Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, there were two important city meetings at City Hall: a special Joint-Study Session on Wireless Facilities, and a City Council meeting.
1. Joint-Study Session on Wireless Facilities
Go here to view the video of this:
At 4 p.m., our Planning Board and City Council held the special one-hour Joint-Study Session about cell towers and antennas (these are also called wireless facilities or telecommunications facilities). At the session, the city officials could ask emission, technology and coverage questions of the California Wireless Association (CalWA) and T-Mobile reps.
Council member Dr. David Gordon asked some very important questions about cell antenna directionality, and brought up an important case about a group of residents in Los Angeles who became ill because the antenna was pointed at their house. Most of the Council members expressed their desire to update Burbank's wireless ordinance like the City of Glendale is currently doing. They want to follow Glendale's efforts to protect the character of the residential neighborhoods and schools by setting up preferred and non-preferred zones. Council member Jess Talamantes also said he'd like to have the City make it a policy to inform residents in advance about proposed wireless facility installations so they can provide the city with community input.
Thanks to Planning Board Member Vahe Hovanessian for requesting this study session several months ago, due to his concerns regarding emissions from the cell tower that's up and running next to Jordan Middle School. (It originally had 12 antenna on it, and in July 2009 had 3 more antenna and other equipment added onto it.)
And thanks to Deputy City Planner Michael Forbes for including the proposed Brace Canyon cell tower project in his presentation to our City officials, raising awareness about it.
Two downsides to the Joint Study Session?
The public was not allowed to provide any counter points during the Study Session to the statements made by the wireless industry reps. For instance, Patti Ringo, Secretary of the California State Wireless Association (CalWA) said: "There are no studies available about cell towers and emissions." Her colleague, Julian Quattlebaum, chair of CalWA's regulatory commission, made similar statements, holding up a thick stack of papers he wanted to present to City Council for review: "The evidence that's out there show no evidence of any link between RF emission from cell phone antennas and any human illnesses."
So Burbank ACTION will send its list of studies disproving those statements to City Council for review. If you want an idea of the studies that have been done, just look at our Health Effects: Science & Research page.
Quattelbaum proceeded to explain how the current FCC emissions standards were set after the FCC polled a number of Federal agencies and scientific groups.
If you go to the FCC website, you'll see that its emission guidelines were set in 1996, based on the the NCRP guidelines made in 1993, and the ANSI/IEEE 1992 emissions guidelines (which were adopted from the IEEE's 1991 guidelines). As you can see by these dates, these guidelines are very old and critics say they're based on outdated information, studies and research.
For an enlightening and disturbing look at who makes up the IEEE, watch "Radiant Day," a recent Norwegian news documentary about cell tower radiation. Its reporter attended the annual IEEE membership meeting. He discovered that its members are primarily engineers from the wireless industry and military. Talk about conflict of interest. (Go here to watch this documentary and what it uncovers: http://www1.nrk.no/nett-tv/klipp/428197.)
The other downside to the Dec. 8 Study Session? During Michael Forbes' presentation to City Council, we learned that a wireless company (we later found out it's T-Mobile) has filed an application with the city, asking the city to change its ordinance so that wireless facilities can be installed on private institutional (private church and school) properties in R-1 zones. For instance, at St. Francis Xavier school or church right next to Horace Mann Children's Center in our R-1 hillside residential community. This is not a solution or acceptable alternative location. We ask residents and school parents to please write City Council and ask them to deny this application requesting a change of our wireless ordinance like this.
2. City Council Meeting
During the City Council meeting later that evening, members of the public could make their comments during Item "J," open Public Comment time. That's when concerned citizens did share their concerns about the proposed T-Mobile cell tower on Burbank Water & Power property at Brace Canyon park.
Kiku Lani Iwata, a hillside resident and Burbank ACTION member, shared her concerns about how the quality of life and the character of the neighborhood would be negatively affected by the proposed cell tower. She was followed by Dr. Jan Lei Iwata, a physician who flew in from Chicago to share her concerns about emissions and recent studies about cell tower radiation and its effects on residents living near them. Dr. Iwata also informed the City Council how she is a T-Mobile resident and surveyed the hillside area using her T-mobile phone in the areas where T-Mobile reported there was no coverage, but was able to make and receive quality calls in those areas. Joanna Iwata, an educational administrator for the past 20 years, spoke about the importance of notifying schools when a cell tower is proposed near it and keeping school administrators and parents in the communications loop. Real estate professional Alex Safarian, a hillside resident and Burbank ACTION member, pointed out how studies show that cell towers negatively affect real estate values and his recent discussions with local Burbank real estate professionals confirmed that real estate prices near the cell tower (if installed) could drop an average of 10%. He also said he's a T-Mobile customer and his coverage is just fine in the hillside area. And Eden Rose also spoke out against the cell tower that was approved on top of her senior apartment complex and her experiences with that.
To keep this coverage balanced, there was one resident who spoke in support of cell tower installations. She represented the Little White Chapel on 1711 N. Avon Street in Burbank, where T-Mobile wants to install a hidden cell tower. She said she would like cell towers all over Burbank, and she urges the Council to quickly approve the permit for the proposed cell tower on top of the Little White Chapel. We request City Council to instead please inform residents within 1,500 feet of this cell tower to provide community input first, and urge residents living near the Chapel to write to City Council regarding any concerns they may have.
During City Council response time later during the meeting, City Council member Dr. David Gordon thanked us for sharing our concerns. He acknowledged that we have been heard, and said the Council Members must study the project further.
We thank the Council for listening to our comments, and will follow-up with an informational packet addressing them more in-depth.
We also thank Honorable Mayor Gary Bric for taking time to meet with concerned constituents and citizens about this issue, and leading the Council in taking the first steps toward writing a new wireless ordinance like other cities are now beginning to do. Thanks, too, to Mr. Michael Forbes for bringing up resident concerns about the proposed Brace Canyon cell tower to our city officials.
Kudos to our City officials and staff, the Burbank Leader (its Editorial asked the City to update its ordinance), and especially so many concerned parents and residents for communicating your concerns to our City officials to make this happen. Special thanks also to resident groups, leaders, scientists, engineers, and organizations in Glendale, Pacific Palisades, San Pedro, Windsor Hills, San Francisco, Sebastopol, Bolinas, Santa Rosa, Seattle, New York, Arizona, Florida, and Vermont, who have shared information and resources to help our resident effort.