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TMCNet:  Council Will Debate Danger Of Cell Site

[March 31, 2010]

Council Will Debate Danger Of Cell Site

Mar 31, 2010 (Grunion Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Do microwave antennas emit dangerous radiation levels? City Council members will be asked to consider that question Tuesday in a hearing appealing a decision to allow Sprint Communications to install three such antennas in the tower of the historic Gaytonia apartment building in Belmont Heights. The Gaytonia already houses three panel antennas, but Sprint is requesting that those antennas be replaced with higher-power wireless antennas including microwave dishes.

Last December, the Planning Commission approved that upgrade based on a federal law that prohibits a city from denying a cellular facility permit if the facility meets all federal standards and regulations related to radio frequency emissions -- which this proposal does. The only real grounds the city would have for rejecting a permit would be if there were aesthetic issues, according to Derek Burnham, planning officer for the city. The current antennas are screened by the Gaytonia's medieval-style tower, and the new antennas would be in the same place.

One of the appellants, and electronic engineer, says he understands that argument. How- ever, Eyal Shlomot adds, that same Telecommunications Act does not detail how that level of emission is to be tested. He argues that having three antennas on the Gaytonia, and having those antennas communicate with other wireless facilities, could mean that the cumulative effect is harmful to residents around the facility.

The current antennas in the Gaytonia are hardwired, meaning they link into the Sprint network via cables. Shlomot said the microwave dishes planned in the upgrade to the 4G system act as "searchlights" of emission.

"Instead of light, they project microwave-length electromagnetic radiation," Shlomot writes. "It means that the Gaytonia building and the neighboring buildings will be at the crosshair of electromagnetic emission from three such microwave 'searchlights' from the neighboring cellular towers." Shlomot and his fellow appellants, Ray Sumner and Vicki Pell, contend that Sprint could upgrade the system without using microwave dishes by installing or leasing fiber-optic lines. They want the city to require complete studies of emissions with and without the dishes.

"The FCC is the one that determines whether a facility is operating within the appropriate bandwidth," Burnam said. "In terms of bandwidth power, they are within the limits. It's not within the purview of the city to say wireless or not wireless." Another battle over microwave antennas was waged in 2006 in Belmont Shore, when residents opposed a contract at the Bay Shore Community Congregational Church to put cellular antennas in the church's bell tower. Eventually, the church ended negotiations on its own due to the opposition rather than pursue the conditional use permit.

Shlomot calls Sprint's contract with the Gaytonia "unbreakable," and that his personal issue is more to call attention to the issue of microwave emission than to stop the Gaytonia project in particular.

"It is important to emphasize that the topic is not the particular upgread of the antennas in the Gaytonia tower," he writes, "but the general aspects of the exponentially expanded cellular networks, the national laws and regulations, as well as the city ordinances that deal with this expansion." The Gaytonia is the third of three hearings on east Long Beach issues that will start Tuesday's meeting. The first two are entertainment permits for Panama Joe's on Second Street (without dancing) and The Gaslamp at Pacific Coast Highway and Loynes Drive (with dancing). Both of those permits would be for one year.

In other business Tuesday, the council will consider: --Renaming the dog beach as Rosie's Dog Beach.

--A contract to provide and install a perimeter fence at Marine Stadium.

--A recommendation to set up joint meetings with the Long Beach Unified School District.

--Creation of a "Hire Long Beach" Web site and establish a policy to include a jobs impact analysis on future agenda items.

--An audit of all businesses with large city contracts to determine the impact of hiring practices on local jobs.

To see more of the Grunion Gazette or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Grunion Gazette, Long Beach, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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