By Michael Hernandez
THOUSAND OAKS—The City Council in a 3-2 vote upheld the Planning Commission decision to allow Verizon Wireless to build a wireless facility on the 2.51 acre property located at 4588 Sunnyhill Street, within the North Ranch community (western Westlake Village—the two-thirds portion of the community in Ventura County was annexed into Thousand Oaks; in 1981 the remaining portion of Westlake Village was incorporated in Los Angeles County).
Voting to uphold the Planning Commission decision (made on Aug. 26, 2019) were Mayor Al Adam and councilmembers Bob Engler and Ed Jones while Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Bill-de la Pena and councilmember Rob McCoy voted for appealing the Planning Commission decision brought forth by North Ranch resident Gregory Tchejeyan, M.D. on Sept. 4, 2019 and supported by an overwhelming (10:1 in favor of the appeal) number of public hearing comments on the water tank property owned and operated by California Water Service Company and installed in the 1980s.
The Thousand Oaks City Council deliberated on the Verizon Wireless public hearing (agenda item 8c) for over four hours at its Tuesday, Jan. 14th meeting.
The wireless facility also referred to as the Candlecrest project has single-family residential homes to the south, east and west while the northerly property line aligns with the southerly edge of Sunnyhill Street at an elevation of 1,500 feet above sea level—the highest elevation in the immediate vicinity.
Verizon Wireless has proposed installing its equipment (antenna panels) at three locations of existing eight-foot wrought iron fencing around the water tank. The proposal involves increasing the fencing at varying heights (up to 14 feet) to accommodate installation of the panels as well as installing a seven-foot high enclosure fence around each of the antenna sectors to satisfy Federal Communication Commission (FCC) radio frequency (RF) safety guidelines which require establishment of a controlled zone to restrict access to the public.
The actual appeal objecting to the Verizon Wireless installation had nine points that were lumped by Thousand Oaks City Staff into six general opposing points:
- California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) requirements;
- Alternate site analysis;
- Challenging the wireless coverage gap; and
- The reason for the project at its location.
Meanwhile, the 30 plus public comments supporting the appeal and opposing construction of the Verizon Wireless antenna panels focused their concerns on:
- RF exposure;
- Lack of neighborhood notice of wireless installation;
- Challenging the need to support a wireless gap in the area;
- The negative impact on property values;
- Destruction of he natural appearance of the area;
- Harmful effects of 24-7 wireless transmissions;
- Possible tree removal;
- The City of Thousand Oaks not standing up to the Federal Communications Commission rulings on wireless installations;
- Health Studies to the effect of 5G on the population;
- The installation of diesel fuel equipment (dangerous in a fire zone) to support the wireless installation;
- Claimed bias of city staff toward approving the project; and
- The objections of more than 2,000 petition signatures who did not want the cellular wireless installation.
The three public hearing supporters in favor of the wireless installation included the president of a neighborhood group (representing 461 homes) that stated that the North Ranch community had poor cellular service and wanted “decent and consistent cell service in our area.”
Thousand Oaks City Staff in their report for the need for the cellular wireless installation stated:
- More than 75 percent of home buyers say that good cellular connections are important to them;
- 83 percent of Millennials depend on cell service;
- 90 percent of the public uses cellular services to call 9-1-1 (emergency services).
Thousand Oaks City Staff also reported that none of the alternate cellular sites were adequate.
Mayor Pro-Tem Claudia Bill-de la Pena in her comments for why she was upholding the appeal stated: “I do not think the (Verizon Wireless) application is complete…I am not convinced this is the only location and I am not in support of denying the appeal and ask my colleagues to reconsider their decision.”
Councilmember Rob McCoy said he was using “aesthetics” as his “grounds” for voting in favor of the appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision to move ahead with the wireless installation. “It will effect” the skyline.
City Council honors retired Police Chief Tim Hagel
“We are grateful for (Tim Hagel’s) 31 year service in law enforcement and the last six years to the City,” said Mayor Al Adam in his commendation remarks to the former Police Chief.
Former Police Chief Tim Hagel was honored for his development of the 2014 Thousand Oaks Safe Passage program geared to reducing gang activity and violent crime—the anti-gang project redirects impoverished youth “to a better and brighter future.”
Mayor Adam spoke of Hagel’s support of the homeless and other “vulnerable populations” within the City. “You went to all the (Borderline) memorials. You helped shelter victims of the Woolsey Fire” (which burned 96,949 acres, destroyed 1,643 structures, caused the evacuation of 295,000 people and killed three people).
In other City Council comments, Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Bill-de la Pena called Tim Hagel “the best humanitarian we have in Thousand Oaks” while Councilmember Rob McCoy said Hagel’s service as Police Chief “wasn’t a job but it was a calling; the community was blessed. My friend, my brother, you’re amazing.”
City Council adjourns in memory of Mayor Emeritus Alex Fiore
The Thousand Oaks City Council meeting was adjourned at 11:12 p.m. by Mayor Al Adam in memory of Mayor Emeritus Alex Fiore who passed away Jan. 3, 2002. Former Mayor Alex Fiore was first elected to the Thousand Oaks City Council in 1964 and served six terms as Mayor and 30 years on the City Council.
Mayor Emeritus Alex Fiore was recognized by Mayor Adam as a Thousand Oaks “founding father” and “an integral part of Thousand Oaks history.” The Thousand Oaks Teen Center (founded in October, 1989) is named in his honor.
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected]