Resident Challenges Cell Phone Antennas

Fighting on behalf of neighborhood character, safety, and property values, a Woodland Hills woman has filed a zoning appeal to stop Pacific Bell from erecting six cell phone antennas atop a two-story office building.

Last month, a Los Angeles zoning administrator approved the installation of the antennas--which must be hidden by a fake chimney no taller than 10 feet above the building's roof--at the corner of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Dumetz Road.

"We're being forced to accept it, but there are possible health risks and property values being affected," said Laura Yablon, a Dumetz Road resident who said she filed the Aug. 20 appeal on behalf of her community. Yablon said the antennas would change the character of the "low-tech, rustic neighborhood."

Many nearby businesses and residents have joined the battle against the antennas, including 56 people who live within 500 feet of the proposed site and signed a petition protesting the plan. Last week, about 25 residents met to discuss the situation and some expressed anger at Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, who represents that area of Woodland Hills, for her support of Pacific Bell, Yablon said.

Lisa Levy, Miscikowski's senior deputy in the Valley, said the councilwoman had supported Pacific Bell's plan because the company agreed to address some aesthetic concerns, including concealing the antennas and moving some equipment cabinets out of sight.

Controversy over the proliferation of cell phone antennas has rippled through many communities in recent years. Some, including Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, have tried to regulate the placement of such equipment, often seen as a visual blight. The antennas have been variously described as "huge, ugly metal weeds," an "eyesore," or simply "hell."

While cities may address land-use issues, local governments have no authority to judge the health risks posed by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the antennas. As long as the facilities meet Federal Communications Commission standards for radiation, they are legal. Though the city's power is limited, Levy said she is still researching the issue. "I will be working on finding out if there is another location that will serve Pacific Bell and get it out of the residential neighborhood," she said.

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