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Santa Clarita delays cell tower after public outcry

Posted: May 28, 2014 4:32 p.m.
Updated: May 28, 2014 4:32 p.m.

Hours of discussion Tuesday led to another delay for a proposed cellular structure in the Santa Clarita Valley — this one in Valencia.

Following a stream of public speakers, members of the Santa Clarita City Council decided Tuesday night to delay decision on whether to allow construction of a disguised cellphone tower near a water tower in the Northbridge area.

The project’s applicant, AT&T, as well as representatives from Crown Castle, said the proposed 47-foot-tall structure — which would be disguised as a eucalyptus tree and placed on a graded pad that already houses a 52-foot-tall water tower — is necessary to fill a significant gap in cellphone coverage in the area.

The proposed project, which would be located on Fairview Drive in Valencia, according to the City Council agenda item, also includes a 240-square-foot equipment shelter located near the tower.

Dana Cop, director of external affairs for AT&T, said Tuesday that cellphone and smart phone use has increased steadily in recent years and that, because of the hilly terrain of the Santa Clarita Valley, it can be a challenge to find an appropriate location for towers.

“The specific site is important to fill the large coverage gap that we have,” she said.

The project had previously been approved by the city Planning Commission on a 3-2 vote but was appealed to the City Council.

Public questions
A collection of Northbridge residents protested the tower, saying they don’t want it in their neighborhood. They also challenged AT&T’s claim of a coverage gap.

Those who appealed the project to the City Council presented a video showing residents making and receiving phone calls on what appeared to be AT&T phones throughout the area where the company claimed a coverage gap.

Speakers also criticized the aesthetic impacts of the project, the potential noise generated and its potential effects on property values and safety in the area.

Brent Downs, a Valencia resident, characterized AT&T’s claims as misleading.

“People move to Santa Clarita to escape urban blight, not take it with them,” he said. “This cell tower is significant blight.”

Almost every speaker at Tuesday’s meeting spoke against the project, though a few spoke in favor.

'Best quality'
Council members raised concerns similar to those of the residents, posing questions regarding the noise and aesthetic impacts of the project and whether another site could fill the service gap that AT&T says exists.

Council members eventually voted 4-1 to continue the item to a date uncertain, reopen the public hearing on the topic and request the applicant come back with some additional information to answer questions raised by the council.

“I personally just want the neighborhood to get the best quality decision that they can,” said Mayor Laurene Weste at Tuesday’s meeting.

Council members also directed city staff to draw up a resolution to deny the project so, in case council members should decide to do so, they have that option at the future meeting.

Councilman Bob Kellar was the lone dissenting vote and said he thinks cell towers, though not perfect, are needed.

“If the tower only affected you, I would vote with you 100 percent, absolutely,” Kellar said to the crowd.

Other towers
While not every cellular structure or tower attracts the same level of public input as this one, Tuesday’s meeting was not the first time a proposed cell tower has run into problems passing muster with Santa Clarita Valley residents.

In 2010, some residents in Baker Canyon in Canyon Country raised issue with a planned Verizon Wireless tower in their area. The proposed tower was later moved to a different location.

Another proposed tower in Stevenson Ranch, this one from T-Mobile, also raised questions and caused concern for residents in the area in 2011 and 2012.

In those cases, residents have also cited concerns similar to those raised Tuesday.

Jeff Hogan, Santa Clarita’s planning manager, said city staff works to examine potential impacts.

“We try and minimize the impacts of the location to neighbors and residents,” Hogan said Wednesday.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




EgbertSouse4U: Posted: May 28, 2014 4:44 p.m.

Interesting how the city council is listening to its citizens in regards to cell tower blight... but not the 60-foot digital billboards. Weren't even WILLING to listen to it's citizens, had to force a referendum!

money money money makes the world go round.......right, you greedy S.O.B.s??

Nitesho: Posted: May 28, 2014 5:35 p.m.

Greed? of them must live close by and now it's just convient for them

cms96: Posted: May 28, 2014 5:45 p.m.

Your absolutely right Nitesho. One of the must live in that area. If not, this tower will go up no matter what. I think the council has been taken acting classes and are acting like they want the best for its residents. They appear to back off a bit in the communities best interest. Then they will make the go ahead decision. Bottom line, its all about money.

chefgirl358: Posted: May 28, 2014 6:52 p.m.

BS, there is no gap in cell coverage in this neighborhood. None. At all.

Vtown123: Posted: May 29, 2014 12:04 a.m.

I hope they get the tower installed.

ricketzz: Posted: May 29, 2014 7:03 a.m.

The coverage must be tested during peak times, not "whenever". Even if you get bars, that doesn't insure that your signal won't slow down when streaming, etc.

The City Council cannot stop a federally licensed entity from deploying radios. The fear of a neighborhood cell tower is irrational. You should be way more afraid of the hams pumping 1,500 Watts into their rain gutters and flagpoles, as you are in a deed restricted place where hams use stealth methods to hide their giant antennas.

The strongest radiation on the ground is not below the cell site; it is away from underneath the tower, toward the far edge of the cell proper. You absorb far more energy using small home office WiFi, Blutooth and of course your two way mobile phone, with transmitter firmly pressed against your carotid. The farther away the tower, the more power the transmitter next to your ear has to transmit. When the phone is warm and battery life shortened know you need a new tower. This is an outstanding infrastructure upgrade that can't hurt property values any more than a visible 15 million gallon reservoir already has. AT&T are planning the same thing in Pinetree and I don't know anyone who objects.

Allan_Cameron: Posted: May 29, 2014 8:00 a.m.

None of the five City Council members live in either Valencia or Saugus. Three live in Canyon Country and two live in Newhall.

The "water structure" at issue here is not a water storage tank. If you look carefully, and compare what you see, you will notice the difference in proportion compared with a real water storage tank.

This thing is a huge "surge chamber" designed to relieve pressure in the vast Metropolitan Water District water main that transfers water from Castaic Lake to the other huge dam in Eastern Southern California. This water main, which runs through northern Valencia is large enough to drive a Greyhound bus through.

cms96: Posted: May 29, 2014 8:02 a.m.

The City council has the right to not lease out land or city owned property for this cell site. This is about AT&T leasing the "space" from the city.
It is income generating for the city. AT&T does operate with a federal LICENSE because it has to. Just like you would if you were a HAM operator.
It is all about money.

Allan_Cameron: Posted: May 29, 2014 8:49 a.m.

The land in question is not owned by the City of Santa Clarita. The land is owned by the Metropolitan Water District. This is the same agency that has the rights to virtually all the water in Castaic Dam Lake.

djrobx: Posted: May 29, 2014 10:37 a.m.

There is absolutely a coverage gap in that area. Whoever says otherwise is clearly not an AT&T customer. Have you ever tried to use your AT&T cellular phone at the Bridgeport Marketplace? On Decoro Dr at Hillsboro?

The only thing we wanted was for the tower to be disguised as a tree, and it sounds like it will be. It's going to be located alongside an ugly water tank. It's not like they're going to be decimating some beautiful landscape.

If they manage to block this, residents in that area are going to be very sorry if there's an emergency and they can't contact their loved ones. It's more than just signal strength - additional towers means less congestion as the load becomes shared amongst available towers.

cms96: Posted: May 29, 2014 11:10 a.m.

The city did this to the residents in Newhall. AT&T came in with their high powered people and convinced them to mount their cell site on the big water tower off the 14 freeway at Dockweiller. The city ignored the residents at the public hearing, and the fact that the cell site fell within the setback limits of the new residential homes that were just newly constructed. Forget the residents its all about revenue. Anybody that lives in this city knows that by now.

timothymyers02: Posted: May 29, 2014 11:40 a.m.

There is definitely a coverage problem in that area, and the people objecting are the same crowd one would find protesting against vaccinations and genetically modified food.

Unreal: Posted: May 29, 2014 1:13 p.m.

I think the issue is how crappy the towers look. Totally fake looking. I can't believe a better job of disguising them can't be done.

They need to spend more money in making them look more natural. That seems to be the real issue. they just don't want to spend the money to make them look better.

Unreal: Posted: May 29, 2014 1:19 p.m.

Maybe the one's that look like a flag pole with the American flag flying would be better than the trees? This town does like a good flag pole.

lars1: Posted: May 29, 2014 1:23 p.m.

A cell phone held three inches from your brain gives you 4,000 times the exposure you get from a high power cell tower located just 100 feet away.

The tower is even less powerful at larger distances.

People should be educated to not hold the cell phone next to their brains.

missyJk: Posted: May 29, 2014 2:41 p.m.

I am in Saugus i dont get cell coverage at my house but that's fine i have no intentions of ever giving up my land line. I would rather have sporadic cell service than a giant tower near my home..i watched the city council meeting on TV, the applicants seemed a little vague in their answers knowing well the giant monopoly i would expect nothing less

Unreal: Posted: May 30, 2014 12:55 p.m.

I live in Saugus too. At the end of my street, maybe 2 blocks away, in a straight line we have a cell tower. Been there for years. Until this past year the only cell service we could get up here was Sprint. Why?

I watched the Congressional hearings on this and the congressmen seemed a little unsure about how it all worked and were trying to figure out why some little carriers testified they were denied (phone calls not returned, etc.)the ability to piggyback on the towers even though the large carries assured everyone they could.

This example of how large companies squash competition and a cautionary tale to be used when thinking about this TWC COMCAST deal.

SenseInCastaic2: Posted: May 30, 2014 1:37 p.m.

sure wish we could get better coverage out here on the west side... try going into Hasley Canyon or Val Verde... NADA! if you're lucky, you can get a text in or out, MAYBE!

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