After a lengthy hearing, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission voted 4 to 1 to allow a Verizon cell phone tower to be constructed on the roof of an existing three-story condominium complex located at 404 San Vicente Boulevard.
The City’s Zoning Administrator had approved the required Use Permit for the project back on May 1, 2008 but the residents who live in the immediate vicinity of the complex decided to appeal that decision to the Commission.
One of the appellants, Rodger Jackson told the Commission he objected because this project consists of “unprecedented residential installation where a cell tower with an extraordinary powerful transmitter” will be placed on a building that is adjacent to an elementary school [Calthrope School]. This is of concern because it has been shown that younger children are much more susceptible to the adverse health effects of cell phone tower radiation.
The other appellant, Caroline Dixon, was concerned that access to her complex’s roof was not controlled and therefore placing a cell phone installation there would present a danger to young children and others.
Also concerned was Dale Monolackus who lives in the complex where the cell tower would be placed. She pointed out that the building’s “roof was beyond its lifespan … the roof has repeated leaks, and it was not built to code.”
The only neighbor who spoke in favor of the project was Andrew Schnickel. His support was based on the fact that the “current wireless service in the area from Verizon is not sufficient so the proposed installation is needed and will provide a benefit to the community.”
City Land Use Attorney Barry Rosenbaum stressed to the Commission that the City couldn’t make determinations about wireless communications facilities based on health concerns if the facility complies with standards set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for radio frequency emissions.
Commissioner Jay Johnson voted against allowing the construction to go forward by stating, “My concern here is on the residential aspect of all of this. I just think that as we’re getting so so close to the residential aspects here that if it’s literally above your head, right near by etc. there comes a point, a gray area if you will, where it behooves us to say no. I’m not afraid to challenge the law on this matter. ”
The Commission, after giving approval to the project, added additional conditions in response to the neighbors’ concerns. They requested that there be annual testing by an independent reviewer to make sure the radiation from the installation remains at the levels permitted by the FCC, that there be radiation testing at three different places within the Calthorpe School, and that the condominium roof should be off limits to the general public.