Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of information disseminated that has generated a number of questions from Westlake Revelations readers. This article will try to address them.
Before that, however, realize that the Three Springs HOA is doing a survey of residents to determine preferences and other information. Due to the nature of this issue, the survey will only be relevant if there’s significant response from residents (e.g., more than low double digit response rates).
If you live in Three Springs, it’s important to take the time
to fill out the survey. It will only take a moment.
You should expect to see the survey in the mail as early as tomorrow, Friday. Make an effort to complete it and mail back by Monday to the HOA.
Common questions. Below are the most frequent questions we’ve been asked. Got more questions? Drop a line. If appropriate, we’ll do a follow up article.
* Can the city deny the permit?
The city council is required by a 1996 Federal Law to approve cell sites if: they meet FCC requirements, the carrier can show a coverage gap, and the antenna meets basic aesthetics.
Aesthetics here means that it really has to not fit in (e.g., a large undisguised tower in the middle of town). For the purposes of the law, a fake tree (as the proposed antenna is) meets the requirement.
The city attorney has advised the city council that if they are to deny the permit, they are exposing the city to litigation by T-Mobile (who has a proven track record of suing).
* Can the city deny based on health concerns?
No. The 1996 Federal law prevents this from being considered. It is possible to change this law, but it would literally take an act of congress. Henry Waxman is the local representative for this area.
* But other cities have denied them. Why can’t Westlake Village?
The City of Agoura Hills recently denied a permit for an antenna at Lindero Canyon Middle School. Westlake Revelations has confirmed with Agoura city officials that they have been sued by T-Mobile over this.
Other cities have denied permits, and they have held. But, the situations are different from the application by T-Mobile for Westlake Village. For example, one city denied a permit for four sites, because three would take care of the coverage gap. Had the carrier applied for three, they would have had to approve it.
To our knowledge, no application like Westlake Village’s has been denied, and then withstood a law suit. If you hear of one, please send us a link to a news item with credible information for a follow up article.
* What are the options the city has?
The city can *ask* T-Mobile to do certain things, and T-Mobile would likely have to do anything reasonable. For example, they can ask for a tree that will accommodate other providers, or a different type of camouflage or height.
– The city could approve a single 25 foot tree. But, if it does this, it would only be able to serve T-Mobile customers (which there are not a lot of in Three Springs). Given that Three Springs residents so emphatically asked for better coverage in the city survey.
– The city could approve a single 45 foot tree. This would allow for T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T (but not Sprint because their antenna technology is not compatible with the others on the same tree).
– The city could approve three 25 foot trees. The LVMWD is open to three trees, but the additional costs may make providing service less attractive to Verizon and AT&T.
– The city could approve three 45 foot trees. Same issue as three 25 foot ones, but coverage would be better because it’s higher.
* Can’t the antenna be further back?
This is basic geometry to get the same covearge. Rule of thumb is every foot back needs a foot higher.
In other words, if the antenna was put at the back of the water district building (around 200′ back), the antenna would then need to be 200′ higher (e.g., 245 ft tall).
* “Can’t the antenna go on the Westminster Presbyterian Church? People are only there on Sunday.”
First, WPC has activities all week long. But, more relevant here is that a location on top of WPC would do nothing significant to cover the gap in Three Springs.
* “Three Springs residents can use femtocells instead”
This is part true and untrue. A femtocell is a mini-cell site in your home that hooks up to a home’s Internet connection. It provides services not for all users, but for a configured group for a short distance. (These are not to be confused with micro-cells which cannot be used in a home — but instead are used in places like convention centers or stadiums.)
While announced (for a year or more now), femotcells are not currently available yet from AT&T. They are available for Verizon and Sprint. All femtocells are extra hardware and cost.
Femtocells, and repeaters/amplifiers, provide services within a home, but not to the neighborhood. In other words, it helps someone in their house, but not while walking around the neighborhood, at the park, or at a neighbor’s house down the street.
Bottom line: Femtocells and repeaters can help, but they don’t accomplish the same thing, and femtocells are not available yet for AT&T.
* Property Values and disclosure
There’s a broker who spoke at a recent City Council meeting that property values would go down if there’s a cell site nearby. Other brokers who work in and around Three Springs say that there’s no impact.
Some tell of stories that residents wouldn’t look at a house with a cell antennae nearby. Other’s tell of potential buyers that won’t buy in an area if there’s not cell service. (Remember, 25% of US homes today no longer have land lines and use cell phones as their primary phones).
While some say that disclosure of a nearby antenna may be necessary, others have said that because of the prevalence that cell antennas everywhere that disclosure is no longer required.
Bottom line: You can find experts on each side of this one. We’ve not seen any recent studies in the US that show property value declines. If you see one, please forward a link.
* Where can I get more information about health concerns?
We’re not going to tell you one way or another about the health concerns. There are a variety of studies. Some are valid research studies. Some are unfounded opinions. Some are good science. Some aren’t science at all. Some are done by researchers. Some are done by people wanting to sell you things. Some are sponsored by cell phone companies. Others have hidden agendas.
We encourage you to look at who is behind each study — and to look at the study itself, not vague references. If a study is done by a cell phone company, it could be suspect. Similarly, if you read about the study on a site selling necklaces to protect you from cell radiation, that’s suspicious as well.
If Westlake Revelations readers would like, we’ll assemble a list of research articles. We’re asking people on both sides to please send links to what you’ve found. Please point us to the actual research items, not vague references. We’ll put together a list and you can look at it for yourself and decide.
What we can tell you is that the electromagnetic radiation output by a cell antenna like the one proposed is *less* than what people are exposed to with WiFi base stations in their homes.
We can also tell you that when it comes to electromagnetic radiation, distance is everything. Most people realize that the amount of exposure drops with distance, but what they don’t realize is that it drops very very quickly. The first short distance has a very significant drop off in the amount of radiation.
Proponents will tell you that “handheld cell phones, because of close proximity to the user’s head, provide RF exposure levels to their users that are orders of magnitude higher than transmissions from cell antennas.” This is true. What they don’t refer to, however, is that you don’t hold a phone to your head all day long.
More specifically to cell site antennas, the consistent signal is a bit easier to look at. The FCC’s mandated power density limits for continuous uncontrolled RF exposure by the general public are 600 and 1,000 microwatts per square centimeter for 900 and 1900 MHz signals, respectively. The signal actually goes above all the nearby properties. But, if you were to put yourself right in line of the cell antenna, at 100′ away, the RF exposure levels would be well under 1% of the maximum deemed safe by the FCC.
* Cell signal exposure drops if a site is put in
While the energy coming from a cell antenna is obviously higher than no antenna at all, there’s a decrease in exposure for those *using* a cell phone on the services with better signal.
In other words, when cell phones do not receive a strong signal they work harder (e.g., put out a strong signal) to compensate. If there’s good reception, then the signal is comparatively lower.
This is why a cell phone battery drains very quickly when the phone is in an area with poor signal.
* “Cell antennas cause cancer”
We’re not going to say one way or another. Here’s what the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute say.
American Cancer Society:
As explained by the American Cancer Society “Base station antennas use higher power levels than other types of land-mobile antennas, but much lower levels than radio and television broadcast stations. The power density decreases with increasing distance from the antenna. As a result, the level of exposure to radio waves at ground level is very low compared to the level close to the antenna.”
The American Cancer Society continues “Public exposure to radio waves from cellular phone antennas is slight for several reasons. The power levels are relatively low, the antennas are mounted at high above ground level, and the signals are transmitted intermittently, rather than constantly.”
National Cancer Institute:
“There is no evidence that cellular telephone use poses more of a threat to children than to adults. However, no study populations to date have included children, who are increasingly heavy users of cellular telephones and are likely to accumulate many years of exposure during their lives.
In addition, children are at greatest risk from agents known to cause brain and nervous system cancers because their nervous systems are still developing. If RF energy from cellular telephones is proven to cause cancer, researchers would expect children to be more susceptible than adults. Again, however, there is no evidence of this to date.”
* Why can’t the cell site go on the new water tank?
Cell signal dispersion is a Fresnel zone. This is roughly the shape of a football. So, it needs some height to work best to get radio line of sight. The City has asked an outside consultant where antennas would have to go to get coverage. The LVMWD site is the only one that can reasonably serve Three Springs for most of the residents.
* “There’s already cell service in Three Springs”
While it is the case that some residents do have cell service, most do not. In the city’s recent city survey, Three Springs residents identified lack of cell service as one of, if not the highest, concern that they had. Three Springs residents were particularly vocal to the city about this issue on the survey.
There’s some service for AT&T customers, but not at a level that a cell phone could be used as a primary phone, nor relied upon for emergency services or business use. Verizon and Sprint customers have even less service. T-Mobile customers have essentially no service.
* Can the antenna be moved?
There are some residents that would like for the antenna to be moved away from their property. The antenna could be moved some closer to the park, but there are pros/cons to each location.