By Marsha Sutton
At the Carmel Valley Planning Board’s July 26 meeting, the board voted to submit a letter to the San Dieguito Union High School District explaining its unanimous opposition to the proposed installation of 12 cellular antennas at Canyon Crest Academy and urging SDUHSD superintendent Ken Noah and school board members to “consider the community’s concerns before entering into this agreement and any future agreements for wireless communication facilities.”
In the letter, the planning board cited a lack of due diligence in notifying the community of the project, noting that a May 23 notice in the North County Times was inadequate.
“We don’t feel the school’s duty to notify impacted parents, teachers and students was fulfilled,” the letter reads.
The planning board also recommended that the district install antennas “away from classroom buildings and well-trafficked parts of the school where students and teachers might encounter long-term low-level exposure.”
Although cities and community planning boards cannot by law oppose such projects based on health and safety factors, “the school district is not prohibited from using good judgment in the prudent placement of these facilities on their own property,” read the letter.
The letter referred to resolutions passed by the Los Angeles Unified School District that acknowledge “considerable debate and uncertainty within the scientific community as to the potential health effects to individuals, especially children, from exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic and radio-frequency radiation ...”
Noah said the letter opposing the project from the Carmel Valley Planning Board carried “some weight” but “my concern is that the Carmel Valley Planning Board stepped out of its statutory lines of authority in terms of making the recommendation. They are supposed to rule on certain criteria, and they went to what they perceived to be a safety issue.”
Carmel Valley Planning Board member Laura Copic, a leading opponent of the project, said the representative for Sprint was asked to consider placing the towers away from classroom buildings, on the far corners of the athletic fields. At Torrey Pines High School, for example, a cellular tower exists but is located by the tennis courts, well away from all classrooms.
Copic was told that it was the school district that did not want to consider other locations. But Eric Dill, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of business services, said it was Sprint that chose the classroom buildings, after rejecting the fields and the parking lot.
The field area was eliminated, Dill said, because there is no power or existing buildings or stadium lights upon which to mount the towers, so towers would need to be constructed, camouflaged and powered. The parking lot was also rejected for height limitations and lack of sufficient power.
“So they settled on their ideal location of being on top of the buildings,” Dill said. Primary reasons were the access to existing power and a building design that hides the equipment from view behind roof parapets.
“That’s really a matter of aesthetics,” Dill said. “Those are things that the planning boards generally don’t want. They don’t want to see them.”
Dill said the school district has been in discussions with Sprint for about two years on this project. “They’ve been looking at Canyon Crest Academy and where potential sites could be and where they would be most beneficial for the coverage that’s needed in that area,” he said. Although neither the Solana Beach School District nor the Del Mar Union School District have wireless equipment on their school sites, Dill said other school districts have accepted cell towers and antennas, including Poway.
“We’re not breaking any new ground here,” he said.