Los Angeles County is pursuing new regulations for placements in residential areas

By Gary Walker

Small cell towers are rapidly proliferating in commercial and residential areas

Consumer demand for high-performance 5G wireless has telecom firms installing tens of thousands of tiny cell phone towers throughout Los Angeles County, often without notice to neighbors and sometimes within several feet of homes.

Residents of Marina del Rey, Venice and especially Del Rey have waged public protests and lobbied public officials to stop what they characterize as an invasion of miniature cellular towers.

Due to its high-frequency waves, 5G service cannot travel as fast as previous-generation wireless, requiring cellular companies to bridge the gap with networks of small towers.

According to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s office, the county’s Department of Regional Planning reports a 300% increase in the number of cell tower applications since 2015.

Now Hahn is asking county planners to draft a new ordinance regulating how and where cell towers are installed. If approved, it would be the first of its kind in Los Angeles County.

“County residents have seen a huge explosion of cell towers being installed in their neighborhoods, at their children’s schools and outside their bedroom windows. I have heard from residents who are concerned not just because they are unsightly — but because they worry about potential health effects,” reads a statement by Hahn. “We need to be able to regulate where these towers can go and protect communities from an overconcentration.”

Federal laws prohibit local governments from regulating cell phone towers due to health concerns, but county officials would be able to do so based on other standards. Hahn’s proposal would consider height and design, but would only apply to unincorporated county areas such as Marina del Rey and portions of Del Rey.

Del Rey residents and neighbors in Marina del Rey have met with Hahn, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, state Assemblywoman Autumn Burke and state Sen. Ben Allen about the increasing number of small cell towers going up in their neighborhoods over the past year.

Representatives for AT&T, which is responsible for many of the new cell towers in these neighborhoods, did not respond to requests for comment.

Marina del Rey resident Renny Salvestrini, a breast cancer survivor, was shocked to see a small cell tower go up mere feet from her condo last year.

“I feel violated by the placement to this day. This ordinance will most certainly help others moving forward. I have to look at this ugly monstrosity day after day, and currently there is also red graffiti on it. It looks terrible and ruins the neighborhood aesthetic near my home,” she said. “For now, I’m just living in acceptance.”