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Nearer My God To Fees, er, Thee…

God wants cell phone towers.

The proliferation of cell phone towers in Lamorinda continues, with churches and schools seemingly eager to offer their steeples or towers in exchange for much-needed Big Cell Money.

The latest “If You Don’t Have a Steeple, We’ll Build You One” kerfluffle has landed squarely on little St. Perpetua’s of Lafayette like the Eleventh Plague, dividing neighbors and church-goers along digital lines. The parish priest is ducking reporters like Bernie Madoff, parents are wailing about unseen beams and health effects, and meanwhile the scaffolding representing the steeple AT&T plans to build to house their cellie gear (I’m sorry, I have to stop a second, that part always gets me…) looms over the church, the playground, and the neighborhood whispering: “build me, build methey give you money.


Those committed enough to read this writer regularly know that the mushroom-like proliferation of cell towers around Lamorinda is nothing new. Nor are the controversies surrounding their arrival. Installation of the towers – in steeples, college campuses, in faux palm trees – has many people shaking their heads, others calling for further restrictions, and still others carefully looking the other way as long as their iPhones light up when they want them to.

St. Perpetuas is not the only school to embroil itself in this controversy. Wait, is this really a controversy? Okay, yes, I’m going to call this a controversy, because aesthetics and concerns over health issues aside you have to wonder about a community and churches and schools willing to sell out in this manner. Fracking, anyone?

Lafayette has already come up with the language to deal with proposed tower sites, and we’re likely to hear more of it as this latest proposal wends its way through city channels. But forgetting for an instant what harmful beams the towers may be sending through the heads of children playing in schoolyards below them, it has become apparent to those of us watching the issue that while most consumers seem to want and appreciate fewer dropped calls and better phone coverage – not everyone is on board.

Jewish Day School Tower

Photo, left: This not-so-artfully camouflaged tower behind the Jewish Day School in Lafayette became the focus of area derision for its attempt to blend in…

There has been some vandalism of the towers and one outright dropping – Rocky Ridge, remember? – and a burglary of the temporary mobile tower wheeled onto Saint Mary’s College property a while back. Those components, apparently, are valuable.

Groups of residents, usually living in the area of a proposed or existing tower and willing to risk the NIMBY assignation given them by pro-tower factions, have waged pitched battles against the towers here in the not-so-distant past. Burton Valley residents fought a decision to put a T-Mobile antenna in the bell tower at St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church – already home to existing Verizon Wireless equipment – and raising the church steeple to house the new gear.

Many, including it should be said – me – noted the irony in heightening a church steeple in order to accommodate telecommunications equipment, even though we’re sure the money the church or school takes from the provider will be well spent.

But, here we go again. Lessons learned? Not many. Questions about health and safety delivered with impassioned fervor? Some. Meetings to be held to discuss the issue further? Many. Money to be made by the hosting church or school? Lots.

And there it is. In all its Holy Splendor.

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