Residents' Concerns Over Cell Towers Mount

By: 
Jasmine Contreras, Intern Staff Writer

It has been over a year since Long Beach residents Moira Hahn and Mark Hotchkiss received a notice from Synergy Development Services., a subcontractor to AT&T. On Feb. 19, 2021, they were notified that the City of Long Beach approved the application of telecommunication company, AT&T, for installation of a cell tower (Wireless Telecommunication Facility [WTF]) 25 feet from their home.

This notice alarmed Hahn and Hotchkiss because they realized the home they have owned, improved, and lived in for 21 years is expected to become the site of an AT&T WTF. They decided to file an appeal against the City of Long Beach for approving the application.

A timeline Hahn and Hotchkiss sent to the Beachcomber states:

“Our appeal argues that AT&T’s tower is far too close to a residence to be safely sited. We further argue that Hahn’s well-documented electro-sensitivity and other disabilities entitle her to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Housing Act (FHA). A supporting letter from our doctor is cited in, and attached to, the appeal.”

The city set up a hearing for April 29, 2021, but canceled it.

The purpose of the hearing is to decide whether the city can approve the permit. If Hahn and Hotchkiss lose, the permit would be issued.

On April 7, 2021, Hahns and Hotchkiss’ attorney, Andrew Campanelli, sent a letter to the city that discussed Hahns’ protection under the ADA and FHA. The City of Long Beach set another hearing for May 13, 2021, but canceled it to review the ADA and FHA issues.

In July 2021, Campanelli received a letter from the law firm Rutan and Tucker that stated the City of Long Beach refused Hahn’s doctor’s recommendation to place the cell tower at least 1,000’ away from her home. Campanelli replied to the law firm that by federal and state laws, the city is required to make a reasonable accommodation for Hahns’ disability.

Campanelli’s July 2021 letter states: “The TCA (Telecommunication Act) does not override the ADA or the FHA. The TCA cannot preempt the ADA or FHA as they are all federal laws.”

After the second hearing was canceled, Hahn and Hotchkiss said the city never offered them any accommodations for Hahn’s disability.

As the months went by, Hahns and Hotchkiss hoped the ‘conflict’ was over, having not heard anything for six months. On Feb. 3, however, they received a call from the city regarding a third hearing.

Before providing available dates for the hearing, Hahns and Hotchkiss filed for a Public Records Act request for all documents about the application that had been received or generated between April 7 and the present, and received that information on Feb. 10. They reached out to the city with available dates for the hearing, March 14-24.

Hahns told the Beachcomber that the city called back on Feb. 18 to set the hearing date on March 25, but their attorney would be unavailable that day. The appellants provided additional dates, and are waiting to hear back from the city.

The installation of the cell towers has been a great concern for Hahn and Hotchkiss. They feel violated by this approval, particularly due to Hahn’s health.

“We are (even) more concerned about the type and strength of 24/7/365 emissions from it than we are about its (cell tower) size and appearance,” Hahns and Hotchkiss said.

Hahn and Hotchkiss were informed by realtors that the cell towers can also affect their property value.

“According to five local licensed realtors we heard from, the cell tower would lower our property value by 20% to 35% or more,” Hahn and Hotchkiss said. “94% of home shoppers (information found in a survey by the National Institute for Science, Law, and Public Policy) would reject or expect a major cost adjustment for a home with a cell tower 25’ from it.”

Along with Hahns and Hotchkiss, other residents have concerns about the cell towers AT&T and other wireless carriers are installing in the city. Long Beach resident Ann Cantrell said she did research on the effects 5G cell towers can have on wildlife and found the harm radiation can have on wildlife such as bees and birds.

Cantrell provided a Public News Service article called “Research Suggests Cell-Tower Radiation Harms Wildlife” by Suzanne Potter that provides three-part research that goes into detail about how electromagnetic fields can affect wildlife’s biology along with their everyday routine to survive in their environment.

The Beachcomber reached out to the Executive Director of the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) Theodora Scarato who provided a fact sheet with information on the lawsuit where the EHT challenged the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) for not updating in 2019 their 1996 regulations of how much exposure there should be toward radiation.

The EHT won the lawsuit on Aug. 13, 2021. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court said the FCC did not give a reason as to why they did not make changes to their 1996 regulations and ignored the scientific evidence of the effects of wireless radiation on humans, nature and wildlife.

The fact sheet provides how there have been over 11,000 pages of evidence that explains the variety of biological effects. “Research has found brain damage, headaches, memory problems, reproduction damage, synergistic effects, nervous system impacted, brain cancer, genetic damage, as well as harm to trees, birds and wildlife,” the fact sheet included.

The Beachcomber contacted the Department of Public Works at the City of Long Beach to question why cell towers were going to be placed every 500’ through Long Beach, which was information Hahns and Hotchkiss heard from the city.

Department Public Works Capital Projects Coordinator Daniel Ramirez wanted to clarify the confusion with calling the installations cell towers. He explained that they are not cell towers but are known as small cells and referred to the Public Works website where there is additional information on small cells.

“When people hear or read cell towers their brain is automatically drawn to the large macro sites that you may see on the side of the freeway,” Ramirez said. “Those that look like trees, sometimes disguised as palm trees or something of the sort, that’s not what’s going up in the city for small cells.”

Ramirez stated how the installation of small cells every 500’ feet throughout Long Beach is not necessarily the case. He explained that small cells only cover 1000’ of area and that telecommunications corporations, such as AT&T and Verizon, decide on where to install cells to meet customers’ demand.

“Long Beach municipal code requires that the different carriers must be located at least 500 feet away from each other in these Tier B areas (residential neighborhoods) so it’s not to say that there will be a small cell every 500 feet,” Ramirez said. “It’s the small cell ordinance requires that at the very minimum they be placed at least 500 feet away from each other.”

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Comments

Ms. Hahn is a member of a growing population of people who are acutely affected by exposure to microwaves. Microwaves effect all living things whether they experience acute effects or not. Some years ago, Lloyds of London Insurance company stopped insuring for "Harm for Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation." Following their lead, virtually all commercial liability insurance policies have followed their lead. This means that the city of Long Beach does not have insurance against harm from this exposure. Eventual lawsuits will have to be paid by the city as they gave permits for installation of these towers. Cities could possibly be bankrupted from future settlements.

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