Boyle Heights residents raise concerns over cell phone towers 

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By Ashley Orona

Contributing Writer

BOYLE HEIGHTS — The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council is pushing for the rejection of a new Verizon cell tower at 2823 Wabash Ave., while also calling for a more rigorous application process for the structures, citing safety concerns and a lack of neighborhood input.

The council unanimously approved addressing a letter to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles City Planning and the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering at a July meeting, asking the agencies to deny Verizon’s permit application for the tower, pause the acceptance of new applications in Boyle Heights and revise the application process as a whole.

Board members and residents expressed concern that radiation from the new cell tower would pose a danger to their health, similar to the impact of the multi-freeway interchange that runs through the neighborhood.

“When the East L.A. interchange was proposed, people were excited about the new options available to commuters,” the Neighborhood Council wrote in its letter. “Concerns about the consequences to Boyle Heights and the air its residents breathe were ignored. Today we still pay the price. Let’s not make the same mistake again with unnecessary cell tower construction.”

Boyle Heights is heavily burdened by environmental stressors, ranking in the 96-100th percentile on California Environmental Protection Agency’s system, mainly due to car emissions from the interchange, where the Santa Ana, Santa Monica, San Bernardino, Pomona, Hollywood and Golden State freeways meet.

The radio frequency radiation transmitted by cell towers can have an impact on a human’s health by not allowing it to maintain a regular body temperature, according to a report from the National Toxicology Program. There is limited evidence so far on the toxicity of radio frequency radiation in humans, with existing studies demonstrating a possible but not yet causal link.

The radiation levels emitted by cell towers are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Local agencies like the Los Angeles City Planning Water and Power and Bureau of Engineering departments grant permits for the towers and ensure excavation work complies with the city’s design and material specifications and that construction is properly overseen. Neighborhood councils can only recommend issuing permits.

The Neighborhood Council letter strongly suggested that there be a moratorium on new permits for cell towers and that application requirements be more strict. Suggested changes included increasing the application fee, capping on the total number of towers a developer can submit and a task force to oversee the application process.

The council also requested that developers submit notification of a planned tower development to renters in the area. Right now, the city only requires notifying property owners, even though 77% of residents in Boyle Heights are renters.

The letter also recommended that the city require developers to make street improvements to the streets near the tower for pedestrians and drivers and that no tower should exist within a one-mile radius of a school or nursing home. There’s an early education school, a library and a park within several hundred feet of the proposed tower on Wabash Avenue, as well as an elementary school two-10ths of a mile away.

The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council is currently awaiting a response to its letter and will address any reply at a future board meeting.