A decision to install cellphone towers in two local parks encountered a stalemate Tuesday night as City Council members were split on the issue.
Verizon wants to install a monopole at Fremont Park and a monoshrub at Scholl Canyon Ballfield to improve coverage in the area in exchange for paying a monthly lease to the city.
However, with Councilwoman Laura Friedman absent from the meeting, a 2-2 vote was ultimately cast.
Mayor Ara Najarian and Councilwoman Paula Devine were in favor of moving forward with the installations, while Councilman Zareh Sinanyan and Councilman Vartan Gharpetian said they wanted to see reports on whether there are any health impacts from radio waves transmitted by the equipment.
“I just want to make sure I’m doing the right thing,” Gharpetian said. “Postponing a week or two is not going to hurt the project or make a difference for Verizon.”
There are eight cellphone towers already up and running in local parks. Verizon officials said the company would pay $36,000 a year for each of the proposed facilities. That revenue would go toward maintaining the parks where the towers are erected, said Koko Panossian, the city’s parks services administrator.
Resident Tony Passarella said he’s worried the waves from cellphone towers could cause adverse health effects.
However, City Manager Scott Ochoa said the city is not aware of any complaints regarding the existing cellphone towers.
Wireless facilities are mostly governed by the Federal Communications Commission, which precludes local governments from denying applications based on health concerns. The only say cities have is where the equipment may be installed.
Resident Nana Stepanyan spoke against both facilities, saying they are too close to residents.
"[They] will invite more cellphone towers … There should be no place for any cellphone towers in such highly populated areas,” she said.
The proposed monoshrub at Scholl Canyon Ballfield would be placed in an open-space area just outside the park. The proposed Fremont Park monopole, which would be made to resemble a tree, would be installed in a storage area away from the playground.
But Gharpetian said regardless, it’s still close to homes near the park.
When asked if the facility could be placed anywhere else, Verizon Wireless representative William Desmond said Fremont Park is the target in order to fix a gap in coverage.
"[Fremont Park] affords the greatest separation from residences,” he added.
Desmond said he’s applied for thousands of cellphone towers that have complied with federal standards and that according to many studies they pose no health risks.
City staffers said they will bring back the reports requested by Sinanyan and Gharpetian at the next council meeting.
Najarian said he’d like to see the police and fire chiefs at that meeting as well to speak about the importance of having good cellphone reception in case of emergencies.
“The risk of not being able to place an emergency phone call, a 911 call, when a resident needs help far outweighs the claimed health risks of the radiation from the towers,” he said.
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