By Jason KUROSU
Though the mountains encircling La Crescenta have often hindered cell reception locally, AT&T’s plan to erect a 70-foot cell tower at 5041 Cloud Ave. was met with strong opposition from residents – enough to deter AT&T from pursuing the tower project.
The most recent public outlet for decrying the tower was the CV Town Council’s Land Use Committee meeting Thursday night. Residents were eager to express their displeasure over the prospective tower, which would have been disguised as a Eucalyptus tree, as well as being enclosed within a wall or fence.
Karin Kim, who lives on nearby Brookhill Street, said that the tower would not only hurt property values, but would also be a safety hazard. Karin and her husband Benjamin recently sent a letter to the Land Use Committee and the Los Angeles County Dept. of Regional Planning outlining their grievances.
At the Land Use meeting, Karin Kim spoke about the concerns she had with a tower so close to her home and family, a tower which would have been visible from the Kims’ front yard.
“Having such a tall structure, a 70-foot cell phone tower, right next to so many of our homes is neither peaceful nor comforting,” said Karin.
Benjamin Kim also spoke at the meeting.
“AT&T might give you reasons why they need the tower for their business, but they don’t have to go home and live with it. We do,” said Benjamin, who also described the tower as a “fire hazard right in the middle of our neighborhood.”
Marilyn Tyler, also of Brookhill Street, cited the denial of a similar 2011 Altadena cell tower project as the correct course of action. The Altadena tower, which was intended to be 100 feet tall, was also supposed to be similarly disguised (as a pine tree in this instance), but was found by the Los Angeles County board of supervisors to be inconsistent with the rest of the neighborhood.
Jerry Ambrose, a land use consultant with AT&T, said that the tower was intended to “fill a gap in our service.”
Ambrose also said that the location at Cloud Avenue was one of only a few locations feasible for the tower and that the county had rejected an earlier proposal for a 45-foot tower in a different location.
AT&T released a statement on the day following the Land Use meeting that stated that they were no longer pursuing the tower project.
The statement reads, “AT&T is proud to be a part of the La Crescenta community. After working with neighbors and community leaders, we have decided to withdraw our current application and continue exploring alternative possible locations to upgrade wireless service in the area to close our coverage gap. We will continue working to provide our customers in La Crescenta with the best possible wireless experience.”
Following the release of AT&T’s statement, many of the residents who attended the Land Use meeting described their concerns to the Crescenta Valley Water District. The residents had planned to attend the following Tuesday night meeting of the CVWD to protest the tower, which would have been constructed on CVWD property. Many decided to speak to the district’s board regardless of AT&T’s withdrawal.
Richard Lyans, who lives near the proposed tower site, showed the CVWD board a video he recorded at the cell phone tower located near Orange Avenue. Lyans hoped to illustrate both the sound produced by such a tower and the amount of debris that falls from these structures. Lyans showed fallen branches in the video and also brought some debris he collected from beneath the tower, including small sections of branches and brackets that had fallen from the tree.
“Could you imagine the lawsuit or potential problems if something came down and hit someone in the community around there?” said Lyans. “We understand that we need cell phone towers. That being said, we just don’t want to have to see this come up again.”
Marilyn Tyler was upset that she was not notified by CVWD that the project was proceeding “until four weeks before final project approval.”
“What reassurance will you give us that, in the future, if you plan any projects for that Cloud Avenue property, you will notify us in a timely fashion as soon as possible?”
CVWD board of directors president James Bodnar said the decision for a cell tower at Cloud Avenue was made in order to “minimize the impact to the community,” in regards to potential health hazards. Bodnar said the other locations for the tower would have proved more hazardous to the community, such as one which near residential properties, as well as an elementary school.
Board member Judy Tejada recommended that the board set policies to not allow any structures which could potentially harm the health of nearby residents or ruin the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
“I take it very seriously when you ask us, ‘Would you want that in your backyard?’” she said.
Board member Kathy Ross said public outcry over cell phone tower disputes in the past changed her mind about the issue. She said that the water district’s interest in cell phone towers stemmed from the desire to “increase revenues without increasing water rates.”
“That’s a reason why we have looked at it, but we don’t want to do it to the detriment of our community,” Ross said.
Karin Kim was pleased with the result and encouraged by the community’s involvement in the tower issue.
Kim stated, “Our community of neighbors has learned many important lessons from this fight. I, for one, have learned that we are a community of people who love our town and will go above and beyond to protect it. And in order to do so, we need to be informed and aware.”
It Takes a Community
By Mary O’KEEFE
The recent cell tower reversal from AT&T has meant more to residents than simply winning a battle. It has shown neighbors the real power of the community.
“I felt alone,” said Marilyn Tyler when she first found out about the proposed cell phone tower.
AT&T had applied with Los Angeles County for the construction of a 70-foot tower to be placed on the property owned by Crescenta Valley Water District in the 5000 block of Cloud Avenue. The property is in the middle of a neighborhood and, for Tyler, the real issue was how close the tower would be to her home.
“The proposed cell tower location was 40 feet from my property boundary and about 100 feet from my house. So if the tower fell, it would have fallen into my swimming pool,” she said.
Neighbors had received a postcard size notification of the tower that would be approved, or not approved, at a meeting on Feb. 18. Many of the neighbors ignored the postcard at first. The tower was originally proposed in April 2013.
“The county rejected it,” said Jaime Moore, AT&T spokeswoman.
L.A. County wanted to keep that proposed area vacant for a possible road extension. So AT&T moved the proposed location to another area on the same property.
“And that [required] a much larger tower,” Moore said.
The county had reviewed the new application and the postcards were mailed out.
Tyler went to a neighbor, postcard in hand, to share her concerns. The neighbor had seen a photo concerning the tower in the CVW.
“I began to walk the neighborhood and talk to neighbors,” Tyler said.
That one action, talking to her neighbors, began a firestorm of conversation and planning.
Tyler contacted Karin Kim and Richard Lyans. Then this group began to gather information.
“Karin played a major role. She dug up a lot of the documents we [presented] at the CV Water District meeting,” Lyans said. The documents included the recorded deed of the property now owned by CVWD with conditions of how the property would be used, down to the color of the water tanks.
Lyans gives much credit to Tyler for informing the neighbors.
The three had several meetings to go over strategy and researching everything that had to do with cellphone towers and property lines.
Their real power, though, came from their focused organization. They had enough information to present their case to the CV Town Council/Land Use Committee and CVWD in an articulate manner.
“When those people came to the Land Use Committee meeting, they were organized. They did their homework. I was really impressed,” said Robbyn Battles, president of CVTC.
A petition was started; Tyler gives credit to Lyans, who in turn gives credit to Tyler for the petition. They contacted all neighbors who would be affected by the tower and 76% of them signed against its installation.
When they went to the Land Use meeting, they not only had the petition but a display poster indicating the homeowners who signed, giving a clear visual of how affective the outreach was.
Lyans, Kim and Tyler said they felt the experience has made them and their neighborhood stronger.
“This could have slipped under our notice easily if it were not for Marilyn,” Kim said.
Lyans has lived in his home for over 30 years and said this experience allowed him to really get to know neighbors who he had previously only known by name or to whom he only said hello.
Kim wanted to thank every person who had shared their concern and had shown them support.
“Everyone became passionate [about the issue],” she said.
And what they have learned they now want to share. The three want to help other neighborhoods that may face tower issues.
AT&T representatives attended the Land Use Committee meeting, listened to the neighbors and took what they said into consideration. Shortly thereafter they withdrew their proposal.
“I appreciate [AT&T] taking action so quickly after the Land Use meeting. And Christy Scott from [CV Water District] had been very helpful,” Kim said. “It was the right result.”