Guest Commentary: Radio Tower Represents a Threat To Environment

tower.jpgRadio Tower proposal threatens wetland birds. Bright, white strobes would bring impacts on community

By Eileen M. Samitz, Pam Nieberg and Alan Pryor

On December 6th, the Davis City Council will consider a resolution by the Open Space and Habitat Commission strongly opposing a proposal by Results Radio, a Santa Rosa radio conglomerate, to build a new tower at the Yolo County Central Landfill.  The proposed tower, at 365 feet, will be taller than the Statue of Liberty.  This massive structure will be 30 feet at its base and have three extremely bright white strobe lights (one at the top and two at the 200 foot level).  These strobe lights are required by new FAA regulations, and would create much more visual pollution than any other tower in Yolo County. Each of the three strobes would flash 40 times per minute, 24 hours a day at an intensity of 20,000 candelas during daytime, dawn, and dusk, and 2,000 candelas at night – creating unacceptable blight on the northern border of Davis.

Wildlife experts have concluded that because the proposed tower is located in the heavily-used Pacific Flyway adjacent to the Davis Wetlands Project and the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area, the disorienting effects of the strobe lights on birds would cause unacceptable bird deaths due to numerous bird collisions.  To add insult to injury, Results Radio wants to locate their visual and environmental blight in Yolo County, but move their offices and jobs to Sacramento!

Results Radio has been relentless in their pursuit of dumping this enormous radio tower next to Davis.  First, they tried a site near North Davis Farms/Northstar, then they tried a site near El Macero/Willowbank, and then they made their first attempt to locate at the landfill near Wildhorse/Mace Ranch.  Each time they were unsuccessful.  They finally withdrew their FCC application to relocate KMJE (FM 101.5) from Sutter County to Yolo County when the FCC refused to approve their tower at the landfill site.

But now, despite strong opposition from environmental groups including the Yolo Audubon Society, Tuleyome, and the Sierra Club Yolano group, as well as numerous Davis residents, they are back for a second try at the landfill.  After apparently gaming the FCC regulatory process, they quietly flew a FCC reapplication in under the radar, and are now seeking discretionary approval from the Yolo County Board of Supervisors to renew their expired building permit.  This hearing will be held at 9 am on Tuesday, December 13th in Woodland.

It’s time for the City Council to send an unambiguous message to Yolo County that this proposed tower is unacceptable anywhere near Davis.  We urge the Council to vigorously oppose renewal of the Results Radio building permit by the County on the following grounds:

1)     The Open Space and Habitat Commission has passed a resolution opposing this enormous tower and any future towers near the wetlands.

2)     It violates the historic “Greenline” Memorandum of Understanding between Davis, Woodland, and Yolo County which calls for the exclusion of all urban uses between County Roads 27 and 29.

3)     It violates the Pass-Through Agreement between Davis and Yolo County which gives the city the authority to exclude urban uses within the Davis sphere-of-influence (which includes the landfill).

4)     It violates Federal guidelines from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the location of towers to minimize wildlife impacts, which state that towers “should not be sited in or near wetlands, other known bird concentration areas (e.g., State or Federal refuges, staging areas, rookeries), in known migratory or daily movement flyways, or in habitat of threatened or endangered species.  Towers should not be sited in areas with a high incidence of fog, mist, and low ceilings.”

5)     It would create highly intrusive visual blight that will ruin the agricultural vistas and dark skies throughout the entire area.

6)     It would cause huge quality-of-life impacts to all the surrounding farms and residences along the north and northeast edge of the city.

Davis has invested a tremendous amount of effort and resources in protecting both the agricultural heritage and the natural environment and habitat around the outskirts of the city.  If Yolo County is allowed to advance the proposed Results Radio tower, it would make a mockery of these many efforts.

During the first attempt by Results Radio to build at the landfill, the City made the determination that the proposal is in violation of the Pass-Through Agreement.  Astonishingly, City Staff  incorrectly asserted that this profoundly damaging radio tower proposal did not violate the “spirit” of the agreement because the effects on farming per se would be “negligible”.  What about adverse wildlife impacts?  What about the “spirit” of the Greenline MOU and the Pass-Through Agreement? What about protecting Davis’ quality of life impacted by the visual blight created by this tower?

Staff’s narrow, pro-urbanization interpretation of this vitally important agreement is not only incorrect, it puts us on a slippery slope eroding the integrity of the Pass-Through Agreement.  This should not be tolerated by our Council.  This could lead to Davis having a regional concentration of antenna towers on its borders.

Please call or write the City Council regarding this very important issue and urge them to:

1)     Oppose the locating of the Results Radio tower anywhere near the wetlands or in the Davis sphere-of-influence.

2)     Accept the Resolution of the Open Space and Habitat Commission by adopting the recommendations and its policies.

3)     Invoke our right under the Pass-Through Agreement to veto this urban use which lies within both our sphere-of-influence and the protected Greenline.

Please also attend and testify at the public hearings on December 6th for City Council and on December 13th for the Board of Supervisors. Your written input to the Supervisors is needed as well.  Please help protect the birds of the wetlands and our quality of life.

For more information contact the Davis Coalition for Good Planning via Eileen Samitz at or 756-5165; or Pam Nieberg at or 756-6856.

Eileen Samitz is a former Davis Planning Commissioner, Pam Nieberg is an environmental activist and Alan Pryor is an environmental engineer.

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  1. Matt Williams

    [i]”2) It violates the historic “Greenline” Memorandum of Understanding between Davis, Woodland, and Yolo County which calls for the exclusion of all urban uses between County Roads 27 and 29.”[/i]

    As provided on [url][/url] the wording of the “Greenline” MOU is as follows:
    “The undersigned Chairman of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Mayor of the City of Davis and Mayor of the City of Woodland, on behalf of our respective Board of Supervisors and City Councils, and on behalf of the constituents whom we represent, do hereby enter into this Memorandum of Understanding. We declare and affirm our mutual commitment to the protection and preservation of agricultural lands and open space, our desire to avoid urban sprawl, and our intent that there shall be no urban development North of County Road 29 and South of County Road 27 as between the communities of Davis and Woodland. This Memorandum of Understanding shall not preclude further actions by our respective Board and Councils, nor further memoranda of understanding to preserve agricultural lands and open space, to avoid urban sprawl and to curtail urban development as appropriate.”[/i]

    After quoting the MOU wording Dave Rosenberg concludes his article with the following words:

    [i]”The result is, frankly, awesome. By our signatures, some 11,623 acres of agricultural land and open space between Davis and Woodland will be protected from urban development. While the MOU is “non-binding”, it is an important symbolic step for the county and the cities. The MOU now joins a long list of actions by our cities and the county to protect agriculture including a County and City General Plans, funds for agricultural preservation easements, a Pass-Through Agreement between the County of Yolo and the City of Davis, and land use policies that protect farmland.
    Yolo County is rightfully proud of its agricultural heritage. However, we must continue to be vigilant and imaginative if we are to withstand the challenges of future urban sprawl, and protect agriculture into the 21st Century.”[/i]

    Bottom-line, there has not been a reduction of even one single acre of those 11,623 acres of agricultural land and open space as a result of the approval by Yolo County of the Results Radio tower application. The tower has been approved for already urbanized land that was already urbanized prior to the signing of the “Greenline” MOU.

  2. roger bockrath

    At the risk of being perceived as simple minded, I have to wonder why the existing 500 ft. tower located about a quarter mile from the proposed landfill site could not be used by whomever currently broadcasts from it, as well as the Results Radio folks. Or is that too simple to work?

  3. Matt Williams

    Excellent question roger. I asked the exact same question of CBS the owner of the 500 ft. tower over 2 years ago. The answer from CBS was that the “tower was full.” Visually, that didn’t make sense to me. There seemed to be plenty of open area on the tower to accept additional mounted equipment. Their answer to me was very enlightening. Bottom-line the “fullness” of the tower is determined by the cumulative amount of wind shear that the mounted equipment contributes. So despite the visual evidence to the untrained eye, the 500ft. CBS tower is “full.”

  4. Anon

    On the “fullness” issue. IMO it is just as likely that Results Radio got exactly the answer from CBS that they wanted.

    In other words, their “request” for space on the Road 102 tower may have been just as phony as their “relocation” to the existing Dunnigan Hills tower this summer.

    They appear to have staged this relocation to get field data to exploit a loophole in the FCC interference regulations that had previously led to a denial of their FCC application for the landfill site. Perhaps they also staged the CBS response to get around the CEQA requirement to look at alternatives.

    It would certainly be helpful if a qualified radio engineer could take an independent look at the Road 102 tower and give an informed expert opinion.

    Why would they do this? A new tower is a significant revenue generating asset. It’s probably less about KMJE than it is about creating new leasable space.

    In addition, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service siting guidelines state that all new towers should be located to the maximum extent possible in existing “antenna farms.” If Results Radio can get the camel’s nose under the tent at the landfill, then they would have the inside track to exploit this regulation — and the precedent that Yolo County violated the Pass-Through Agreement and the City of Davis looked the other way — to build more towers on the landfill.

    As I was writing this, I just had a epiphany as to why Sears and Hiatt have circled the wagons to defend Hess’s ridiculous claim that the proposed tower is consistent with the “spirit” of the Pass-Through Agreement and the Greenline MOU. Our senior staff must be conflating “antenna farms” with “agriculture.”

  5. Adam Smith

    As long as anon is attributing motives to behavior for which that he/she has no proof, I’ll join in. It strikes me, given the anon’s “fact” about radio towers being revenue generating assets, that CBS, instead of being duped into a “staged” response, would actually be significantly motivated to work with Results Radio, so that they could capture some of this significant revenue. Matt Williams’ report from CBS was that the tower was full, and couldn’t accept any more equipment – if the tower wasn’t full, why would they say so? It seems they would be very motivated to find other equipment to mount on the tower.

  6. Matt Williams

    Actually Adam and Anon, I personally contacted CBS myself . . . and had Yolo County contact them as well. Results Radio wasn’t part of that particular communication process.

  7. Adam Smith

    [i]When the Concil voted last night, their bottom-line was, as it should have been . . . the bird strike issue. [/i]

    Matt – can you clarify what the CC voted to do?

  8. Anon

    I never said that CBS was duped. There are any number of ways the outcome could have been orchestrated – ranging from outright collusion to asking for much more space on the tower than was reasonably necessary to accommodate KMJE. There is no evidence in the record that MW or the County had any contacts with CBS that predate the contacts from Results Radio. And hearsay from one of Results Radio’s political advocates does not count as credible evidence.

    Regarding the suggestion that my argument is wrong and that Results Radio and CBS would have been incented to do a deal – quite the contrary. On the CBS tower Results Radio would be a leasor. On their own tower they would be the leasee. In this situation owning is much more profitable than renting.

    If, as I’ve speculated, KMJE is secondary to a broader agenda of getting a new tower entitled, then leasing space on the CBS tower was never part of their game plan.

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