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Residents Win Hilltop Battle on Relay Station : Eagle Rock: The communications equipment, which homeowners said was installed illegally, is being moved to Glendale.

October 25, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A six-year battle of endurance between hilltop homeowners in Eagle Rock and the company that put a microwave relay station in their neighborhood ended last week when the company agreed to move its equipment to Glendale.

The residents claimed that the station's three white, drum-shaped antennas, which receive and transmit long-distance telephone signals, are unsightly and were installed illegally. They also feared that the antennas would lead to the installation of other communications equipment on the hilltop, known as Round Top, which is surrounded by single-family houses.

The owner of the devices, Allnet Communications, has prevented removal of the relay station by filing appeals with various city departments and pursuing other legal steps. But under a settlement between the city and the company reached last week, Allnet agreed to move the microwave antennas to a remote mountain area near Montrose by the end of the year.

"It's a great relief and a lot of vindication for our efforts," said Margaret H. (Maggie) Smith, who lives on El Reposo Drive near the microwave station.

Homeowners in the Round Top community saw large tents go up in 1984 and believed that radio station KIEV, which has transmission towers on the hill, was throwing a party. The radio equipment, which predates the houses, is legal, and residents had been assured by the city that no other transmitters could be installed.

But when the tents came down, the residents were shocked to see the microwave relay station.

"We had to get that hill back to its residential status," Smith said. "There was no excuse for those microwave dishes coming in. It has been an eyesore and a source of irritation to the neighborhood.

"It took a while, and it was very discouraging along the way. Allnet really dragged their feet. But we hung in there all the way," she said.

Allnet's attorney, Robin M. Shapiro, said the Eagle Rock antennas are a critical link in a statewide transmission system that would be severely disrupted if they were removed. He said Allnet's antennas must be elevated to make "line of sight" connections with other equipment.

To relocate the antennas, "you had to find another spot that would work," he said. "And that was difficult."

Shapiro said the company believes it has a legal right to remain on the Eagle Rock hilltop. But he said Allnet agreed to move "to put an end to prolonged and costly litigation."

The attorney added: "I think the homeowners will believe this is a victory. We don't want to be in fights with neighbors. What made this possible was that we finally found another site."

The residents have had a powerful ally in their fight in Arthur K. Snyder, a Round Top resident who represented Eagle Rock on the Los Angeles City Council through 1985 and has continued to speak for his neighborhood as a private attorney and lobbyist.

In a letter sent to city officials last year, Snyder said radio station KIEV, which has been transmitting from Round Top since 1956, obtained approval in 1983 to modernize its equipment by replacing a single tower with two shorter ones. The permit stated no other equipment would be allowed.

But the following year, Snyder said, Allnet leased land on the hill for its microwave station. The firm obtained a building permit by describing the antennas as part of KIEV's equipment, the former councilman said.

After the antennas were installed, residents protested, and the permit was revoked, Snyder said. But the company has prolonged its stay on Round Top by applying for exemptions under zoning and planning laws and appealing each rejection.

"It's a real convoluted mess," said Bonnie Brody, an aide to Councilman Richard Alatorre, Snyder's successor.

She said that Allnet has used a wide range of legal tactics to postpone removal of the station. "If you know you are in the wrong, you want to keep the process going as long as you can," she said.

She said Alatorre's staff and the Los Angeles city attorney's office kept the pressure on Allnet to remove the antennas.

"I think ultimately they decided this was getting too expensive, and the city would keep after them," Brody said. "It was against the law what they did. And it was also ugly."

"I'm very gratified that the law is being enforced after six years," former councilman Snyder said after learning of the settlement last week.

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