City Council Rejects Cell Antenna; Implications for Future Building?

Grayfox Street Pole

Siding with more than 30 residents fearful of overloaded utilities and radiation emissions, the Malibu City Council on Monday unanimously rejected the installation of a tenth T-Mobile cell phone antenna node on an already-existing utility pole in Point Dume. 

The cell equipment rejection was the first of its kind by the city council, according to Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski, and raised a larger question among officials and residents regarding the safety of cell phone and utility equipment distribution throughout Malibu. Many noted a risk in the “piecemeal” add-ons, with more and more communications equipment being added to utility poles and little scrutiny being given. 

“We need to take a look at the way we do cell towers in this city,” said Councilman John Sibert. 

An application by Crown Castle Communications to install the antenna for T-Mobile was first appealed last year by a group of Point Dume neighbors who live near the pole in question. The Malibu Planning Commission denied the appeal in December, siding with city staff’s assertion that the cell antenna met all necessary design and installation standards. Grayfox resident Matt Rapf then appealed the planning commission’s decision to the city council. 

Components of the installation would have included a 24-foot utility cable, 4-foot radio reception unit, 2-foot by 7-inch antenna and one-foot utility box on an already-existing utility pole on Grayfox Street. 

Carver Chiu, a representative for antenna applicant Crown Castle, said the installation on Grayfox Street would fill “an important void” for coverage in Point Dume by servicing 44 homes and a beach access pathway in the eastern peninsula of the neighborhood. 

“There’s a growing demand for the infrastructure to support our societal craving for technology,” he said. 

But residents argued adding another antenna to a pole already seemingly overloaded by other communications equipment was a huge safety risk. 

“There’s all kinds of people working [at that utility pole] all the time. We’ve had a lot of new loads put on those poles,” said Madelyn Glickfeld, a Grayfox Street resident. “I don’t think anybody’s looking at the weight of those poles.” 

Laetz, who helped overhaul statewide safety regulations on utility poles, spoke out against the new antenna as well. 

“City staff should have … looked into the engineering facts,” Laetz said. “How much does that pole weigh? How old is it? Are there termites in it? …Your city staff tells you it’s safe, they didn’t do the job.” 

City officials agreed, calling for a citywide assessment of cell towers and equipment. 

“They’re just putting a cell tower here, there, everywhere, without any consideration of whether it’s really needed or if it’s competition or if it’s just capitalism,” said Mayor Joan House. 

As part of the cell equipment rejection, city staff was further directed to bring back a discussion item for the city council to address the proliferation of cellular equipment throughout Malibu.