La Canada Extends Ban on Dish Antennas

Times Staff Writer

A moratorium banning the installation of television satellite dishes in La Canada Flintridge has been extended for 10 months while the city fashions an ordinance to restrict proliferation of the large, bowl-shaped antennas in highly visible spots.

In voting Monday night to extend what had been a 45-day moratorium, the City Council cited the need for more time to hold public hearings on the issue before taking a final vote on proposed regulations.

The council enacted the moratorium two weeks ago as an urgency ordinance when it was learned that some residents were rushing to install the antennas before restrictions could be adopted. The city Planning Commission has been working on a draft ordinance in the last few months.

During the moratorium, however, the city will consider allowing installations that conform to the ordinance proposed by the Planning Commission.

Complaints From Neighbors

City officials say they do not know how many satellite dishes there are in La Canada Flintridge, but they say enough have been installed on rooftops and in yards to prompt complaints of unsightliness from neighbors who take a dim view of them.

"Dishes were starting to pop up all over the place," said Bill Campbell, assistant city manager.

There are now no restrictions on satellite-dish installation in La Canada Flintridge. In its present form, the proposed ordinance would limit the number of antennas to one per dwelling, require ground mounting and screening, prohibit installation in front or side yards, limit the height to 15 feet, regulate the type and color and require approval by the Architectural Review Committee and the Planning Commission. A $45 building permit also would be required.

The proposed ordinance would allow roof mounting in commercial areas as long as the antennas are screened from view, are within the 35-foot building height limitation and meet all building codes. Those with antenna installations that don't meet the ordinance's requirements would be given a year from the time of its enactment to conform.

Clearer Reception

Satellite dishes range in diameter from 4 to 12 feet and can cost from $1,500 to $5,000. The antennas provide clearer television reception than over-the-air broadcasts and cable systems, and offer a wider range of programming, bringing in more than 100 channels.

Across the nation, regulation of satellite dishes has increased recently as the antennas have become less expensive and have started to proliferate. Privately used satellite dishes number about 1.4 million, according to the Society for Private and Commercial Earth Stations, also known as the Satellite Industry Assn.

The organization is an Alexandria, Va.-based lobbying group representing more than 1,000 manufacturers, distributors and users of satellite dishes, said Fred Finn, an attorney for the group.

About 500 cities nationwide have enacted regulations similar to those being considered in La Canada Flintridge, Finn said.

In Los Angeles County, cities that have enacted or are considering regulations include Culver City, Beverly Hills, Torrance, Manhattan Beach, Covina, Temple City and Whittier. Finn said most restrictions on satellite dishes have been enacted for aesthetic reasons.

Protests From Installers

"In many cases, people don't like the way they look," Finn said. "But, in other cases, there appears to be some motivation to protect cable TV revenues."

So far, protests about the proposed La Canada Flintridge rules have come largely from installers, not the owners, of satellite dishes. Bill Schirding, owner of TV Lab on Foothill Boulevard and a vocal protester at hearings on the matter, said the proposed regulations seem too restrictive.

"It sounds like they're trying to get rid of them all," Schirding said. He added that he, too, objects to satellite dishes being erected in front yards, but said rooftop installations often are necessary because "there really is not any other place to put them."

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