A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ordered La Canada Flintridge to hold another public hearing before allowing a cellular phone company to erect a 75-foot antenna near a residential neighborhood.
In February, after two hearings and much debate, the City Council approved construction of the antenna on a Foothill Boulevard site owned by the Crescenta-Canada YMCA.
That decision immediately prompted a lawsuit by nearby homeowners who claimed that the antenna--or monopole--would block views, erode soil and cause drainage problems. The homeowners also claimed they had been denied the right to address the environmental issues at previous public hearings.
The March 20 ruling, issued by Judge Jerome K. Fields, was greeted with elation by those residents.
Victory for Homeowners
"We certainly view this as a victory," said attorney Anita Brenner, who lives below the proposed site and is representing 16 homeowners in the lawsuit. "The city has never had the opportunity to consider our evidence. I hope they listen to us with an open mind at the hearing."
City Manager Don Otterman said that he disagrees with the judge's decision but that the city has no choice but to abide by it. He said it is up to Los Angeles Cellular Co. to reapply for a conditional-use permit.
"We simply process the documents," Otterman said.
Los Angeles Cellular has state Public Utilities Commission approval to build a cellular phone tower in La Canada Flintridge. City officials cannot override that approval, but may select the least obtrusive site and order mitigating measures, such as landscaping.
The city selected the YMCA site on Feb. 17, after considering other locations at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Angeles Crest Highway and at the now-closed Foothill Intermediate School. At that time, City Council members called the YMCA the lesser of several evils and said that nearby trees would partially block the monopole from view. The YMCA, which plans to lease the site to Los Angeles Cellular for $1,250 a month, does not oppose construction of the monopole.
Construction Under Way
Brenner said that workmen hired by Los Angeles Cellular began digging a "deep, circular hole" on the rear parking lot at the YMCA location on March 21 and continued until they were served with the judge's order.
A spokeswoman for Los Angeles Cellular said last week that the firm has postponed further construction until the issue is resolved.
In a prepared statement, Brian Pemberton, president of Los Angeles Cellular, said he would work with the city and neighbors to reach a compromise on a new site.
"Cellular is happy to cooperate and invites the city to choose any alternative location," he said.