Unlike some other communities, Ocean Beach apparently doesn’t have any problems with wireless phone companies installing their cell sites on the Masonic Temple … as well as on local churches around the neighborhood.
The issue of the cell towers or antennae on the Mason’s building went before the Project Review Committee earlier this month on December 19th, and it was basically a non-issue, it seems, not controversial at all – as the Review Committee’s chair, Landry Watson, told the OB Rag. The sub-committee did recommended approval for the permit renewal. There will probably be some minor changes to the antennae and aesthetic improvements to make them less visible.
The Project Review Committee – a sub-committee of the full Planning Board – meets monthly reviewing projects and then making recommendations to the Board. The full board next meets on Wednesday, January 2nd, and the issue will be on the agenda.
On the 19th, the Sprint Wireless antennae upgrade and renewal at the Masonic Lodge at 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd was one of two issues before the reviewing planners. In the past here in OB, this type of issue has been contentious. OBceans have – for a variety of reasons – opposed and blocked various efforts for more than a decade by cell phone companies installing their cell sites – particularly within completely residential sections of the town. One of the key points of opposition has been one of health, as cell towers, antennae, cell sites all emit powerful electrical currents in their transmissions – currents that many deem as unhealthy and harmful to humans and kids if they are in close proximity.
The cell sites on the Masonic Lodge had raised many eyebrows a decade ago and had agitated the then-sitting OB Planning Board. Plus, the installation of cell sites on local churches did not raise any concerns more recently. Perhaps the issue has died down – as now everyone seems to have cell phones
Or has it.
Not all communities are laying down in front of the cell phone companies.
Across the country, wireless companies have been finding churches near residential areas that are willing to have them to install cell sites, hiding them in steeples, belfries, and even crosses. For money, of course. The companies have been combing communities looking for new sites as they close gaps in their phone receptions and expand their networks. All to meet the ‘new demands’ of smart phones and tablets. Earlier this week, the LA Times ran a good article about churches and cell phone sites.
More conventional cellphone towers have been opposed by neighborhoods as ugly, unsightly, dangerous, unhealthy, and have even been banned. In response, some of the companies have turned to making the towers look like trees, particularly palm trees. And they have been looking to churches. Many churches have opened their doors to the electrical converts – as a few thousand every month can certainly add to the collection plates.
Yet, some communities have said ‘no!’
For instance, up in Burbank earlier this year, local parents protested plans by T-Mobile to install a cell site at the Little White Chapel, where 12 antennas were going up in the steeple, with other equipment placed on the first floor of the religious facility. Based on a city ordinance allowing antennas on institutional places such as churches and schools, the Burbank Planning Board approved the plans. But in May, the Burbank City Council unanimously reversed the planning board’s okay and declined to approve the project.
Over in Tujunga, local residents and parents protested a plan for a Metro PCS cell tower disguised as a pine tree at Our Lady of Lourdes School. They cited aesthetic grounds for their opposition.
Yet aesthetic grounds have not been the only basis on which opposition has developed to the cell towers and their progeny. In 2011, the World Health Organization’s own International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radio-frequency electro-magnectic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The European Union believes cell phone towers pose such health risks that it recommends that they be kept clear of schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country, has banned them.
Claims that there is a potential radiation threat to children and neighbors from cellular transmitters have been denied by the wireless industry.
Over a decade ago, residents in south OB opposed a cell tower being installed at the top of an apartment building inside one of the apartments for these very same reasons.
Five years ago, Point Loma residents opposed the installation of three T-Mobile antennae on existing light poles at Point Loma Naszarene University on Lomaland Drive, a project that included a 190-square-foot enclosure for supporting equipment.
Critics of cell towers fall back on scientific grounds, and describe cell tower radiation as composed of powerful pulses of electromagnetic energy–
so powerful that at close quarters they will thermally “cook” what is near them. Even at further distances these waves create an unending cacophony of jumbled pulses that disrupt the natural functioning of biological forms. Some people are highly sensitive to microwave radiation and must live and sleep in “Faraday” cages, which protect them from the onslaught of EMF. Others seem to build up a sensitivity over time as more and more towers pop up around them, surrounding them with a continuous rain of energy that is incompatible with the natural functioning of the brain, organs and even DNA replication.
CTIA – the cellphone trade industry group – claims that emissions from towers are “thousands of times less than the FCC’s limits for safe exposure.” It cites the FAA’s own assertion that it does not believe there is any evidence that links cancer to wireless devices or to radio-frequency energy, as the National Cancer Institute says.
A website that opposes cell towers states that the the Telecom Act of 1996
stifles the power of local governmental agencies to reject the construction of these towers based on environmental issues. As a result, communities all across America are forced to search for reasons other than health-related issues in order to prevent the high frequency radiation from these towers. This is especially relevant when these towers are constructed near residences, schools, parks and wildlife preserves.
Despite the limitations of the Telecom Act, which was signed before any comprehensive studies of the effects of microwave radiation on humans and wildlife could be made, communities all over America are finding ways of legally defeating cell tower proposals
Yet, battles have been raging across America over these cell tower installations, and many have been defeated.
Not everyone is out to defeat them. Right here in the San Diego region, the Poway Unified School District, despite parental opposition, decided to permit towers on campuses. Sweetwater Union High School District – as the San Diego Reader reported –
signed lucrative contracts with communication companies that allow them to place 32 cell phone towers on campuses throughout the southernmost part of the county. Otay Ranch High School, located on the east side of Chula Vista, has 5 towers arrayed around its football field. San Ysidro High has 4 on campus, and two of the district’s middle schools have towers. …
Many school districts in the county have been lured by the siren sound of cash. AT&T, Verizon, Clear Wireless, and others pay half a million dollars annually into Sweetwater’s general fund.
Whatever the OB Planning Board ultimately decides at their next full Board meeting – to be held on January 2 – the trends are becoming clear. Up until now, cell phone sites have grown at a modest rate – especially in churches – only several hundreds of the 5,000 new sites installed across the country in 2012 were in churches. This will be changing. Wireless companies will be increasing their service. AT&T alone plans to add 10,000 new macro cell sites on tall towers and 40,000 on smaller, shorter-range sites on existing buildings – like churches – and like the Masonic Lodge.
And no one is monitoring to keep track on just how many churches across California have cell sites. Lots of room for abuse here. But in OB, does anyone even care to monitor them?