Mailbag: Good cell service is vital to our city

As a 20-year telecommunications veteran, I wanted to address the ongoing protests against cell tower construction in Laguna Beach. The concern over cell tower radiation led residents to block the construction of a planned T-Mobile tower in the Top of the World neighborhood, and efforts are underway to prevent another planned tower in Arch Beach Heights. While nobody wants to be reckless when health issues are concerned, we should also be concerned that Laguna Beach residents will be denied state-of-the-art telecommunication services if carriers grow weary of having their networks blocked. As more carriers upgrade to faster 4G network services, we do not want to be left off the Information Superhighway.

There's no debate that blanket cell coverage is a necessity — it can be critical for emergency responders. Whether we have an accident on one of our biking or hiking trails, or an emergency such as the recent canyon and downtown flooding, it's imperative that people be able to call for help. Emergency notification services such as Amber alerts and road closures will be increasingly sent to cell phones. Blanket coverage also helps the town economically, as more and more commercial services are being delivered over the Internet, and smarter and faster phones that are more like PCs. Good coverage gives residents and businesses a choice when deciding where to live and work, and which calling plans to purchase.

Laguna Beach is a challenging market for telecommunications providers. One reason is the unique topography, with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other; we've long noticed the poor FM reception in town. This is why cellular service is also spotty. With tough zoning and open space environmental restrictions, it's inevitable that in order to have blanket coverage some towers will have to be placed closer to residential areas.

Protesters have cited studies pointing to harmful effects of cell signals, but a careful reading of the current body of work will show that there is no clear definitive evidence that cell phones or towers cause cancer at all. The scientists who are still skeptical are only calling for more research and caution. To balance the debate, key findings from a 20-year study done in Denmark, which has long had much higher cell phone usage rates than the U.S., show no correlation between cancer and cell phone towers or cell phone usage.

Additionally, modern cell phones use much less power than older versions, making up for any effects of more recent increased usage in the long term study. If parents are concerned that their growing children are being exposed to too much radiation from cell phones, they can purchase headsets for their children, have them use a phone in speakerphone mode, or simply limit their children's usage — that is their personal choice.

Related to cell towers, which impact service for the rest of us, the World Health Organization has stated: "Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects."

A day's exposure to cell tower radiation is about the equivalent of 30 minutes of cell phone exposure, and in itself far less than the typical effects of solar radiation. We wouldn't want to see efforts to require sun screen and beach umbrellas, yet that would be more beneficial to our children's health.

There is no clear health evidence to justify blocking cell towers. There is on the other hand a clear public safety risk in not having sufficient wireless coverage, and a quality of life reduction for Laguna Beach which will only get worse if our telecommunications options shrink.

Interested readers who would like to learn more are encouraged to visit the websites of the American Cancer Society (enter Cell Tower in the search box) or the National Cancer Institute (enter Cell Phones in the search box).

Tim Templeton

Laguna Beach


Keep streets passable

Many people complain about all the laws, rules and regulations that we are confronted with each day. I don't believe there is one on the books of Laguna Beach, but I hope that this letter will alert some folks, maybe enlighten them and perhaps lead to action so that we don't have to go down to City Council and ask that they create one.

Summit is a main artery for those who drive or walk up to Arch Beach area. On both sides of the street there is a white stripe that helps drivers to stay within lanes. The city has used this method to cordon off areas for pedestrians to walk, but on Summit this striping has disappeared in some places because of overgrown vegetation or encroachment by property owners (perhaps the two or three inches will give them a bigger yard or a better view of something). At any rate, Summit also narrows down in places, especially around bends in the street. As I drove up I saw people crossing from one side to another because the road had narrowed or the vegetation obliterated the stripe and they were seeking a wider berth.

Wouldn't it be nice if these property owners on Summit got out of their cars/houses and looked up and down the street and realized what their lack of oversight, concern, or plain — well let's not go down that way — is doing to create an unsafe environment for pedestrians. If you know the owners of such property could you speak to them, or if you are walking up or down the street and see the owner encourage them to help those of us who enjoy using Summit to get down into town to clear out the vegetation and open up space for a safe journey.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach


Animals should have been protected

The recent storms and flooding in Laguna Beach have shed light on a despicable act of animal cruelty and irresponsibility. As residents, we were all warned well in advance of the impending storm and the consequences it could yield. The recent news of the animal deaths caused by this flooding is an outrage, especially in a city with more wealth and affluence than most in the county. I can't help but wonder why our shelter, housing so few animals, allowed any to perish in this disaster. The residents of Laguna Beach love their animals and given the opportunity, would've gladly volunteered to bring a dog, cat, rabbit or chicken home for a day or two to ensure the animal's safety.

Why were our residents not notified that help was needed to get the animals out? Were the smaller pets left on the floor to drown? Was placing a box in a kennel the best idea the staff could think of to make certain no dog would be injured or killed? The same sense of urgency shown to save homes and businesses from repairable destruction should have also been shown to our city's pets. No animal, regardless of their size or stature should have been allowed to die in this shelter.

Kittie Olivier

Laguna Beach


City has good and bad elements

In the short time John Pietig has been city manager, he has brought a breath of fresh air to our town. His waiving of rebuilding fees is great, but only until Jan. 10? This sounds too much like our last city manager. His leadership during the rains was great.

A wall of water went thru Anneliese's Willowbrook school and numerous homes in Laguna Canyon, and a friend who has lived near the creek for 35 years said he never heard anything like the most recent rains. Ann Quilter raised millions for the Susi Q Senior Center, where Chris Quilter is doing a great job. Ms. Quilter is the ideal person to lead our town's effort to not only help those who were flooded but begin planning a way to stop such devastation in the future.

As I inferred above, our city is a case of the good and the bad. Laguna has hundreds of small businesses. I took a car for repairs to a small shop in Laguna Canyon, which has been there 40 years and asked the owner what happened to the sign out in front.

"The city had it removed. They really don't want small businesses out here."

A friend, who happens to be black, was homeless but now has housing. He got several tickets from the Laguna police. When he went to court, without saying anything, the judge dismissed all of the tickets. It sounds like the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., but some citizens believe that if you are black, you will be harassed by the Laguna Beach Police Department.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

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