Sunday, December 6, 2009

Full Signal / Preschool objects to cell tower / O2 phone mast / Port St. Lucie residents gather petition signatures opposing cell tower

Full Signal (movie)
Full Signal is about the proliferation of cellular technology across the globe. It has spread unabated like wildfire. More than half the world's population owns a phone. And nearly everybody lives within the range of a cell tower. Yet nobody truly knows to what extent this technology has an impact on the human population.

Debates on the subject have ranged from scientific circles to the mass media to courts of law with opinions that are just as diverse. People are concerned about safety and security, technological advancement, health and the environment.

But an increasing number of studies are starting to correlate certain ailments with cellular technology, ranging from dizziness to tumors. Full Signal takes the position that it is highly unlikely that these scientist's findings are all incorrect. The "Issue" section will feature an interactive page to help those interested in the facts hear them directly from the experts.

Who's Who in Full Signal
From: Mona Nilsson

Preschool objects to cell tower

By Nick Green Staff Writer
Updated: 12/05/2009 11:05:32 PM PST

Students climb on the playground at Happy Face Pre-School in Torrance, where the proposed erection of cellular tower nearby may lead to mass withdrawals of students. (Sean Hiller)

The smile has vanished from Torrance's Happy Face Preschool now that parents and officials there have learned a 55-foot-

high cellular telephone tower could sit on a vacant lot next to its playground.

"The cell tower is so close it could be on our playground," Sandra Carter, director of the Eriel Avenue preschool, told the Torrance City Council at a recent meeting.

"It will be devastatingly detrimental to our business," she added. "There are certainly more appropriate locations for a (cell phone) tower than right next to a preschool."

Carter said she fears many parents of the 30 children aged 2 to 6 who attend the preschool will pull their kids out permanently should the tower win city approval. And that would mean the end of her 35-year-old business.

Parents are worried about potential health issues, aesthetics and the danger of a massive fake tree - it will be designed to look like a palm tree - crushing their kids in an earthquake or storm, Carter said.

The three-member Telecommunication Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal - and could approve it - at a Tuesday morning hearing.

The committee had postponed a decision on the tower site last month after opponents objected.

Chairman Brian Sunshine - who like all committee members is a city employee - said the panel asked applicant T-Mobile to consider moving it farther away from the school on the same lot.

Right now, the cellular tower would rise on a spot adjacent a 7-foot-high brick wall that separates the school's playground from a vacant parking lot next to Sepulveda Boulevard.

That would perhaps satisfy at least one parent.

"It may not be such a big deal for me if it were on the other side of the lot, but they are putting it right alongside that wall," said Lawndale resident Christopher Morris, whose 3-year-old son, Mark, attends the school.

"To be so close to the preschool where the kids are is, I think, unnecessary," he added.

But T-Mobile officials said in an e-mailed statement Friday they are not looking to move the tower one inch.

"The facility is designed to look like a tree, blending into its surroundings, and will be visually more appealing than other locations considered," e-mailed spokesman Rod De La Rosa. "In this case, there was an existing antenna support structure that could be replaced to accommodate T-Mobile and another carrier."

De La Rosa e-mailed that company engineers determined it was also not possible to place the tower near a company retail store at a strip mall a few hundred yards to the east, as has been suggested.

That's unlikely to placate parents such as Torrance resident Kristin Matsuda, who has a 3-year-old daughter who attends the preschool two days a week. She also plans to send her two twin daughters there in another year or so.

"It comes down to money and people's fears," she said of the conflict. "Happy Face is a business. It's a comfortable part of the community and you can't buy that. But you can destroy it by making people feel it's dangerous to take their kids there."

Matsuda said if the commission approves the tower she plans to appeal the decision, first to the Planning Commission and then to the City Council, if necessary.

It's unclear on what basis Matsuda could do that.

Assistant City Attorney Patrick Sullivan, who wrote the ordinance that established the committee in 2004 - before that such proposed installations were simply handled administratively - said there are no restrictions regarding locating cell towers on or near schools in the city.

In fact, he said, South High School actually has a cell tower designed to look like a pine tree on its campus.

That's at odds with the policy of Los Angeles Unified School District, which earlier this year moved to oppose the erection of cell towers near schools.

Parents at San Pedro's Taper Elementary School are fighting the installation of a cell tower they claim was quietly put up opposite the school. The telecommunications company involved: T-Mobile.

While some parents are worried about potential electromagnetic radiation issues, that's not something the city can examine, Sullivan said. That's the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Sullivan said he also is researching whether the city could object to the tower on aesthetic grounds. A recent court case, won by the city of Palos Verdes Estates, now allows government jurisdictions to regulate towers on that basis.

Still, with T-Mobile unwilling to budge an inch, neither are parents and school officials.

"They're being extremely inconsiderate of the neighborhood," Carter said. "They're not thinking about my business, and they're certainly not thinking about the well-being of young children."

What's next?

What: The Telecommunication Committee will discuss a cell tower planned near Torrance's Happy Face Preschool.

Where: West Annex Commission Room at City Hall, 3031 Torrance Blvd.

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday 




Families vow to stop Darras Hall O2 phone mast

FAMILIES fighting plans to put up a mobile phone mast near homes and a school say they are even more determined to succeed following a visit by a leading radiation expert.

Hundreds of parents and other local residents have opposed two separate bids by Telefonica O2 to erect the mast on The Broadway in Darras Hall, Northumberland – both of which have been rejected by county councillors. 02 – which is currently considering its next move – has gained planning permission by default for a site outside the local primary school, after the council failed to make its decision within the required timescale earlier this year.

Now campaigners say their resolve to win the fight has been strengthened after around 200 local people attended a public meeting in Ponteland Memorial Hall, addressed by academic and author Barrie Trower.

Mr Trower, a scientific adviser to the Radiation Research Trust, outlined his serious concerns about research carried out into the public health impacts of radiation from telecommunications masts. He told the audience there are no known safe levels of microwaves for children, and gave evidence about 200 alleged cancer clusters in schools which have transmitters near them.

Mr Trower also referred to research which suggests that microwaves can change DNA in cells, with the possibility that children can carry genetic faults.

Yesterday businessman Ian McLean, who lives in The Drey, Darras Hall, and has a child at the first school, said: "We were delighted with the turnout and at the end of the meeting we held a vote. Not a single person was in favour of having a mast on Broadway.

"Barrie Trower presented some very disturbing and worrying evidence and research, which has been peer-reviewed. We would beg O2 to take the precautionary route and not make us part of a giant experiment.

"They should be taking their mast away from a residential area and the school. Following the meeting, people are even more determined to fight this proposal."

Mr Trower told The Journal that local referendums should be held over plans to site phone masts near people's homes, with the results binding on both the local community and the proposed developer.

"If a local population says we think this is too dangerous then nobody should force a mast on them.

"I don't think it will ever happen, because there is too much money involved,'' he added.

02 says all of its installations conform with guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. "The World Health Organisation has issued a factsheet summarising research to date and its conclusion was that there is no risk to people's health as a result of living near mobile phone base stations," it adds.




Port St. Lucie residents gather petition signatures opposing cell tower

PORT ST. LUCIE — Ron Colangelo lives within 100 feet of a 911 communications tower that sits in front of a fire station across from his home on Dalton Circle.

If the St. Lucie County Fire District gets its way at Monday night's City Council meeting, Colangelo and other residents living in the vicinity of Dalton Circle, between St. Mary's Court and Selkirk Lane, will be within feet of what they're calling a "humongous" cell phone tower.

"What I'm hearing here doesn't sit very well with me," Dalton Circle resident Ed Leary said.

The Fire District wants to replace up to 12 of its 16 existing communications towers at various fire stations with cell phone towers as a way to generate additional revenue. The Fire District, its own separate taxing district, would lease property to cellular phone providers as a way to offset taxes. The district would use the towers for its emergency communications in addition to the towers providing cell phone reception.

But a handful of residents said cell phone towers decrease property values, are an eyesore and cause potential health risks, including cancer. They said if the tower is approved, it's going to set a precedent and allow cell towers to go up in residential neighborhoods.

Residents are hoping to stop the Fire District's plan and have begun collecting signatures on a petition.

"What they're going to do is destroy the city," Colangelo said. "We've been beat up by this economy and this is going to hurt our property values even more. There have been extensive studies done throughout the country, and it's unbelievable the clusters of cancer people have been getting living near these towers. I've literally not slept in days over this. It's terrible."

The Fire District is proposing to enter into a lease agreement with cell phone provider T-Mobile to erect a 125-foot cell tower on 1 acre at Fire Station 10 on Dalton Circle. T-Mobile would pay the district $1,600 per month to lease the property, plus $350 additional per month should another cell provider install its equipment on the tower.

On Tuesday, the city's Planning & Zoning board rejected T-Mobile's application for a variance and special exception permit to install the tower. The city's zoning codes prohibit cell towers from being placed on property less than 5 acres. But the City Council can override the zoning codes if it approves an agreement with the district at its 7 p.m. meeting Monday.

Sunrise-based T-Mobile spokeswoman Deeah Riley said the company follows state and federal regulations. She said radio frequency has been around for more than 160 years and has proven to be safe.

"Our output is less than what is allowed," she said. "The exposure (of radio frequency) is less than a baby monitor and far less than a microwave that you'd use in your home."

Fire District spokesman Buddy Emerson said the district has the potential to generate an additional $250,000 per year in revenue by entering into agreements with cell phone providers. He said the towers would be the same size as existing towers but the cell phone towers would use solid poles instead of lattice.

"The Fire Board of Commissioners during our budget process chose not to raise taxes and tasked staff to come up with alternative ways to generate revenue and save tax dollars," Emerson said. "One of the ways was for us to pursue cellular providers, otherwise the taxpayers fund the operation."

Riley said the towers would be no more than 4 feet wide and antennas atop 120-foot poles would stretch 5 feet above the pole.

"I would definitely have to see it to believe it," said resident Gary Schellenger, who says cell phone tower bases can be as wide as 40 feet. "I have never seen a cell tower that was tiny."

Riley said the company looked at other commercial properties to enhance and improve coverage before choosing the fire station.

"This was the best and last available option," she said.

Meanwhile, the International Association of Fire Fighters union, which has 296,000 members in the United States and Canada, sought funding in 2005 for a study to find out if the use of fire stations as cellular phone base stations was hazardous to the health of its members. Until the health effects are truly tested and known, the union said it believed no additional cell towers or antennas should be positioned on or near fire stations.

The union's national headquarters in Washington referred calls to local union Vice President Nate Spera.

"That may be national's position, but it's a no-brainer for us to support looking for revenue streams to continue operations at the levels they are now," Spera said.

Spera said the union never followed through with the study because it could not get the funding.