The City of San Diego continues to lease public park space to cell-phone companies as attorneys for the city prepare to defend the practice in court.
On May 12, planning commissioners will consider a proposal from Sprint to remove three antennae affixed to flag poles at the Canyonside Recreation Center in Rancho Peñasquitos and install a 45-foot-tall faux eucalyptus tree that conceals 12 antennae and 24 remote radio units.
That same day, commissioners will consider whether to approve a proposal from T-Mobile to install two 70-foot-tall light poles, with three antennae affixed to each pole, at Linda Vista Park near the University of San Diego. The cables running from the poles will lead to a 288-square-foot outdoor enclosure.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the city are prepping for a June 3 trial in a lawsuit filed by a group of residents that says the city is breaking the law by leasing public land to private companies.
The group of residents that filed the lawsuit became involved after learning of a proposal from AT&T to build a wireless facility at Cliffridge Park in La Jolla. After researching the issue, they became aware of dozens of similar leases at public parks, such as Ridgewood Park in Rancho Bernardo.
During the course of the past ten years, the city has grown comfortable with renting out park space to cell-phone companies. As reported by the Reader, the city has entered into more than 30 such agreements, which generate over one million dollars in revenue annually.
Residents against the selling of park space to cell companies point to a specific passage in San Diego's city charter that states:
"All real property owned in fee by the City heretofore or hereafter formally dedicated in perpetuity by ordinance of the Council or by statute of the State Legislature for park, recreation or cemetery purposes shall not be used for any but park, recreation or cemetery purposes without such changed use or purpose having been first authorized or later ratified by a vote of two-thirds of the qualified electors of the City voting at an election for such purpose."
According to Craig Sherman, the attorney representing the residents, the city is denying any wrongdoing.
"I believe a successful lawsuit by my client Don't Cell Our Parks will serve as precedent to stop the city from allowing commercial and non-recreational uses in San Diego's park spaces."