Beverly Hills : Tower to Be Camouflaged

A 150-foot communications tower that made Trousdale Estates residents hopping mad will soon be camouflaged to the limit of Mother Nature's (and Beverly Hills') ability.

The city's Public Works Department will spend $12,000 to plant two rings of trees around the Walker Drive antenna tower, which relays police, fire and emergency communications.

The inner circle--eucalyptus trees expected to reach between 50 and 80 feet at maturity--will be fronted by fast-growing pines, expected to reach up to 50 feet. Screening material will be put on the gates to the entrance of the tower area to further improve the site's appearance.

As a safety measure, a red warning light will be installed atop the antenna, at a cost of $4,000. According to a report by the city's economic development manager, Howard Rattner, the funds for the landscape work and the warning light are available in the city's water enterprise fund and communications budget, respectively.

Last July, residents were so angry over the sudden and unannounced erection of the tower in their view-conscious neighborhood that they tried to shout down Mayor Max Salter at a Council meeting. Many called it an eyesore, and said the structure had lowered their property values. Max Lerman, for example, said, "Nothing else will suffice but to get that thing down."

The tower supplanted a 19-year-old, 100-foot tower several feet away. City Atty. Gregory Stepanicich acknowledged then that the antenna was "not treated as requiring environmental review because it replaced existing facilities."

Since the July dispute, Councilman Bernard Hecht has met jointly with Trousdale residents and city staff. Hecht reported at the City Council's informal session Tuesday that the mitigation measures are a result of their compromise.

"Some of the residents were determined to sue the city," Hecht said. "But eventually they changed their minds." Hecht said he visited about 10 homes in the neighborhood. "The compromise was a real democracy-in-action type thing. Not many people get a knock on the door from their councilman," he said.

Upon hearing of the landscaping plan Wednesday morning, Lerman said: "Anything is going to be better than nothing. Whatever they're trying to do, I think it's a good thing."

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