Plans to build at LAPD station in Del Rey cancelled after community pushback

By Gary Walker

A little-noticed plan to erect a 70-foot public safety broadband communications tower in Del Rey has been scrapped after neighborhood groups pressured local leaders to oppose it.

The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS), a public safety communications infrastructure initiative funded by U.S. Dept. of Commerce grants, sought to build the tower at the LAPD Pacific Division Station on Culver Boulevard before L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin intervened to stop the project.

Bonin and other officials have complained that LA-RICS has largely operated without properly noticing local jurisdictions of its plans. LA-RICS had its funding suspended on April 3 after county supervisors stopped projects opposed by cities, and on May 1 federal officials reinstated its $154.6-million grant after the authority agreed to scale back projects.

In a June 9 letter to LA-RICS officials, Bonin, who represents Del Rey, wrote to “express grave concern and my extreme displeasure with LA-RICS, its arrogant disregard for community concerns and its continued refusal to answer even my simplest questions about proposed projects in my district.”

Bonin’s letter called on LA-RICS to “immediately and permanently cancel plans for a public safety broadband LTE tower at LAPD’S Pacific Station” —and that’s what happened.

LA-RICS Executive Director Paul Mallon confirmed on June 11 that the broadband tower would not be built.

“We’re disappointed by Councilman Bonin’s request, but we will honor it,” Mallon said.

Garcetti’s office got involved initially at the request of the Commerce Dept., said mayor’s office spokeswoman Vicki

“When issues arose regarding Pacific Division, the mayor’s office requested that LA-RICS meet with the community, LAPD and [Bonin’s office] to share information about the proposed network and construction,” Curry said.

The tower project is one of 77 being proposed throughout Los Angeles County as a part of a broadband network that will help multiple public safety agencies coordinate responses to a variety of potential emergencies.

But Bonin said his constituents were “blindsided” when they learned of the planned construction of the tower.

“Despite repeated requests, LA- RICS has refused to conduct any meaningful community outreach or dialogue and has treated neighbors and public officials who have concerns or questions as nuisances to be ignored. LA-RICS has failed to justify it proposed projects and has misrepresented the facts surrounding them,” Bonin wrote.

Tower construction in Del Rey had been set to begin later this month, said Mallon, who pushed back against Bonin’s assertion that LA-RICS had tried to build the tower without any input from Del Rey.

Mallon said the authority held more 300 meetings throughout the county for the better part of a year and communicated with the councilman’s office 38 times via email.

“I personally met with Councilman Bonin in January. We were trying to make a concerted effort to do outreach to the community,” Mallon said.

Representatives of the authority made a presentation to the Del Rey Homeowners Association on June 1, where the association voted to oppose the tower.

Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Jonathon Neumann learned about the tower project from a constituent just before Memorial Day, he said.

Neumann said he contacted other neighborhood leaders only to discover that, outside Bonin’s office, almost no one knew that the tower project was imminent.

“I always try and encourage developers and anyone else who wants to build something in our community to reach out and embrace the community. The worst thing that you can do is to be secretive, because then people get defensive,” Neumann said.

Westsiders have pushed back hard against communications towers in recent years.

In 2010, Westchester couple Jeffery and Candace Yip, with help from Rep. Maxine Waters (D- Los Angeles), beat back an attempt by T-Mobile to build a cell phone tower near their home. And in 2013 the Venice Neighborhood Council opposed a cell tower near the beach at the corner of Dudley and Pacific avenues in 2013 due to the proposed height of the tower, which would have exceeded local restrictions.

Neumann hopes Del Rey’s success will show locals that grassroots activism can be effective, even in such an under-the-radar place as Del Rey.

“I’m proud of the way that Councilman Bonin, the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, the Del Rey Homeowners Association and our residents organized so quickly to stop this,” he said.