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Monday, June 20, 2011

[Patch] Cell towers in City parks without community input in the works

Cell Phone Towers in Public Parks?

If Recreation and Parks managers get their way, the community will have little or no say in the matter

By Ajay Singh
June 18, 2011
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The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks is considering the installation of cellular phone towers in some of the city’s public parks, and although the department says it has not set any policy on the issue, a high-ranking manager is opposed to any community representation in the project’s so-called “working sessions.”

That was the gist of comments inspired by a report presented to the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners at its twice-monthly meeting, held at the Glassell Park Recreation Center Wednesday, June 15.

The report (item # 11-185), among a dozen items on the meeting’s agenda, was titled “Park Property—Installation of Cellular Telecommunication Equipment.”

Presented by Melinda Gejer, a Rec and Parks city planning associate, the report began with a reference to the commissioners’ May 4 meeting, during which “some specific instructions [were] given by the commission in terms of revising the procedures, guidelines and leases to reflect the desires of this department,” Gejer said.

The official requested the board to adopt the various procedures and guidelines as well as site-lease agreements whose prices would be based on geographical locations, “reflecting the concept that some areas of the city are more desirable than others for our applicants.”

Although site leases for the proposed cellular towers provide “some flexibility for this department, in terms of procedure it’s important to remember that every application will come before this commission for conceptual approval,” Gejer said. “If conceptual approval is granted, then we can enter into an extensive and exhaustive community outreach process—and the final approval, reflecting those comments, will be brought back before this commission.”

Every application, Gejer concluded, will be “reviewed twice by this commission and will have full staff review as well.”

Glenn Bailey, chairman of the Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Commission and a founding member of the Encino Neighborhood Council, urged the board to consult with the city’s neighborhood councils on any steps to allow cellular towers in public parks within a given council’s jurisdiction.

Bailey also asked the board to provide a minimum of 60 days notice to neighborhood councils so that relevant committees within the councils get enough time to study and decide on the cellular tower proposals before the department.

“We are quite concerned about the general, multiple use of our parks and rec areas and we are also concerned regarding the process,” Clyde Williams, a member of the L.A. 32 Neighborhood Council, which encompasses El Sereno, and the Northeast Los Angeles Coalition, told the board.

All proposals for cell towers in the L.A. 32 Neighborhood Council’s jurisdiction go through the council’s land use committee, which makes recommendations, Williams said. “Why not [in the case of] the parks?”

A lot of people in El Sereno “are quite sensitive to cellular phone towers, where they going to be located—and also whether they may or may not influence the public health and visual aspects [of the issue],” Williams said, adding that “we’ve gone around and around with AT&T and others in El Sereno regarding cell towers and how to mount them.”

Finally, said Williams, “we are part of the City of Los Angeles—why aren’t the departments of neighborhood empowerment talking to Rec and Parks?”

The idea of building cellular phone towers in public parks continues the Board’s “headlong slide of commercialization of our city parks,” said Joseph Young, a community activist with the Sierra Club and the Friends of Griffith Park. “You want to wring every penny you can out of our parks. It is wrong. We are destroying the very things that make parks what they are intended to be—places of serenity, tranquility and beauty.”

Read the rest of the article at Patch.