By Mary O’KEEFE
Residents in Crescenta Valley have battled telecommunication companies in the past when the cellphone corporations have applied to build antenna towers in local neighborhoods and parks.
Most recently AT&T had applied, and had been denied, their bid to put up a tower, disguised as a palm tree, in Dunsmore Park. Arguments ranged from aesthetics to danger of radiation. Although there have been recent studies that link cancer to cellphone use, studies of antennas do not seem to support that same level of concern.
“Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cellphone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea. In theory, there are some important points that would argue against cellular phone towers being able to cause cancer,” according to the American Cancer Society.
However that did not deter residents from voicing their concerns, many stating there has not been enough time from the development of the cellphone towers to present day use to acquire accurate data on the health concerns. But health issues were not the only problem citizens had with the towers.
Residents near the 5000 block of Cloud Avenue woke up one morning in 2014 to find that the Crescenta Valley Water District had planned on leasing a portion of its property to house a 70-foot tower. The tower would have been 40 feet from the boundary of one of the resident’s property, 100 feet from their home. Their concern was related to the strong winds the CV area is subject to at times and the effect those winds would have on the towers. Their fear was of finding the tower toppling onto their home.
Another resident was concerned about the constant humming noise coming from the towers. And many were worried about the value of their property being negatively affected.
Each time the telecommunication companies have wanted to build a tower, they have had to apply to city or county planning departments to get approval. It was at these meetings that concerned residents were able to express their concerns. Knowing how important those meetings have been in the past, CVW readers had recently related their concerns about AB2788, a bill proposed by Assemblymember Mike Gatto.
According to the bill, it “would permit the use of a small cell, as defined, without a city or county discretionary permit aesthetic review in all zoning districts, subject only to a building permit or administrative permit, as applicable.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, AB2788 has been tabled.
“It is not moving forward,” confirmed Eric Menjivar, a spokesman for Gatto’s office. “The policy deadline is next week, and we are not going to meet that.”
The hearing concerning the bill had been scheduled for Tuesday but had been postponed to next week. That would not allow Gatto’s office enough time to craft the “best proposal” possible, he added.
The origin of the bill came from the fact that telecommunication companies would soon begin to roll out their 5G wireless services; at present 4G is the fastest service available. To prepare for this new technology, the assemblymember wanted to create a proposal that would allow residents to get up-to-date technology service.
The small cell devices mentioned in the bill would be added to an existing pole, like a utility pole or lamppost.
“It is not a tower, it is a small cell … of 21 cubic feet on all poles and 28 cubic feet on non pole structures,” Menjivar said.
Since the introduction of the bill Gatto’s office has heard from cities’ and counties’ representatives who were concerned about the bill, including how it would affect historical districts.
The office, Menjivar said, had been in discussion with several representatives and community members. If the bill were to go forward Gatto was planning on reaching out to more city and county reps as well as community members on amendments to the bill. This is something Gatto has historically done with bills. He knows how long these types of discussions can take so with the postponement of the hearing there would not be enough time for outreach and to amend AB 2788, if necessary.
This means the bill will not come back around this year and with Gatto being termed out of the Assembly it is essentially dead. That, however, does not mean it cannot be taken up by another legislator next year and, if it does, it is certain the residents who have gone to battle against the towers in the past will be on hand to make certain their voices are heard again.