By Jason KUROSU
The Glendale City Council was split on whether to approve ordinances Tuesday for Verizon Wireless cell towers at Fremont Park and Scholl Canyon Ballfield, with some council members requesting more information regarding potential negative health effects prior to making a decision.
The council was poised to enter into lease agreements for the two proposed wireless facilities, but were split 2-2 (councilmember Laura Friedman was absent) when the ordinances came up for a vote. The facilities would include a monopole at Fremont Park and antennae equipment at Scholl Canyon Ballfield. Both installations would be concealed to resemble nearby plant life.
But whether cell towers emit harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation remains a topic of intense debate.
Glendale resident Tony Passarella spoke before the council and showed a Youtube video of his personal readings taken from an EMF meter, measuring microwave radiation from a cell tower at Babe Herman Little League Field in Verdugo Park.
Passarella said his equipment registered 850 MHz of energy coming from the cell tower, which has been in place at the ballfield since 1995.
William Desmond, a Verizon Wireless representative, said that the readings in Passarella’s video were picking up frequencies from the fire station across the street and that the cell sites operate at different frequencies than the fire station and could not have been causing the readings indicated in the video.
“That reading had nothing to do whatsoever with the cell site, but with the fire station’s two-way radio that was nearby.”
Desmond said that the areas surrounding the proposed sites represent a “significant gap in coverage” and that particularly with Fremont Park, no more advantageous site in the area could be located that was not closer to residential areas.
“There really is nothing outside of the park that would not be within a residential zone, would not be viable from a zoning perspective,” said Desmond. “That’s why the park itself made the most sense. It places the site the furthest distance geographically from the residential properties in the area, so from a concern about proximity to residential [areas], this actually affords us the greatest separation from a residential use that we can get within that area.”
Mayor Ara Najarian argued that rejecting the tower’s placement in a public park could lead to its being erected on private property somewhere, perhaps closer to residential neighborhoods than the proposed sites.
“Verizon would go to a neighbor or a private property owner, and I believe the going rate’s about $3,000 a month for siting it, so a $30,000 a year or so incentive to place a cell tower on someone’s property is quite an incentive. So, in the end, we’re pushing it closer into the neighborhoods, whereas the best situation and site for these is in the public parks and away from where those folks live.”
Council members Vartan Gharpetian and Zareh Sinanyan said they wanted to see more information on potential health effects before moving forward, “something to assure us that there is no health hazard when [towers] are in a residential neighborhood,” said Gharpetian.
Desmond said that a number of studies published by the American Cancer Society, Center for Disease Control and other entities “all reach the same conclusion that there are no known health effects associated with wireless facilities.”
But Passarella called electromagnetic radiation an “unseen danger” that is “rampant in the world today” and urged the council to bring in an independent scientist rather than experts referred by Verizon.
The council moved to revisit the topic at next week’s council meeting.
“I want to make sure we’re doing the right thing,” Gharpetian said. “Postponing it for a week or two is not going to hurt the project.”
In addition to further information on health effects, the council will also request that fire department and police representatives speak to whether they feel there are risks with not using cell technology for emergency response.