Parents of children who attend two schools located near the Little White Chapel held a news conference on Thursday calling on the Burbank City Council to block the installation of a wireless telecommunication facility inside the church because of the dangers they say radio emissions pose to the public.
The public pressure came as the Burbank City Council prepares to hear three appeals on Tuesday to a Planning Board decision to approve the T-Mobile equipment.
Julie Fisher, whose 6-year-old attends Bret Hart Elementary, said her house is only 600 feet from the planned wireless equipment and feels that allowing the installation takes away her rights as a parent.
“[My son] probably plays with my cellphone a bit too much,” Fisher said. “But it’s my choice. I tell him when he’s allowed to turn it on and when to turn it off…The cellphone tower will be on all the time.”
The wireless equipment would be about 530 feet from Bret Harte Elementary and about 1,055 feet from Luther Burbank Middle School, said Roy Wiegand, who lives across the street from the church.
Wiegand, father of a seventh-grader at Luther Burbank, said the EMR Policy Institute recommends that wireless telecommunications facilities not be located within 1,500 feet of a school or child care center.
“We, as parents, are put in the especially difficult position as it seems the church, T-Mobile and the city of Burbank feel they know how to safeguard our children better than we do,” Wiegand said.
The City Council approved an ordinance in September allowing wireless communication facilities in single-family residential areas so long as they are installed on an institutional building, such as a church or school.
Federal law prohibits state and local governments from regulating the placement, construction or modification of wireless facilities on the basis of environmental effects of radio frequency emissions.
After news of the Little White Chapel controversy broke out, Burbank Unified announced plans to draftg a ban on wireless telecommunication facilities on any district-owned building.
Wiegand said the equipment’s proximity to the schools is still disturbing.
“The tower will affect approximately 1,500 children for six hours a day, Monday through Friday,” Wiegand said.
Mike Moynahan, who has a seventh-grade student at Luther Burbank, said the T-Mobile project — which would be the first wireless telecommunication facility in a single-family residential area in Burbank — could pave the way for more such projects.
“This will set a dangerous precedent,” he said, referring to the situation as a David vs. Goliath battle.
“Ironically, the Little White Chapel — this house of God — has chosen to side with Goliath,” he added. “They have entered into an agreement with T-Mobile that will result in huge profits for them, but ignores the rights and considerations of their neighbors.”
After the press conference, Rev. Bill Thomas Jr., pastor of the Little White Chapel, said he would reserve making comments until after the City Council meeting on Tuesday.
Representatives from Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and Rep. Brad Sherman also spoke at the event.
“We’re here to learn, listen and support the need to preserve the residential character of our R-1 neighborhoods,” said Jason Insalaco, Gatto’s district director.
“I know the concern goes beyond just this one location,” said Michael Tou, deputy chief of staff for Sherman. “This concern goes to other neighborhoods throughout the city of Burbank — and the precedent it could potentially set — and certainly we share your concerns with that.”