By Jason KUROSU
The Glendale City Council approved leases for Verizon Wireless cell towers at Fremont Park and Scholl Canyon Ballfield, one week after being deadlocked on whether to approve the towers in light of potential health concerns.
Council members said Tuesday that studies reviewed since the council’s Jan. 26 meeting, in which the council was split 2-2 on the leases (Laura Friedman was absent), reassured them that there was little evidence that electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell towers was harmful.
The reports reviewed by the council were published by the American Cancer Society, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission and World Health Organization, among others, according to a city report.
City Manager Scott Ochoa said the studies indicated that “there is no clear evidence between alleged health impacts and cellular arrays.”
The proposed installations will include a monopole at Fremont Park and antennae equipment at Scholl Canyon Ballfield, which would be concealed amongst nearby plants. Opponents believe that electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell towers pose serious health risks, including cancer, electrosensitivity, along with particular concern for the effects on children.
The lone dissenter Tuesday was council member Vartan Gharpetian, who abstained from voting, echoing statements he made a week prior, when he voted against the lease. Gharpetian remained reluctant to approve the leases without further study into the potential health effects of cellular equipment.
He advocated having a city cell tower tested to measure its levels of electromagnetic radiation output.
“I think we owe it to the residents to measure one of them, one cell tower, and see what the radiation is and go from there,” said Gharpetian.
Verizon representative William Desmond said that Verizon is required to conduct a study assuring that their towers are operating within FCC standards.
“There’s too much at stake to be found to be operating in excess of the allowable levels of exposure,” said Desmond.
Glendale resident Tony Passarella, who previously spoke against the towers at council meetings leading up to Tuesday, reiterated his opposition before the council.
Passarella used his public comment period to show a number of videos, including one where he personally made phone calls from Fremont Park to show the area’s current cell reception. Calls made in the video came through clearly.
Verizon representatives have stated that the area near the proposed tower represents a gap in its cell service coverage. Ochoa said that Verizon had performed a “gap analysis” that met FCC standards and that the council’s refusal of the lease would only push Verizon to find a lease agreement elsewhere, potentially putting the installations closer to the general public.
“If there is that gap in service that they feel that they want to restore, they’ll find someplace else to put it, whether in the right-of-way with an encroachment permit or on another private property,” Ochoa said.
Passarella drew comparisons between the cellphone and tobacco industries, saying that in both instances potentially harmful health effects were willfully ignored. Calling electromagnetic fields the heir apparent to the tobacco industry, Passarella said that EMF was the “next one on the horizon.”
Passarella put it to the council, “If there’s even a hint about the chances of health effects, especially for children, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.”
Ordinances approving leases at both sites were approved 4-0, with one abstention.