Ordinance tackles cellular antennas

CITY HALL — Residents and mobile phone carriers will get their first chance this week to weigh in on a draft ordinance meant to regulate the placement of cellular antennas in Glendale.

The ordinance, if adopted in its current form, would require carriers to not only prove why they absolutely need to place their antennas at desired locations, but to also apply for permits and possibly face denial if their proposals are deemed unsightly.

“If it’s proposed to be in an area that’s more intrusive visually, then it would go to the Planning Commission, and that would be for a full hearing with community notification,” said Christina Sansone, general counsel for the Public Works Department.

Glendale’s efforts to increase regulation on cell-phone towers based on aesthetics got a boost in recent weeks after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Sprint PCS in its suit against Palos Verdes Estates, which had denied permits for the company’s antennas because they “were not in keeping with the city’s aesthetics,” according to court documents.

Glendale will hold its first of three community meetings on the draft ordinance at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Pacific Community Center.

The meetings come months after residents protested a planned T-Mobile cell antenna on the 500 block of Cumberland Road.

The City Council then imposed a 45-day moratorium on new cellular facilities in residential zones after heavy lobbying from the north Glendale neighborhood, but T-Mobile then withdrew its plans for the antenna, explaining that it had not coordinated with the community as much as it had hoped.

Residents were concerned about the aesthetics of a new antenna, which would have been placed on a sidewalk near residential properties, and also about the possible negative health effects of radiation from a nearby tower.

A major provision in the draft ordinance would require carriers to defend their placement decisions for proposed antennas, Sansone said.

“They have got to show us that there’s no other way that they can provide service but at that location, and that they have considered alternate locations, and for very good reasons they cannot place their antenna anywhere else,” she said.

John McMahon, who lives directly in front of T-Mobile’s previously planned antenna on Cumberland Road, called the 141-page draft ordinance “a fantastic start.”

But the provisions are different for antennas placed on private or public property, with no requirement for buffer zones between a private property and an antenna on public land, he said.

That was precisely the problem McMahon had faced when the T-Mobile antenna had been planned on a sidewalk within 5 feet of his home, he said.

McMahon also planned to ask how the city would be able to evaluate a carrier’s claims that it needed an antenna in a specific location.

“Are we going to employ a specialist?” he said. “How are we going to know when someone turns in an engineering report that what they turned in was accurate?”

Asked about the draft ordinance and planned community meetings, T-Mobile representatives released a statement indicating that the company would work within the city’s new regulations.

“It is T-Mobile’s policy to work within all relevant and appropriate siting guidelines and regulations,” T-Mobile said, adding that it was the company’s mission to “help our customers stay connected to the important people in their lives, and one way we do that is to develop and maintain the highest-quality communications network and services.”

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