Mailbag: Fix cell tower loophole

Hillside residents opposing the proposed T-Mobile cell tower at Brace Canyon recreational park are grateful that our city leaders and staff for their diligence in updating the city's wireless facility ordinance.

The City Council special joint study session with the Planning Board yielded a radio frequency emissions compliance report as part of the application process, and more rigorous aesthetic requirements.

Very importantly, our leaders want to modify our code so that a first facility will not automatically be installed by right, as our current ordinance allows. We also thank Deputy City Planner Michael Forbes, who at the close of the meeting, recommended the city host a community meeting for residents to provide input.

Toward that goal, we ask our leaders to please fix a giant loophole threatening our neighborhoods — our ordinance lacks any regulations addressing wireless facility installations in public rights of way. As a result, how would you like to wake up and find a cell tower right outside your bedroom window, installed on your sidewalk, alley, or on top of your streetlight or utility pole without any advanced public notice, hearing or means of appeal?

That's what's happening right now throughout the city of Los Angeles, where more than 40 neighborhood councils and resident organizations are calling for new regulations to halt the growing proliferation of such wireless facilities. Burbank needs to adopt a moratorium, or halt any such proposed installations before it becomes a serious problem in our city, too.

In April, Clearwire got two of its wireless facility installations in Burbank approved, and its reps informed our Planning Board that they've begun deployment in Los Angeles. But how many others do they want to install, and next to which homes? What is our long-term master plan to address these massive deployments?

Cell towers, whether they are disguised as palm or pine trees, or mounted on top of utility and telephone poles, present documented fire and fall hazards, attract crime and negatively affect property values. This is why they are commercial facilities that belong in commercial areas away from our schools, homes and parks.

We ask our City Council and Planning Board to follow through on their directions given to staff at December's study session to create a tiered-approach of preferred and non-preferred locations that will protect residents, communities and schools within the full extent of the law. This is what Glendale does with its new wireless facility ordinance, considered one of the strongest in the state.

We also urge our leaders to adopt an ordinance that will require a conditional-use permit for all proposed wireless facilities, which would require residential notification within 1,000 feet of the proposed location, public hearings and a means of appeal.

Most importantly, we recommend Burbank residents and school parents communicate their concerns and recommendations directly to our City Council, Planning Department and City Manager Michael Flad, to help Burbank craft a model ordinance.

For inspiration, we can look to neighboring Glendale, where residents and city officials worked together to develop the city's new wireless facility ordinance. They have achieved the possible. Let's do the same.

Kiku Lani Iwata, Andrew Bolhuis, Michelle Safarian and Alex Safarian

Burbank

I am writing to express my consternation and outrage at the overnight conversion of the downtown Burbank post office into a for-profit parking lot after 6 p.m.

Let me get this straight: When I get off work at 7 p.m., I am expected to pay for the privilege of checking my P.O. box mail? Apparently, no parking spaces have been reserved for postal patrons. Is that land not public property, paid for and maintained by taxpayers?

What's next, having to pay a private company to drive into Wildwood Canyon or Stough Canyon Nature Center? Paying a fee to some corporation for my kid to use the play structure at George Izay Park? Paid parking at the library? By what authority did this policy change occur? I was not made aware of any public comment period on this, and I question its legality.

Furthermore, this flies in the face of one of the best and most charming things about our city: That one can enjoy downtown Burbank shopping and dining without paying the exorbitant parking rates that are the norm in Pasadena, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. I fear this is the thin edge of the wedge — and if Burbank residents can no longer park for free to enjoy a meal or a movie, local merchants will lose my and many other patrons' business.

Sam Dlugach

Burbank

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