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Verizon May Pursue Legal Action Against Arcadia Over Residential Tower

“We are aware that Verizon typically will try and litigate to get their way, as is their common practice,” said Dr. Eli Tsou, a member of AART. – Courtesy photo

 

The telecoms giant usually gets their way

By Daniel Garay

After a five-and-a-half-hour public comment section on Feb. 7, the Arcadia City Council voted to reject Verizon’s petition for the construction of a 53’-tall, faux bell tower on the lot of the Church of the Transfiguration to the relief of residents living in the area. The culmination of a two-year-long fight seemed to be over. However, this was only the beginning for Verizon.

On the Council meeting on Feb. 21, the City Council’s closed session set to address the possible threat of legal action on the part of Verizon. The City soon followed by hiring three law firms for possible defense litigation through approval of a consent calendar item on March 7.

City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto wrote in an email to Beacon Media News, “No litigation has been filed, but Verizon has indicated they are reviewing their options, including considering filing a lawsuit. We hope to be able to help them find an alternate site that may meet their needs and fit better in the community.”

While a lawsuit has not yet been filed, recent history shows that this is next on Verizon’s sequence of actions, including settling with the city. Arcadians Against Residential Towers (AART) believes this would be a betrayal of the public interests if the City of Arcadia works to accommodate Verizon.

“We are aware that Verizon typically will try and litigate to get their way, as is their common practice,” said Dr. Eli Tsou, a member of AART. “A Tolling Agreement will only perpetuate the injustices that have already been caused.”

Verizon in the last few years alone has sued cities which denied their permits to build cellular towers, in violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In these instances, – towns in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and even California – Verizon claims that this is to fill in a significant gap in coverage. The residents and municipal officials say that this creates an aesthetically unpleasing sight and a negative environmental impact. The end result, the cities either lose in court or settle with Verizon.

On Feb. 21, consultants from Verizon provided maps of the gap in coverage to justify their permit for a tower. Residents at the meeting, however, said that there is no gap in coverage, with residents saying that they have access to LTE coverage in their homes, among the arguments of negative health effects and bad Feng Shui.

Dr. Tsou sees this as a way to exploit the community for profit. “Despite the strong evidence of lack of significant need for this tower, the objections of 1400 – 1500 petition signers and 3 hearings …, Verizon will seek to exploit weaknesses in current outdated legislation to bully the community and try and get their way. It creates a huge financial and emotional burden for all of those involved, and is an unnecessary waste of resources.”

Outdated can be used to describe the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was the first major overhaul of telecommunications law in more than 60 years at the time. Since then, with the introductions of smartphones and LTE coverage, an update in law seems overdue.

One town was able to stop Verizon in court: Mt. Baldy, back in December, 2016. The small mountain community stopped the telecoms giant, not because of aesthetics, but for the lack of an environmental review, according to a lengthy decision from San Bernardino County Superior Court judge.

The City may be taking the necessary precautions in case of legal action, but the gratitude from the residents is strong, especially from AART, even in the light of the fiery public comment section. “We are grateful for the City in supporting our opposition, despite legal threat. We hope that the City does not agree to a Tolling Agreement with Verizon, as they are not entitled to one.”

According to AART, the deadline for Verizon to file a lawsuit is slated for March 22. Jim Kasama, Community Development Administrator for the City, confirmed that there is a 30-day period for Verizon to respond to the City Council’s resolution.

March 15, 2017

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Arcadia Weekly


8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Verizon May Pursue Legal Action Against Arcadia Over Residential Tower”

  1. MSN says:

    EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF LA STOP THE VERIZON LAWSUIT. If the EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES (EDLA), the real property of the Church of the Transfiguration would withdraw from their lease contract with Verizon then our City would not have to be subjected to a frivolous lawsuit.

    AART won an unfair and impossible fight (Unfair because Verizon fights dirty) and Verizon was not able to show a burden of proof in order to obtain their Conditional Use Permit.

    Verizon has filed only 4 lawsuits since 2004 against cities or counties in Los Angeles County. When Verizon files their lawsuit against the City of Arcadia then that will be the 5th lawsuit.

    How is this fair when so few community groups are successful at winning against a multi-billion dollar corporation with their high powered attorneys? This is truly a David and Goliath story.

    AART members have repeatedly tried to email, call and snail mail the LA Diocese but they have never responded. How does the EDLA’S mission of Social Justice and Human Rights line up with aligning themselves with a greedy industry that misrepresents evidence an exaggerates their need for a cell tower, when there is no current need or gap in coverage.

    I am a lapsed Episcopalian and I have been so disappointed…no disgusted…by the EDLA’s non-responsiveness to our request to open a line of communication that I think I will stay a lapsed Episcopalian. There is no healing this situation if the cell tower gets built and the Church of the Transfiguration and the Verizon cell tower will forever become a blight to the neighborhood.

    The Episcopal Diocese is condoning Verizon’s lawsuit by not accepting the City’s denial of Verizon’ cell tower application. I am disappointed that they would sell out for only $2000 a month in lease payments from Verizon

  2. Connie Cheng says:

    As a resident of Arcadia for almost 20 years, this community has always promoted a high quality of life, attractive living environments , and a sense of unity. As one of the core member of AART together with 1400 others in opposition, we were able to convince the council that it was in Arcadia’s best interest to preserve the safety of our neighborhood and children. On three occasions Verizon was DENIED by the Planning Commission and the City Council on March 22, 2016,September 27, 2016 and February 7, 2017.

    Instead of putting the children first, the Rector of the Church, Julie Bryant has put Verizon first.
    Instead of being a leader, she has become an enemy to many and a negative influence on not only the church, but the community.

    We have asked the Diocese of L.A. to replace her with someone who has true values and will show character and represent the church in the right manner.

    Daniel, we thank you so much for your publications helping to let everyone know that this has no place for a 53′ cell tower especially near schools and children in a residential area (R-1 Zone). Greatly appreciated.

    Cheng’s ~ Proud Resident of Arcadia & Member of Arcadians Against Residential Towers
    (1400 petition signatures to deny Verizon’s CUP)

    AART is a member of a Coalition of 9 Community groups in LA County who over the last 3 years have all fought against Verizon’s attempts to place large unsightly cell towers in our residential neighborhoods. Each group has 500 – 1400 signers on their petition list to deny Verizon cell towers. The majority of group have over 1000 petition signatures. Verizon Launched a lawsuit after the Covina community group (they are a part of our Coalition) won at the LA Board of Supervisor’s hearing. This lawsuit is currently in the federal courts. Los Angeles SMSA Limited Partnership (Verizon) vs. County of Los Angeles, CA. (US District Court Central District Case 16-CV-01412)

  3. Katy says:

    I contacted the diocese a few times, in an attempt to ask them to withdraw the application for the tower, but have not gotten a response. I must admit I’m disappointed at the lack of response and action. As religious leaders, do they not respect the wishes of the community which they hope to reach out to? The neighbors of the church are adamant about not wanting the tower. Afterall, there were three hearings won by the community, and about 1,500 petitions… It doesn’t seem like the church congregation is growing, and the reason just might be it’s the wrong rector. For the good of the church and the community, I pray that the LA diocese would pressure the rector to make the right decision and withdraw the application.

  4. Eli Tsou says:

    The real issue here is how to form a relationship with Verizon that can be more win-win versus win-lose.

    Generally speaking, in terms of developing a communications infrastructure, encouraging development of wired networks (cable or fiber optics) would best serve the City. This is what successful governments demand from it’s corporate partners. Singapore is a great example, with their implementation of a countrywide fiber optic network that gives them a tremendous advantage on the Information Superhighway. Wired networks have huge advantages in terms of capacity, reliability, security, and safety.

    Wireless networks are cheaper and easier to deploy, but they are otherwise inferior in all other aspects. Verizon historically has fought aggressively to gain dominance in this very profitable sector of the market, but their anti-competitive tactics stifle development from other companies and result in both inferior wired and wireless networks in the long run. This shortchanges consumers.

    In over half of Arcadia, although wireless coverage for Verizon is more than adequate for current needs, there is a huge gap in broadband coverage at higher capacities precisely because of our failure to develop wired communications. Further development of wireless technology, no matter how extensive, does not come even close to providing the capacity that a wired network would provide.

    Deployment of 5G technology in Arcadia is best accomplished through small cell sites. Impact is minimized by utilizing existing utility poles. Verizon has already deployed these sites in neighboring communities, and already is utilizing their federal entitlements to apply for many sites in Arcadia. Development of these sites is arguably more of a win-win for Verizon and the community. In my opinion, Verizon is not favoring it in this case because their legal and business teams are fighting for a bigger win – lose scenario with their current actions.

    5G technology, which is a higher frequency, needs towers closer together to be optimally utilized. Also, as 5G is anticipated to serve the needs of self-driving cars, the antennas that are closer to the ground are preferred. Logistically, deployment of 5G small cell sites also is easier into the larger residential areas where there are fewer city or commercial sites to develop on.

    Larger towers with high antennas are better for older technology, which uses lower frequencies and can transmit over further distances. It is good for remote areas with few or no towers to transmit old technology or cellular voice services, but not ideal for larger capacity data services.

    The actual spirit and intent of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 was to stimulate competition and expedite the development of these large towers into areas which lacked basic wireless access. However, 20 years later, Arcadia should be questioning it’s relevance now, as other organizations and governments have already. We need support legislative changes that will better reflect our current needs.

    If Arcadia did need better wireless coverage, the preferred option as a consumer would be more small cell sites, not large towers. But again, as a consumer, wired technology with cable or fiber optics is the best option, and should always be prioritized for development over wireless technology.

    I would like City Staff, Commission, and Council to be mindful of #1 and #2 above in their considerations of applications for further communications development in Arcadia.

    In terms of corporate responsibility, Verizon failed to due their due diligence to rectify the deficiencies in their application. They need to be challenged to be a better corporate neighbor with whatever means the City deems reasonable.

    We appreciate the care and thoughtfulness the City has demonstrated in their handling of this difficult matter, and we hope that the City will continue to represent the citizen’s best interests going forward.

  5. Edward Mui says:

    Once again I applaud the City Council and the other leaders of the City for standing up to Verizon’s bullying tactics. There should be more than enough evidence to defeat Verizon in court, so please don’t settle with Verizon. I sincerely hope that the City will say “NO” to a Tolling Agreement with Verizon. Enough is enough; Verizon has had plenty of opportunities to do its homework.

    As a Christian I am deeply disappointed in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Not only has they not come out and put a stop to this madness. They don’t even have the courtesy (or perhaps courage?) to give response to the community members that have been trying to contact them. How is that good witness to the non-believers? How can they claim they stand for social justice and at the same time keep silent when one of their leaders help a multi-billion dollar corporation to bully a community? Wake up!

  6. Nicole says:

    Can you pictured a towering 53′ structure right in front of your front yard or your backyard? Right there next to yours kids’ class room in Arcadia Christian School ? Or right there in the parking lot when you drop off your toddler to Episcopal Church day care center? Why such an inappropriate tall cell tower in R1 residential area? And most of all, I always believe a church leader’s role is to have your community’s interest in your heart. I am dumbfounded to realize it is quite opposite in this Arcadia residents against Verizon cell tower case.

  7. AART Supporter says:

    Thank you City of Arcadia Planning Commission and City Council for denying this unneeded, out of place and ugly cell tower which has caused so much grief in the surrounding neighborhood and adjacent schools. Thank you for maintaining Arcadia’s restriction against cell towers in residential zones. We hope the city does not enter into a tolling agreement with Verizon, which would only be to Verizon’s benefit.

    Verizon has failed to prove the need for this tower in three straight public hearings. Having lost a legitimate decision Verizon is now trying to bully the City into submission through threat of a groundless lawsuit. This is with the full backing of the Episcopal Church who is Verizon’s partner in circumventing the will of their neighbors, community authorities and the City’s wireless ordinance.

    Q: What is the community fighting for?
    A: Their property values, their schools, their children.

    Q: What is the Episcopal Church fighting for?
    A: Money – in fact very little Verizon money.

    The Church of the Transfiguration has a need for money due to the shrinking numbers of their now paltry parishioners who largely live outside Arcadia. The congregation is in no way reflective of the demographics of the church’s surroundings. Isn’t it supposed to be a neighborhood church serving local needs?

    Reverend Julie Bryant has failed to maintain her own dwindling congregation. She has failed to provide religious outreach to her neighbors. She has done quite the opposite, offending her neighbors in pursuing profits from an unneeded and injurious Verizon cell tower. She has bullied and harrassed any opponents. Neighborhood yards have been trespassed and opposition signs have been stolen. She has called for the false arrest of peaceful and lawful protesters. She has irreparably harmed her relationship with the surrounding neighbors.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles must replace Reverend Bryant, immediately.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles must end their inappropriate silence, stop callously ignoring multiple e-mails and phone calls. They must finally respond to the cries of the public. This includes 1,500 petitioners against the cell tower.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles must stop the Verizon lawsuit by withdrawing from their lease contract. By failing to secure local governmental approval, Verizon is already in violation of their own contract.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles –
    STOP THIS FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT.

  8. Roger Chen says:

    Those are some pretty strong accusations against Reverend Julie Bryant. Can you site evidence to support your claims ?

    Where were all you neighborhood RF experts when the city allowed cell towers on both Dana MS and Camino Grove Elementary school property? Have we seen an increase in cancer rates near those locations?

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