By Mary O’KEEFE
A proposed cellphone tower at 5041 Cloud Ave. in La Crescenta has residents becoming unlikely activists as they work together to stop the 70 foot tower from being placed near their houses.
“It’s going to be right across from my home,” said Marilyn Tyler, a nearby resident in the 3100 block of Brookhill Street.
The Tylers’ residence is an estimated 100 feet from the proposed tower location. Both she and her neighbors received a notice of a public hearing in the mail a few weeks ago.
“It was on a small postcard,” Tyler said.
The meeting was then scheduled for Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles, which was difficult for many to attend.
“Neighbors are very concerned,” she added. “Because we are on a hillside, the antenna [tower] will be at about 60 to 55 feet up from homes. Some of the neighbors will look right into the tower.”
That is what neighbor Richard Lyans said he will be dealing with if the tower is approved. His balcony looks out over the area.
“My primary view will be the cellphone tower,” Lyans told the CV Water District board of directors at their meeting on Tuesday night.
Several residents representing the area affected by the cell tower attended the CVWD meeting to voice their concern.
“We are not here just to complain about [potential] health [risks]; we don’t know the long term effects of that,” he said. “The aesthetics and the safety – not only being an eyesore but obstructing views and adding possible crime of people going in to steal equipment…copper and such … and a possible noise issue.”
The health risks mentioned by Lyans come from some who believe cell towers can cause cancer; however, according to the American Cancer Society, there is little evidence to support that theory and that “most scientists agree that cellphone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer.” However, “very few human studies have focused specifically on cellular phone towers and cancer risk.”
The neighbors who attended the CVWD meeting acknowledged that health risks were not their main concern but they had several other issues with the tower at the proposed location.
Lyans had walked to a tower located at the nearby Lutheran Church in the 2700 block of Orange Avenue.
“That tower doesn’t overlook neighbors’ homes,” he said. “But there is a constant hum.”
He added that the hum would be distracting if right outside his window. Lyans also works as a real estate agent and stated the tower would adversely affect the value of his and his neighbors’ homes.
“We have one neighbor who just moved in and [after hearing about the tower] his wife wants to put their house, that they have only lived in for four months, on the market,” Lyans said.
Karin Kim, another neighbor, also spoke at the CVWD meeting.
“I echo a lot of what has been said here,” she said. “I have lost sleep over this [issue].”
She added she too received the postcard notifying neighbors of the cell tower but it didn’t really catch her attention. Then Tyler, who was walking the neighborhood to inform others of the issue, told her where the tower was to be placed.
“Since then, I have been online researching,” Kim said.
Although she admitted the research linking the tower to illness is “unclear,” she added “we don’t know what will happen in 20 to 30 years, but I think we should err on the side of caution.”
“I do not believe that [the water district] should turn a blind eye to potential health risks so close to homes and schools,” she added.
She stated Valley View Elementary is about 800 feet away from the proposed tower location. Kim has two small children at home.
“I live to keep them healthy and safe,” she said. “I am asking [CVWD] to be responsible to [your customers] … some issues are beyond dollars and cents.”
The CVWD would receive $15,000 to $20,000 annually from AT&T if the tower were placed on their property. In a prior discussion, board member James Bodnar said CVWD was a community company and that it’s actions were not about profit.
The money generated would help the overall revenue of CVWD; however, neighbors asked if the monetary trade would be worth the loss of home value, concerns over health and other issues voiced at the meeting.
Tyler also attended the meeting.
“This tower is less than 100 feet from my home … whenever I step out my back door I will see the 70 foot tower disguised as a eucalypts tree,” she said.
She added she too was concerned about unknown health risks and “a very real risk of collapse.”
“We have very high winds in La Crescenta. If this falls, it will be like a 70 foot tree falling,” she said.
But that falling tree would be made of metal and in one solid piece. Both she and Lyans also worried about the windstorms and pieces of the tower blowing into the neighborhood.
Bodnar said that, to his understanding, the agreement with AT&T had not yet been finalized. CVWD gave them preliminary permission to begin the permit process, but had not signed a lease.
For their part, AT&T has searched the area looking for the most effective location and the Cloud address fits the requirements.
“There is a coverage and capacity gap. Our number one priority is customer [experience],” said Jaime Moore, spokeswoman for AT&T. “This [tower] is going to improve and upgrade our coverage in the area.”
She added AT&T does extensive research before deciding on tower placement. According to information provided by Moore, a construction team finds a suitable location to lease. Co-locating with existing facilities is considered and pursued wherever feasible. And once the company has leased a site, the approval/permit process begins.
“Right now it is in the planning stages,” she said.
AT&T is working with the community through Crescenta Valley Town Council. There is a CVTC Land Use Committee meeting on Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. and the CVTC regular monthly meeting on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. both at the La Crescenta Library, 2809 Foothill Blvd. AT&T will have representatives at both meetings.
The request for the Cloud cell tower was made to the Dept. of Regional Planning Los Angeles County.
“It has been reviewed by staff,” said Michele Bush, principal regional planning assistant.
The next step in the process is for the project to be reviewed by CVTC, which will include the public’s input of Feb. 13 and 20.
The CVTC will send its opinion to the regional planning officer who will then review it along with the recommendation from the planning staff on March 4 at 1 p.m. at 320 W. Temple St. in L.A. Whether or not the staff is for or against the tower will not be known to the public until two weeks prior to the March 4 meeting.
Whichever way the planning officer decides, an appeal process is available.
The neighbors have said they understand the need for cell towers, but feel the location that has been chosen will impact homes.
Before Lyans left the CVWD meeting he did have one question for the board.
“How many of you would like a 70 foot cell tower in your backyard?”
No one at the table raised a hand.