Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Could Cell Phone Towers Atop Street Light Poles Be Coming To Laurelhurst?

Renderings of potential cell phone tower on top of light poles
in Magnolia

A concerned group of homeowners in Magnolia are warning Laurelhurst that it could be the next neighborhood for installation of cell phone towers.
Recently, Magnolia residents started receiving notices from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections regarding installation of “communication utilities” on Seattle City Light poles.
Two residents, Alistair Fulton and Luke Weber, head up the organized group to fight the proposed network of nine cell sites that would run along the edge of Magnolia Boulevard proposed from Crown Castle International, "a subsidiary of time warner who specializes in rolling out and or leasing infrastructure for the large cellular operators," Alistair said.  

Alistair and Luke have posted notices on light poles alerting residents to the City’s plans and have sent letters to residents.

The group says that specifically the antenna would be placed on top of light poles, adding several feet in height and a large cylindrical shroud covering 6 separate radio antenna.  

They say that this is the City's "first pass installation to get on the ground," and then they will roll out larger cans on top of light poles that would support 2+ carriers.

The City has already installed 100 antennas on Queen Anne  on utility poles although reception was already good.

"Right now they have a barrier to entry that they can't install these in Laurelhurst, and if the Magnolia project came to pass one barrier would effectively be removed, "Alistair said.

Luke reached out to the Laurelhurst Blog saying: 
I have information from a trusted source that Laurelhurst would be next in this plan after Magnolia, and this is the trial to give the City the backing to roll this out in the near term.  
I will personally stand behind the information of this coming from an inside City Government source who talked with people behind this program and said that there are plans drawn up and Laurelhurst is on those plans.  
You will not be able to get any information about this until permits are filed, but I stand behind that statement.  They're trying to squash the regular planning and approval process by rolling this out neighborhood by neighborhood.
Alistair added: 
 I'd position the potential risk to Laurelhurst as "potential" rather than definite and you should caveat it accordingly to avoid giving the impression that Crown Castle have definitively stated that's what they will do.  
I'd still argue it seems very likely that said but wanted to be clear with you on the provenance of I would regard that as somewhat informed speculation on our part based on the fact that this (Magnolia) is the first deployment Crown Castle are trying to push through in a neighborhood without overhead cabling.  
We have no hard data in any of this but are just going on the multiple conversations we've had with Crown Castle, based on which I would say its very likely that if they are successful in Magnolia they will take the same approach with the same equipment in the only other similar area in Seattle - namely Laurelhurst.   
Crown Castle wants to put these up on top of City Light poles in Magnolia that are the same type as Laurelhurst. If Crown Castle ever wanted to locate them in your neighborhood for better network density which is probable they would be able to put them up almost unopposed in the future after this pilot project becomes the standard for the Seattle DPD and City Light.  They permit for something half the size of the real thing that's actually planned in the near term.

Luke explains the ties to Laurelhurst with the proposed Magnolia project:
I had been researching our underground wiring to figure out if we had any previous agreement with City Light that would prohibit this and came to realize that Carlton park in Magnolia was modeled after the project that happened four years earlier in Laurelhurst and that we have similar light poles.  
If Laurelhurst residents would not like this in the future the best point to stop this is now, in its first trial. You don't need to live near this to have an impact on the planning, just your opinion of its aesthetics and a note that you would never want to see this on this style of City Light pole is enough.  The 1996 Telecommunications act prohibits taking into account health impact in the permitting process so long as it meets FCC limits.
The group told the Laurelhurst Blog that they're "looking for reach and public support to stop this project. It's a first phase, of a first trial of a new design.:

They added:
It's being planned under the need for E911 and was chosen because it's the cheapest solution to achieve more towers and cellular density in these neighborhoods.
If this becomes the accepted standard by the City's Department of Planning and Development, I'm very fearful that we won't even have a leg to stand on in the future to oppose them, much like antennas strapped to utility poles now. Crown Castle, due to federal regulations, and their choice of City Light as a partner has most of the cards in their favor on this project. The only card we seem to have is that this is a new design that hasn't been adopted yet by DPD.

Here are ways the public can get involved:
Alistair was employed in the cellular industry and told the Magnolia Voice:
I think that there’s a significant risk with the cell phone towers in a neighborhood. At the very least, there is a very big question as to how safe these things are.  

In twenty years we may look back and think about cell phones and cancer the way we think about cigarettes and cancer. Electromagnetic Frequency Radiation [EMF] is exactly the same as a [home] microwave. It agitates your cells and heats your cells. That leads to a variety of cancers, particularly Glioma and Leukemia impact these things will have on property values.
The cell site in question is forty-five feet from my child’s bedroom. It’s also twelve feet away from my neighbors. 


The group cites these impacts:
  • Health concerns – the long term impacts of exposure to EMF radiation have pointed to significant increases in the incidence of cancer, cognitive impairment, nausea, dizziness, sleeplessness and a host of other ailments.
  • Impact on our Neighborhood – Magnolia is one of only two areas in Seattle (the other being Laurelhurst) that benefit from no overhead cabling or utility poles (other than 20’ light poles).
  • Impact on property value – if your home or those of your neighbors are in close proximity (within a few thousand yards) of these sites the value of your house will be negatively impacted, perhaps seriously.
  • Planning process is broken – the City appears to value the interests of big money donors like Crown Castle above those of taxpaying voters, they have NEVER denied Crown Castle a permit to install cellular antenna regardless of neighborhood concerns. Together we can make Magnolia the first neighborhood to break that pattern.
    The concerned group says that their "goal is to stop this project dead in it's tracks before we have these as the established improved light pole standard."
    They added:
    We need cell coverage, that much is clear, but this proposal to disrupt our local neighborhood and place cellular antenna at street level next to houses where children sleep and play is not the right answer. If enough people speak up we can defeat this proposal and preserve our neighborhood.

    The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:
    Though there is no evidence about it coming to Laurelhurst right now, the City is setting a precedent by allowing the private utility to be mounted on the Seattle City Light poles.  DPD considers it an administration, type 2 decision, but it could be used to justify further projects .
    There are big health concerns for the effects of cell emissions , especially on children whose brains are still developing, and whose bedrooms can sit 20 feet or less from these cell towers every night. Residential neighborhoods should be safe havens from such potential risks.

    LCC added that the Villa Academy was approached many years ago to place a tower and one resident remembers being in a room with numerous local pediatricians who spoke loudly against it, with a "resounding no."
    The Villa project was many years ago, and I was in the room with numerous local pediatricians who spoke loudly against it.
    We can contact them if needed, but it was three headmasters ago!
    LCC submitted these comments to the City's DPD:
    Proposed  permits #3023362 and #3023359 are stated  for the purpose of attaching "minor" communication utility devices on top of the Seattle City Light street light poles in the Magnolia neighborhood which is zoned sf 5,000.  Magnolia neighbors who have underground utilities have been alarmed by this permit application with its short notification allowed for replies, and our concerns are similar to theirs. Because this is a major departure in the use of Seattle Public Utility  property to be used by private utilities  ask that these attached cell tower devices be put on hold indefinitely, until a complete EIS or similar study has been completed.
    LCC has these questions:
    • Why is the use of Seattle City Light utility poles are permutable for cell tower companies?   What rent is charged? Has this been reviewed by affected homeowners ?
    • How many different private companies can put their cell towers on the same pole?     What exactly is the size, height and dimensions of these cell towers?
    • What health studies have been done to verify that close proximity to these cell towers have no long term affect on the health of residences next to them?
    • What health studies have proven that especially children residing, sleeping in close proximity will have no health affects from these cell towers?  Have the studies from the World Health Organization been considered on the cell tower emissions effects on children, suggesting 10x the risk of cancer?
    • Seattle has prided itself in preserving the character of its neighborhoods. How are these cell towers compatible with the residential character of neighborhoods?
    • The Magnolia neighborhood homeowners as well as several more in Seattle, have invested large amounts of their own money to have their utilities located underground for safety in windstorms, and to preserve some open space and view lines for the benefit of their residential neighborhoods.  All cable lines and telephone lines from private firms have also been required to locate underground at a considerable cost to preserve this character.  Will the City of Seattle reimburse homeowners whose the funds paid for underground utilities , and now have visual blight instead?7. Large cell towers sitting on top of street light poles  pose a major safety hazard, and as such,  will receive the greatest impact from our powerful windstorms. Cell towers such as these are "top heavy" which makes it even a greater target for the wind and rain to say nothing about a drone hit.
    • Will Seattle and/or the utility company pay damages to homeowners for these circumstances? 
    There are many questions and concerns that must be factually addressed, and these permits should not be allowed until they are thoroughly considered.  Thank you for considering these comments, and please take more time before issuing a precedent setting permit.
    Here are some recent stories about the Magnolia group of concerned residents:

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