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Radio Tower Plan Angers Neighbors

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A proposal by Cal Lutheran University to build a 150-foot-tall radio tower on an undeveloped Thousand Oaks hillside has drawn an outcry from nearby residents who say the antenna will destroy their views of the ridge.

Dozens of residents from Thousand Oaks and the unincorporated Santa Rosa Valley are expected to protest against the proposed antenna when it is considered by the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission on Monday.

Cal Lutheran wants to build the radio tower on Mt. Clef ridge to establish a campus-operated public radio station, KCLU-FM, that could broadcast cultural and educational programming throughout most of Ventura County.

University officials said the station would give Cal Lutheran students majoring in communications hands-on experience at broadcasting.

“This radio station could be as important to a communication arts major as a piano is to a music major,” said the school’s vice president of institutional advancement, Dennis Gillette.

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The school first applied for a broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission in 1975. When the application was finally approved in August, 1990, the FCC gave the university until August of this year to get the station up and running, Gillette said.

But already the university’s efforts to meet this deadline have been delayed by the community protest. City planning commissioners postponed an earlier hearing on the antenna proposal last fall until university officials could better respond to some of the residents’ concerns.

Residents said they don’t oppose the radio station, just the proposed location for the broadcast tower.

“Everyone is in favor of KCLU-FM,” Thousand Oaks resident Denise Filz said. “We’re just not in favor of the Mt. Clef tower location.”

The only structures currently on Mt. Clef ridge are a 30-foot-tall cross made of old telephone poles and a rock formation that spells out the letters “CLU.” The proposed 150-foot-tall antenna, which would have three 18-inch sides, would be built close to the top of the grassy hilltop.

“That’s what we’re going to be looking at from our back yards,” said Elinor Gustafson, who has lived in her house below Mt. Clef for 21 years. “Instead of the nice green hill, we’re going to have that antenna.”

“Nobody wants to see that thing looming over their house,” said Ted Knight, 37, whose new home is built into the north side of the Mt. Clef ridge, about 1,000 feet south of the proposed tower location. “It’s just going to be big and ugly.”

Knight and other residents also said they are concerned that radiation emitted from the tower would harm hikers and children as well as deer and other animals that frequent the hillside.

Knight said he’s not comforted by the university’s assurances that the radiation emitted from the tower’s apex would dissipate as it drifts downward to levels deemed safe by the government.

“Just because the government has a standard” about radiation emissions does not make it safe, Knight said. “I certainly don’t trust the government to protect my health.”

Knight and many of his neighbors have suggested to city planners and university officials that the antenna be built away from a residential neighborhood. They’ve even suggested alternative locations, such as Rasnow Peak, a hillside off the Ventura Freeway in Newbury Park where some other antennas are already located.

But Gillette said a station broadcasting from Rasnow Peak, or other alternative sites suggested by residents, would be able to reach only about 100,000 Ventura County residents, at most. From the Mt. Clef hilltop, KCLU-FM could broadcast to more than 400,000 residents.

In addition, the school owns the Mt. Clef property, but would have to lease other sites.

Residents have also proposed that Cal Lutheran put the radio tower on top of a university building. But Gillette said an antenna on such a site would have to be 300 to 400 feet high, making it visible to even more residents than those who have a view of Mt. Clef.


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