old-cell-phone.jpgIn terms of invisible beings dispensing wisdom and guidance from the ether, God tends to take a backseat to mobile devices for most questioning San Franciscans (for whom Leviticus has not once told where to have sushi, while Foursquare has always, always been there with answers to those heaviest of questions).

But sometimes even the almighty cell phone draws our ire. A few months after a group of radiation-worried city residents convinced a Mission District church to abandon plans to put cellular antennae in its steeple, a Sunset District synagogue has also kiboshed a similar scheme, which could have netted the house of worship up to $5,000 a month.

Congregation Ner Tamid, at 1250 Quintara Street, had signed a lease with T-Mobile that would have allowed the cell carrier to install a 2,750-watt macroantennae in the synagogue’s dome, according to city planner Adrian Putra. Under the deal, the cell carrier would have rebuilt the synagogue’s dome as well as provided monthly payments to the synagogue.

Neighbors like Senta Anderson opposed the deal as soon as it was announced last November. Anderson, who lives a block away and has a two-year old child, is one of a group of residents fearful of cell phone radiation, and specifically the radiation that would have emanated from the synagogue’s dome. She and others blanketed the neighborhood with fliers warning about the antennae’s harmful effects, and while she “not once” met face to face with synagogue leaders, she feels her efforts helped nix the project, and save at least a part of the Sunset from radiation.

“There’s seven schools within 1,000 feet of the synagogue, a senior center, and a Russian preschool in the basement of the synagogue,” said Anderson, who added that cell coverage in the immediate area is already excellent. “It’s craziness.”

Calls to the synagogue were not returned, but the synagogue informed the Planning Department it withdrew its application on August 2, according to Putra.

Ner Tamid’s deal with T-Mobile is not unique. St. Matthews Lutheran Church at 3281 16th Street abandoned a similar deal with T-Mobile in June, according to city planner Delvin Washington. Other houses of worship may have similar deals — Anderson warned of a congregation-less church in Miraloma Park planning on turning its vacant belfry into a moneymaking cell tower — but exact details were not immediately available from Planning.

As the Examiner reported earlier this month, recent permit violations have temporarily halted all of T-Mobile’s antenna installation plans. Only three cell phone carriers — Verizon, AT&T and Clearwire — are currently allowed to go forward with cell tower construction in San Francisco.

But if there’s already hundreds of antennae and towers emitting cancer-causing rays in San Francisco already, what’s one more — especially if it’ll help a cash-strapped house of God along? In Ner Tamid’s case, not only was it unnecessary, it was a future investment: it was to be installed in case of a future 4G network, according to Anderson.

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