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For communities opposing a proposed cell tower in their neighborhood: look at your city's zoning and General Plan to see if this commercial facility would be inconsistent or contrary, including if the proposed commercial cell tower would be out of character (look at this photo) with the general nature, beauty, landscape, scenery, and charm of your neighborhood.  Also, share with your local officials your concerns about public safety hazards these commercial facilities could pose to school children, homes, fire hazard areas and our parks and wildlife.

Aesthetics and Land Use

The higher courts have addressed the Federal requirements and limitations of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, addressing the need for local governments to present "substantial evidence" why a cell tower is denied.   

(iii) Any decision by a State or local government or
instrumentality thereof to deny a request to place,
construct, or modify personal wireless service
facilities shall be in writing and supported by
substantial evidence contained in a written record.*

We have substantial evidence.  Installing a wireless base station and tower in a residential area will lead to a deterioration in the quality of the life that we have come to treasure here in Burbank.  It does not fit in with the General Plan as well. 

The cell tower disguised as a fake pine tree is a visual blight, and sets an unwelcomed precedent for our Burbank hillside neighborhood.  If we allow one fake pine tree cell tower here, how many other fake pine tree cell towers are next?  Then what happens to our park, our views, and our natural scenery?

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2009 sided with the City of Palos Verdes Estates and its residents' right to oppose a wireless tower based on aesthetics: http://la.curbed.com/archives/2009/10/fake_trees_will_not_grow_in_pve.php and http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ugly-telecoms26-2009oct26,0,5439620.story

Here in Burbank, the neighborhood surrounding the proposed Brace Canyon park wireless facility consists primarily of residential homes, two schools, a church, and Brace Canyon recreational park.  In Burbank's Zoning regulations, this area is called an R-1 Single Family Residential Zone:

The R-1 Single Family Residential zone is intended for neighborhoods of single family dwellings separated from multiple family and non-residential uses. The R-1 zone is appropriate for very low density single family development and, with limited exceptions, is generally not appropriate for non-residential development.

According to Burbank's Zoning Regulations, cell tower installations are not permitted on homes in R-1 zones (see Burbank Zoning Regulations, 10-1-601: http://www.ci.burbank.ca.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2686 )

In addition, the higher courts have pointed out that federal regulations allow for reasonable discrimination ("
the conferees do not intend that if a State or local government grants a permit in a commercial district, it must also grant a permit for a competitor’s 50-foot tower in a residential district"). 

Wireless telecommunication facilities are, however, allowed on city, state and Federal property (i.e, BWP property).  And this is where T-mobile wants to install its tower.  We say, find another available and less intrusive location.

Meanwhile, Burbank's General Plan (Land Element Use) spells out just how our city planners want and intended its various neighborhoods and spaces to be used and preserved.  This General Plan has been made for city officials to use as a guide when making decisions concerning land use.  Once you read the plan, you'll conclude that the proposed cell tower project is incompatible with the character of our residential neighborhood. 
According to our own City of Burbank General Plan:

Burbank has a commitment to maintain and protect its quality neighborhoods...Encroachment of inappropriate non-residential uses into residential neighborhoods is avoided...Burbank is committed to building and maintaining a community that meets today's needs while providing a high quality of life for future generations.  Development in Burbank is respectful of the environment and resources...The scale and character of Burbank is preserved by avoiding land uses and structures that are inconsistent with surrounding development and/or the area’s desired character...Single family homes are recognized as the predominant and most desired housing type in Burbank...The Low Density Residential designation has neighborhoods of detached single family residential dwellings free from encroachment and adverse impacts from surrounding land uses. These neighborhoods define Burbank’s small town feeling and provide the basis for the quality of life that Burbank residents enjoy. The original character of these neighborhoods is preserved through development controls...

Specifically regarding its hillside homes and area:

Hillside development is limited to previously established neighborhoods and is complementary and compatible with the natural environment and topography. Such development does not result in unsightly visual impacts....Development in the hillside area is respectful of the natural terrain and environment and has minimal impact on the natural appearance of the hillside area and on scenic views from surrounding properties...

And in respect to development in our open spaces and parks:

Residential projects provide adequate open space and amenities to encourage gathering of residents and to supplement public open spaces (parks)...(Goals) Providing park and recreational facilities that adequately serve the public without adversely impacting neighboring properties...(Source: Burbank General Plan, Land Use Element, http://www.ci.burbank.ca.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2616)

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 includes several limitations to prohibit municipalities from denying a cell tower based on health and environmental concerns. At the same time, the authors of the Act wanted to ensure that our parks be preserved and protected. 

"The Committee recognizes, for example, that the use of Washington Monument, Yellowstone National Park, or a pristine wildlife sanctuary, while perhaps prime sites for an antenna and other facilities, are not appropriate ...and use of them would be contrary to environmental, conservation, and public safety laws."

Source: Original authors of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, see 104th Congress, 1st Session, House of Representative, Report 104–204, Communications Act of 1995, Commerce Committee, July 24, 1995, Page 95; on-line at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=104_cong_reports&docid=f%3Ahr204p1.104.pdf

When you visit Burbank.com's website, you'll find a Brace Canyon recreational park described in most beautiful terms, including "scenic" with mountain breezes, tall trees, a popular location for a springtime BBQ or baseball party, and ideal kids' park visit, and "a great place to spend the afternoon."

And when the City of Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services Department celebrated its 80 years of service in 2005, it published a historical look its parks.  In conclusion, the authors wrote:

For eighty years, the City of Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services Department has been committed to provide places to learn and play, places to be safe and secure, and places to create and imagine. Looking ahead, our Department will continue its commitment to play an important role in creating healthy community through diverse and innovative recreation programming. We will continue to provide well-maintained recreation facilities, programs, and activities designed to meet the recreational, social, and human services needs of the entire community. We will ensure that the quality of life is enhanced for each and every participant in all programs, classes, and activities, and provide parks and open space facilities that are beautiful, clean and safe.  (Source: http://www.ci.burbank.ca.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=1325.)

Installing a wireless base station with a fake pine tree and 12 antennae would mean the City of Burbank will fail to live up to its commitment and pledge if the tower is allowed to be located on in this park location. 

Quality of Life

Dr. Henry Lai, a leading biologist who has studied the effects of EMF radiation on the human body and cells, told us that the bleachers 50 feet away from the proposed site are too close.  Even the closest house 115 feet away, or a house 535 feet away, will mean radiation exposure for the adults and children living there.  And once the tower is up, it will "open the door" as he says for the carrier to add more antenna on it from other carriers, which will increase the emissions and radiations for those near the base station. 

California Public Utilities Decisions Regarding RF exposure from wireless facilities.  The California Public Utilities Commission formed a special committee to investigate the health effects of wireless facilities.  The committee workshop occurred on July 21, 1993.  (By the way, studies since then have shown relationships between adverse health effects and RF radiation from cell towers, so these workshop conclusions are pretty much out of date).  To summarize what happened, the committee said it had to defer to FCC standards and rules, and the committee said while it is difficult to conclude a health and safety problem exists, it is also unclear that health and safety problems do not exist. 

The committee also acknowledged public perception of adverse health effects.  Until it could find more conclusive evidence of harmful effects of cell tower radiation, it DID make this recommendation regarding locating cell towers near schools and hospitals:

Cellular companies can be encouraged to consider alternative siting, especially if projected cell sites are in close proximity to schools or hospitals. School and hospital sites can be designated only as last-choice possibilities. (Cellular sites next to or in schools are the most vigorously contested local issue.)  See Decision 91-11-017: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/Environment/emf/emfopen.htm  and http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/Environment/emf/emfopen.htm

FCC on exposure limits to RF radiation from wireless facilities.   Meanwhile, health experts say the FCC's current exposure limits and rules regarding RF radiation from wireless facilities, finalized in 1997, are based on outdated recommendations and data:

The FCC guidelines are based on exposure criteria recommended in 1986 by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) and on the 1991 standard developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and later adopted as a standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992).  Source: "Guide to Transmitting Antenna RF Emission Safety" on FCC website: http://wireless.fcc.gov/siting/rfsafety.html

Even the EPA points out the limitations of the FCC standards: the FCC standards do not take into account non-thermal health effects and 24/7 long-term exposure.  Read the EPA's letter here: http://www.emrpolicy.org/litigation/case_law/docs/noi_epa_response.pdf

If you still need confirmation as to the problems with the FCC standard, watch this clip for "Radiant Day" documentary (by Norwegian Television, similar to our PBS, with English subtitles), in which its reporter attends an IEEE meeting to show viewers how the IEEE members who set the RF radiation standards the the FCC goes by are compromised because they come from the wireless and telecom companies.   Conflict of interest anyone?  http://www.youtube.com/user/BurbankACTION#p/f/1/AHhfjQ1_JVw

Thank goodness a growing number of cities and counties are now passing resolutions asking for a repeal or modification of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The Act, written by Congress with the help of the telecommunications industry, prevents local governments from bringing up adverse health and environmental effects when regulating cell towers. 

See "Actions Taken" among the links in Menu bar on the right.

While the wireless industry will contend there are no adverse health effects related to wireless towers and antennae, even a perceived health risk is enough to negatively affect the quality of life of Burbank residents near a cell tower.  Whether perceived or real health risks, a cell tower installation at Brace Canyon park adversely impacts neighboring properties and schools.  It will create anxiety, stress, worry, sadness, a need for moving out of the area, among other things.  This is a deterioration of the quality of life for Burbank residents, and our neighborhoods.

Public Safety – Fire and Fall Hazard and Attracting Crime

Residents, city officials, and the State of California, are also concerned about these pole installations from a public safety standpoint.  

Our City of Burbank should adopt regulations that address these  non-radiation safety hazards posed by installing wireless facilities on utility poles in residential neighborhoods.  These include pole overloading and resulting fire and electrocution hazards when poles topple due to high winds, earthquakes orvehicular accidents; and explosive and toxic chemical hazards from backup lead-acid batteries that contain hydrogen gas.  (Read more below.)

We’ve attached below some new stories about how public safety concerns surrounding wireless facilities in general. They attract crime, vandalism, vagrancy, suicide attempts, and are a leading cause of occupational falls. Routine maintenance has lead to fires, and high winds have toppled poles. The Malibu fires, according to an ABC news report, were caused by utility poles "overburdened by new cellular phone gear." Power poles that should have withstood winds of 92 mph snapped in the 50mph hour winds due to the "heavy, wind-catching cables and antennas." We don't want to put this cell tower, which could entail more antennas adding onto it once it is installed, in a park between two other trees and around homes. It's a potential fire hazard, especially in this hillside fire-sensitive area of Burbank. It would increase anxiety and worries about a potential fire here.  There is the safety concern regarding cell towers and potential fire hazards.

Some cities have wireless facility regulations requiring specific setbacks to protect nearby properties from a potential fall hazard.  For instance, would your city allow a 120-foot cell tower to be installed just 50 feet away from a home or school?  What's wrong with this picture?!  As a result, some cities require a 200-foot setback.  Others, 110%, etc. 

The California Public Utilities Commission is currently holding workshops to address the fire hazard risks posed by telecommunications equipment loaded onto utility poles. These type of installations have either started or contributed to several wildfires that resulted in loss of lives and/or serious destruction of homes and/or property/land. See attachments below for news reports about these fire hazard and new CPUC regulations underway.**

In addition, back-up batteries for wireless facilities can be made of hazardous substances.  Read this June 2008 Board of Appeals Report that addresses this serious concern that residents raised there about the dangers and hazards of lead back-up batteries: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/zah/pdf/reports/s-2709.pdf.  Also read this article, http://www.city.waltham.ma.us/lepcweb/EPAinfo/EPA_Lead-Acid_Battery_fax_sheet.htm.   Here are more articles about the hazards and dangers these batteries pose: http://www.calicorp.com/articles/batteries-hazards.html and http://www.calicorp.com/articles/battery-advisory.html.

Rigorous testing and inspection protocols should be established, paid for by the wireless companies but conducted by independent third party experts under City supervision, and fines imposed for any non-compliance.

Combined, these public safety news stories underscore why these installations should be placed away from homes and schools, because knowing they could be installed near our homes, schools and parks negatively affects our quality of life.


* Telecommunications Act of 1996; Source: FCC, p 117, http://www.fcc.gov/Reports/tcom1996.pdf.  Read "Limitations" imposed on local governments that addresses "substantial evidence" requirement.  However, also read how the higher courts have defined "substantial evidence" in Sprint v Palos Verdes Estates (October 13, 2009), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on-line at: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2009/10/13/05-56106.pdf, and also AT&T Wireless PCS v City Council of the City of Virginia Beach (September 1, 1998), U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, on-line at: http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/972389.P.pdf.    Also read about "substantial evidence" in: MetroPCS v City and County of San Francisco, March 7, 2005; source:  Metropolitan News-Enterprise Online http://www.metnews.com/sos/0305/0316759.PDF  and here: http://openjurist.org/400/f3d/715/metropcs-inc-v-city-and-county-of-san-francisco.

** See CPUC Proceeding R0811005 to read the latest documents and decisions filed, at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/Published/proceedings/R0811005.htm. In a separate but related proceeding, the CPUC is conducting a regulatory investigation  into whether Southern California Edison, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, NextG Networks, and AT&T violated any laws and regulations in regards to their facilities that may have contributed to the Canyon Fire in Malibu of October 2007.  These parties jointly owned, shared, and maintained three utility poles that broke and fell to the ground.  The poles were loaded with live electrical wires and communications equipment, and when they fell, electrical contact with vegetation occurred and ignited the fire.  See CPUC Scoping Ruling, filed 10/22/2009, pages 1-2: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/EFILE/RULC/108838.htm.)   Here is the link to all documents relating to this CPUC Proceeding, I.09-01-018: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/proceedings/I0901018.htm.  This CPUC investigation is separate from the civil litigation.

K Iwata,
Aug 2, 2010, 1:51 AM