150-Foot-Tall Tower Sparks Hot Debate in Beverly Hills

Community Correspondent

Voices rose on both sides of the microphones when an angry group of Trousdale Estates homeowners complained to Beverly Hills City Council members that the construction of a 150-foot-tall communications tower is an eyesore that has lowered their property values.

The tower, which is used for police, fire and emergency communications for the city, was erected on Walker Drive in a day and a half last month.

No Notice

Max Lerman, a Trousdale resident, told the council Tuesday evening that the tower had been "perpetrated" on the residents without notice, and without a public hearing or the filing of an environmental impact report. "Nothing else will suffice but to get that thing down," he said.

City Atty. Gregory Stepanicich acknowledged that the tower was "not treated as requiring an environmental review because it replaced existing facilities." The tower supplanted a 19-year-old tower on the same site that was 50 feet shorter.

Mayor Maxwell Salter said: "We demand and expect the best fire, best police and best communications in this community. We spent $6 million for the finest communications system. I'm sorry about the difficulty, but this is the site the engineers chose."

Vice Mayor Allan Alexander addressed the disgruntled residents, saying, "I don't live there, so I may not feel the same way as you, but my wife and I drove up there and frankly I found it kind of a fascinating tower."

When these remarks and explanations by city staff members of the procedure used to construct the tower drew angry outbursts from homeowners in the audience, Salter shouted, "You are showing unbelievable lack of respect for staff!"

Councilwoman Vicki Reynolds called the incident "an unfortunate confrontation that needs resolution." It was agreed that the mayor will appoint two council members to meet with representatives of the homeowners.

The mood in the council chambers was considerably more deliberative during the afternoon study session, when the council resumed its continuing discussion of development of nine acres of city-owned land in the industrial area at Foothill Drive and 3rd Street, where construction of a municipal services center has been proposed.

The council heard a report from an advisory committee, recommending that a new capital plant--to house such services as vehicle, electrician and sign-painting shops, and refuse and water systems--be built at a cost of about $40 million.

Report Ordered

Also recommended were commercial development on part of the land to help pay for the city project, and dedication of part of the property for a human-resources center, with nonprofit organizations such as the Beverly Hills Family Y and the Maple Center, a psychological counseling clinic, as anchor tenants.

The council agreed to consider the capital plant separately from other components, and instructed the city manager to prepare a report that would examine the economic benefits of several approaches to providing the municipal services, including contracting out of vehicle repair and purchasing land outside Beverly Hills to house some services.

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