Verizon Wireless Appeals Denial of Its WeHo Cell Tower Application

Verizon Wireless is appealing the West Hollywood Planning Commission’s decision to deny it permission to install cellular antennas in the tower of St. Ambrose Church.

St. Ambrose Church, 1271 N. Fairfax Ave.
St. Ambrose Church, 1271 N. Fairfax Ave.

The commission made the decision at a meeting in December attended by parents of children at Larchmont Charter School, which is adjacent to St. Ambrose and whose building is owned by the church, and from nearby residents. St. Ambrose is at 1271 N. Fairfax Ave. near Fountain. More than 700 people signed an online petition against the antenna installation and many submitted letters or email messages expressing their opposition to city staff members and commission members.

The Verizon notice of appeal states that the Planning Commission “lacked substantial evidence” in its denial and that the denial is a violation of federal law. Federal law requires local government bodies to have substantial evidence to justify their denial of installation of a cellular antenna. The law also states that “No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the (Federal Communication) Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.”

At its Dec. 3 meeting, Planning Commission members said they didn’t believe Verizon made a good case for the need for the cell tower, although Verizon representatives displayed a map showing that cell phone reception in the area around the intersection of Fairfax and Fountain avenues was weak. A city staff report said that ” Verizon Wireless radio frequency (RF) engineers determined that the absence of a wireless facility in this vicinity results in a coverage deficiency with unreliable access to wireless services for emergency (911 ), personal, and business use in the area surrounding the intersection of Fountain Avenue and Fairfax Avenue. Maps have been provided by the RF engineers showing the current coverage situation as well as the future coverage with the proposed antennas in place … The maps show that there are peak hour coverage gaps through the central parts of West Hollywood at this time.”

Residents and parents who opposed the antenna installation cited a variety of reasons. Some argued that putting the antennas inside the St. Ambrose tower would harm the appearance of the church, although the Verizon representatives noted that the antennas would be inside the tower. Another objection was that the antennas might collapse and cause damage to nearby property. City staffers said the antenna installation would have to meet city requirements. Some also objected that installing the antennas would alter the historic nature of the church, which was built in the 1950s and has no historic designation.

But the core objection, which was noted in the online petition and many of the letters and email messages objecting to the installation, was fear that radio transmissions from the tower could damage the health of students at Larchmont and nearby residents. However numerous studies by groups such as the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society have found there is no evidence that radio transmission from cell towers can damage one’s health.

Verizon had to seek the Planning Commission’s approval for the installation because current city law requires that such towers be installed on rooftops and not in towers and that they be at least 80 feet above ground. The Verizon antennas would have been 62.5 feet above ground. The City Council can overturn Planning Commission decisions.

As part of its campaign for community support for the cell tower installation Verizon has sent text messages to its wireless customers. The message says:

“Free message from Verizon: Reply YES to this text to show your support for improved Verizon Wireless service in West Hollywood. Add a message to tell the City you support a new wireless telecommunications facility within the existing bell tower at St. Ambrose Church at 1271 N. Fairfax Avenue. Include your email address for updates.”

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W
4 years ago

I would help St Ambrose in th appeal effort ……how can I do that. Who is the Verizon respresentative that is spoken of. I received no text from Verizon that I recall. I live 7-8 blocks from F & F.

Jake
Jake
4 years ago

I live on Ogden (very close to this location) and as a Verizon user, I usually have little to NO signal in my apartment. I’m truly hoping that the City Council will approve this appeal, since the Planning Commission didn’t.

Zam Loomstein
4 years ago

This is the 2nd time in 3 months that the city has illegally overstepped it’s bounds due to irrational technophobia. First with December’s redundant and unenforceable drone law (It was passed about a week after the FAA regulations were announced). Second, this mess. The planning commission denies the installation of a cell tower on the irrational grounds of the danger of RF (which would lead to imperceivable increases in overall RF exposure anyway). On top of the tin hat crowd’s scare tactics producing a knee-jerk reaction in the uneducated, this is another violation of federal law. The FCC mandates it’s… Read more »

Dan Morin
Dan Morin
4 years ago

Mike Dolan – Well said !

luca d
luca d
4 years ago

please…just follow the money and verizon will have what it desires. what? suddenly west hollywood isn’t for sale. come on.

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
4 years ago

The Planning Commission had two areas to discuss; seismic stability and aesthetics’ post cell-towers installation. During the applicant’s presentation, the Chair continuously interrupted Verizon and feed into the crowds fear, anger. He was uninformed to non-existent health effects of radio waves from these cell towers. The safety of radio waves to this installation, St. Ambrose, surrounding area and residents has been proven to have no effect by many in the fields of science and medicine. I am a Verizon customer in this area and this installation would greatly improve my signal and service to all residents and customers of Verizon.… Read more »