Misrepresentations and Omissions at the Planning Commission Meeting

KOWS has misrepresented information in their presentation to Planning Commissioners, and in other publicly available venues and documents, in four critical areas:


  • Alternative sites
  • Current location stability
  • EMF exposures 
  • Visual impact



Respini Ranch was first suggested as a potential relocation site in December of 2014.  It was and is still considered an excellent site for many reasons– it is easily expedited, far less expensive, with no visual impact (in a tree, as at the OAEC), creates an expanded signal range including Sebastopol, and does not require a frequency shift.

KOWS has commissioned several technical studies at Respini Ranch, including a Longley-Rice Survey and a test broadcast. It was analyzed, along with the Pleasant Hill site, in June 2015, in order to “provide to the KOWS Steering Committee a clearer set of alternatives for review and discussion.”

As recorded in the Steering Committee notes from June 2015 :

“The Respini Ranch location is still viable for a modification to our FCC waiver while staying at 107.3 FM, because it is within the short spaced allowable locations as originally determined by Michael Brown (radio engineer).”

When asked repeatedly by Planning Commissioners about other sites they had considered, KOWS never mentioned Respini Ranch. Yet Respini Ranch was so much of a contender that it was down to a final choice between the two sites, Respini Ranch and Pleasant Hill Reservoir, according to the KOWS Steering Committee notes on August 26 of last year.  At this special meeting, in which the Antenna Relocation Committee (ARC) presented ultimate relocation options to the Steering Committee, the two sites were closely compared regarding expense, speed of relocation, and range.

It was stated that “either site would provide a better and wider signal than we currently have to the west county”.

At the February 23rd Planning Commission Meeting, all but one planning commissioner suggested that further information be forthcoming regarding alternative sites.  SHARP believes that withholding information about Respini Ranch left some commissioners with the false impression that KOWS had no other alternatives.

The KOWS Steering Committee was still considering Respini Ranch as a possible site during their March meeting this year, two weeks after the Planning Commission meeting.  Clearly Respini Ranch has been a well-considered alternative for KOWS, and still could be. But coupled with the misleading statements about their current status at the OAEC, KOWS omission of discussion about this important alternative site was critical in contriving the impression of a station in peril.



When asked directly by Commissioner Michael Jacob if KOWS was able to stay at the current OAEC site, KOWS host John Parry said that they had been asked to leave the OAEC in Occidental, creating the false impression that the station would be in jeopardy of failing if it were not able to move to the Pleasant Hill site.

When he was questioned about whether KOWS was asked to leave the OAEC by a SHARP member, OAEC Director Dave Henson responded that KOWS had initiated their own departure, and that they were invited to stay at the OAEC as long as they needed to. His comments are corroborated by KOWS own Steering Committee notes from September 9, 2013, when Henson, who was present at the meeting, spoke on the subject:

“Dave Henson is giving KOWS all the time it needs to make our independence happen and also said very generously that all of the equipment used by KOWS will be donated to KOWS from the OAEC when the time times. He also said our place in the tree (the antenna and transmitter) is secure and can be used until they find another location.”

But at the Planning Commission meeting, KOWS told a different story.

Michael Jacob: “So you could maintain your radio station by keeping your antenna at OAEC, or have you given up that right by making this application?”

John Parry: “They have asked us to leave that site. They used to be our fiscal sponsor, they’ve asked not to do that, so we became our own 501(c)3 and they want us to be out by June.” He then amended that statement to say there had not been an exact date given, but “that’s what they want us to do.”

Jacob: “I don’t want us to feel like we are being asked to save the station, but I’m also hearing that if we deny it …we could be shutting KOWS downThey’ve looked, there’s one place to put this tower, and they can’t keep it where it is for very long.”

The current site is in fact guaranteed. The station is streaming online and will be able to do so no matter what happens with its broadcasting antenna. There is no threat at all.



KOWS has been quoting from an NIER report from 2006 to describe the harmlessness of EMF emissions that would be generated at the proposed Pleasant Hill site. They have done so both directly to Planning Commissioners and more explicitly in public blog posts.

The problem is that the 2006 report was specific to the antennas and transmission at the current OAEC site. That site has a completely different radiation profile than the proposed site. Power densities as well as proximity to nearby homes and property lines are vastly different.

The EMF exposure is 100 times greater at the proposed site than at the current one. In some circumstances, described in the KOWS Pleasant Hill Reservoir NIER Report, it is 5000 times greater.

By creating the impression that EMF exposure at the proposed site is significantly less than it really is, KOWS encouraged Planning Commissioners to dismiss important health issues that could effect residents who are, as one commissioner put it, “slammed right up against these water tanks.”

It is certainly in KOWS best interest to try to sweep this serious concern under the carpet.  But it is alarmingly self-serving to attempt to alter perceptions of decision makers regarding the actual EMF exposure that residents would be experiencing, 24 hours a day, for the foreseeable future.



KOWS information packet to neighbors and the city’s Staff Report include a photo-shopped representation of the proposed antenna tower at the Pleasant Hill Reservoir site. This photo shows the tower backed by eucalyptus trees taller than the tower itself, and providing the appearance of a buffer of branches and leaves for most,if not all, of its height.

The trees in the photo are actually more than 800 feet from the tower site, on a property on the far side of Lawrence Lane.  A balloon lofted by SHARP at the site demonstrated what we already knew, that those trees do nothing whatsoever to mitigate the proposed tower’s stark appearance against the sky for any of the neighbors, who would see it completely unscreened from the windows of their homes, yards and gardens.

KOWS’ attempt to mislead the city and the neighbors regarding the visual impact of its proposed tower raises serious concerns about honesty. KOWS has repeatedly claimed ” total transparency” in communications with the city and with neighbors, but this doctored photo raises serious questions about the group’s willingness to reconfigure the truth to achieve their own goals.




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©2019 SHARP Watch

SHARP - Sebastopol Hills Alliance for Rural Preservation Preserving the natural beauty and character of the West Sonoma County Hills, for today and for future generations. Next action: Limit the proliferation of CELL PHONE Towers in the Hills of Sebastopol.

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