Cellular telephone companies can put up antennas in industrial areas without special permission, and when they have tried to put them up in commercial zones, they generally encounter little resistance.
Not so when the proposed site is near a home or a school.
That's what AirTouch Cellular learned at a zoning hearing in Sherman Oaks on Monday. Going toe-to-toe with company representatives were more than 35 Valley Village residents who protested a proposed 45-foot pole antenna at the corner of Colfax Avenue and Riverside Drive.
Health concerns, unsightliness and proximity to schools were among the objections expressed by neighbors, who also said the antenna was incompatible with a residential area and would drive down property values.
The lot in question is zoned for commercial uses, and shops are to be found at all four corners of the intersection. But it is within 50 feet of homes, and so AirTouch Cellular needs a permit to erect the pole.
AirTouch consultant John R. Bitterly said an antenna is needed there to fill in a weak spot in the company's communications network. The company is also seeking an exemption from the Valley Village Master Plan, which limits antennas to 25 feet.
Bitterly denied that cellular phone antenna transmissions are dangerous, citing the antennas' low wattage, and he argued that cellular phones would be invaluable during a natural disaster.
Daniel Green, an associate zoning administrator with the city of Los Angeles, who will make a decision on the permit, said he will issue his written ruling in two to three weeks. So did Hearing Officer Larry J. Friedman, who will make a recommendation to the city Planning Commission on the height-limit exception.
Both declined to indicate which way they would decide, but Green noted that opposition to the project was "significantly more than usual."
The proposed project has also raised the hackles of two City Council members. Council President John Ferraro, in whose district the project is situated, and Joel Wachs, whose council district extends west from Colfax Avenue, have come out against it.
Ann Marie Roos, planning deputy for Ferraro, suggested that with a little effort a more acceptable site could be found.
"In the past, when we opposed an antenna and it was denied, they were able to somehow find a more appropriate location for it," she said.