HomeCommunity NewsResidents Worried About Local Cell Tower’s Generator

Residents Worried About Local Cell Tower’s Generator

The City of San Marino sent a letter on May 6 seeking confirmation from American Tower Corporation and attorneys for Verizon Wireless that they are still willing to relocate cell towers currently located at San Marino High School and in a maintenance yard between Valentine and Huntington schools.

City Prosecutor William Litvak of Dapeer, Rosenblit & Litvak, LLP wrote in the letter, “My goal is to work with you to resolve these issues. Should we be able to confirm an understanding, my office would prepare a comprehensive agreement thereby providing all parties with a clear understanding as to what is expected of them and when.”

As of Monday, May 23, Litvak had not received a response.

“We are checking to make certain that the proper parties received the communication,” he added.

Installed in 2006, the original 60-foot tower at Huntington and Valentine schools did not receive a conditional use permit, or CUP, from the city, claiming they were told that obtaining a CUP was not required. The towers did receive approval from the Division of the State Architect.

The towers’ fall radius overlaps the San Marino Unified School District’s (SMUSD) approved evacuation plan for the three schools, requiring students to walk past them in the event of an emergency. The tower at San Marino High School sits on a fault line considered “active” by seismologists.

These concerns were expressed by members of SMUSD’s Cell Tower Advisory Committee at the school board’s March, 2014 meeting. The committee remains concerned about these issues, plus a Verizon Wireless-operated diesel generator that would keep the cell towers operational in case of power outages.

Cell Tower Advisory Committee members Raymond Quan and Miriam Nakamura specifically expressed their concerns about the generator, which is located in the district’s maintenance yard, at this Tuesday’s school board meeting.

They presented a February, 2016 facility equipment report prepared by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, or SCAQMD, the air pollution control agency for Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, during the school board meeting’s public comment portion. By law, the school board is not allowed to respond to comments made during the public comment portion.

The report found the diesel generator’s emission stack is located 17 feet from one AC air intake unit and 11.2 feet away from another. Both units provide air conditioning to a portable classroom at Huntington Middle School.

The SCAQMD Inspector CJ Chang wrote, “The site had several power outages in recent years, so the engine quite often kicked in for emergency ops during school hours, which was probably the main cause of the complaint.”

He added, “Once the generator kicked in, they need to manually turn it off after the power was restored, which may have had some delay since the site is unmanned.”

Though SCAQMD found the generator too small for permitting, Quan and Nakamura want Verizon Wireless to convert from diesel power to electric fuel cells, or place carbon monoxide detectors in the classroom. They noted that as many as fourteen days of planned summer blackouts due to the Porter Ranch gas leak make the issue all the more urgent.

Quan and Nakamura took their case to a May 6 public meeting of the SCAQMD Governing Board. At least four members of the 13-member governing board publicly expressed their worries about the generator’s proximity to the classroom.

“We need to look at this as a nuisance, because any time you jam a generator up on these kids like that and spew these fumes on them, there’s got to be something wrong with that,” said SCAQMD Chairman Dr. William A. Burke.

SCAQMD spokesperson Sam Atwood said SCAQMD could issue a citation if the generator is found to be a nuisance, which would require about a half dozen resident complaints. Atwood said that hasn’t happened.

As a result of Quan’s and Nakamura’s address to the SCAQMD Board, conversations between Verizon and SCAQMD have resulted in an agreement that Verizon will not conduct its 20-minute-long automatic weekly generator test on Wednesdays until the two parties have reached a solution.

Verizon Wireless agreed to move the towers following substantial citizen opposition in 2015. In the meantime, the city and school district have been looking for alternative sites for the towers, which Verizon Wireless and American Tower Corporation claim are critical for complete wireless coverage in San Marino. American Tower has considered Tony’s Pizza and Colonial Kitchen as potential locations for relocating the two towers.

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