretion it may have.

“The only thing I know, is I want as much control as I can get,” Pitino said. 

He wanted more detail on the physical appearance and locations of the small cell installations in order to make aesthetic judgments, with maximum distance between any transmitters and schools and hospitals. He also wanted more information on a new fiberoptic cable being installed and soon to reach our shores and possibly passing through Arcata.

Pitino further questioned the need for 5G. “Really, why do I want 5G anyway?” He asked. He said he and his “compatriots” were doing fine with the present level of connectivity.

5G, or fifth-generation wireless technology, offers expanded speed, bandwidth and reach. Advocates say it will help make possible new technologies such as driverless vehicles, augmented and virtual reality, telemedicine and more, plus improved reliability and lower latency. It is already available in other areas of the U.S. and other countries.

Also discussed – but not defined for the viewing public – was a possible “dig once” policy. Such policies involve installing fiberoptic cable and conduit during construction projects, reducing the need for future installation work.

Options for a “dig once” policy are being developed by staff for future council consideration.

Councilmembers agreed to focus on aesthetic standards and make modifications to the Land Use Code to bring it into alignment with 5G law and policy.

Members of the public urged the council to look into potential health impacts of 5G technology.

“I would urge you guys to do whatever you can to keep this out of our community,” said Suzanne Nye. She said 5G is untested, not proven safe and poses a threat to the public, with proliferating cell towers “surrounding us with untested and unsafe radiation.”

She called 5G “a dangerous and grand experiment” that would only benefit large corporations and billionaires.

R.D. Fiero said 5G is “potentially dangerous to every life form” and could be “weaponized.” He called for special meetings to discuss the issue.

 A woman named Holly urged the council three times to “do your research” by consulting Internet sources. She was concerned about radiation absorption, saying 5G hasn’t been evaluated for environmental impacts. 

She said a petition drive is underway to oppose 5G and referred to other communities that have acted against the new technology.

Kent Sawatsky said aesthetic requirements could be used as a “monkeywrench,” to minimize profit margins and retard 5G expansion.

Chelsea Kimzey was dismayed that money was being invested into 5G when homelessness remains rampant, and that health impacts weren’t more throughly discussed. “I do not agree with any sort of 5G in this community,” she said.

Abigail Porter urged the council to exert maximum control, and was concerned over health risks. 

A man named Anthony said 5G is “being forced on us,” and wanted to know who owns the facilities and their potential for surveillance.

Christopher Kieslhorst was “Adamantly opposed” to increased cellular activity, preferring fiberoptic cable as a “safe and proven method.”

Diamond said a “complete and total ban” isn’t possible, but that some areas might be potentially placed off limits pending further research. She said health impacts are solely determined by the FCC, calling that an “unfortunate restriction on local cities.”

“We need to look closely at what a ban means,” she said, before attempting such a thing in Arcata.

Watson again called for “maximum control” over the new technology, and said a petition was a “great idea” that could clarify community will.

Winkler said he was OK with restrictions as long as they were “legally justifiable” and didn’t contradict case law.

“Any way we can control or restrict this, I’m completely for that,” Pitino said.

Winkler said he was willing to have Arcata go to court to defend any restrictions citizens want and that the city might pass.

Arcata Police Department

Police Chief Brian Ahearn offered another monthly update on the continuing program of reforms underway at APD. He cited “significant advancements” to be detailed in next month’s report regarding procedural justice training, racial profiling and implicit bias training.

He said de-escalation training and  APD’s use of force policy have seen progress with assistance from the California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and use of APD’s Mobile Options Simulator (MOS) scenario training.

De-escalation training gets underway this week, and will be ongoing. States a staff report, “The de-escalation training consists of classroom training on use of force principles, recent use of force legislation, case law, legal update, use of force policy review all followed by the practical application of use of force concepts through the MOS scenarios.”

Use of Force policies are being reviewed by the Public Safety Committee (see page 2), which meets tonight. The committee will also report on post-COVID restructuring of APD and Campaign Zero, 8 Can’t Wait and 8 To Abolition platforms for police reform.

Written communications to the Public Safety Committee urged adoption of “8 to Abolition” and other police defunding initiatives. These would reallocate funding for law enforcement to social service and other community resources, plus removing police from schools and establishing community-response groups.

“Arcata has led the way in many environmental efforts in the past: let’s lead the way now to what an equitable and just community can look like,” stated citizen Marley Jarvis.


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