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San Pedro residents protest cellphone tower across from school

Residents and parents of Taper Avenue Elementary students fearful of harmful radiation hope to pressure T-Mobile into moving an antenna under construction farther away from the campus.

November 23, 2009|By Dana Parsons

Some San Pedro residents fear that a cellphone tower recently installed across from an elementary school will emit harmful radiation in the direction of the school.

On Sunday, more than 80 people, including Taper Avenue Elementary School students with signs protesting the T-Mobile tower, gathered to try to persuade the company to relocate the telephone-pole-size tower.

"We're not anti-technology," said David Renn, the father of two school-age children and one of the organizers of the rally. "We just want it moved away from the school. The science is there" suggesting the potential for long-term adverse effects.

Several protesters conceded that they weren't well-versed in the risks of radiation exposure from cellphone towers.

What worries them, Renn and others said, are studies that suggest long-term radiation exposure might be dangerous and the residents' lack of trust in the company's concern for their well-being. It didn't help, Renn said, that residents didn't know that the tower was being installed until it was already under construction.

T-Mobile did not respond to The Times' request for comment Sunday.

While conceding that legal remedies may be slim or nonexistent, the residents hope to put pressure on the company, Renn said. Aside from traditional media coverage, he said, residents hope to spread the word through Facebook and other social networking sites.

Los Angeles Unified School District board member Richard Vladovic, whose district includes San Pedro, supports the relocation of the towers, said Jacob Haik, one of two Vladovic aides at the rally.

"Right across the street from a school is probably not the best place to put one," Haik said. "It could have gone a few blocks away."

Another Vladovic aide said the likely proliferation of such towers in the future cries out for companies like T-Mobile to develop master plans for the industry and identify more suitable locations for the towers.

Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn also has taken up the residents' cause.

She has asked agencies to review the city's long-standing participation in a consortium of public bodies and telecommunications companies that negotiates leases for new cellphone antennas. Residents also are concerned that decisions on where to put the towers do not require public hearings.

"Why take a chance on long-term risks?" resident and retired teacher Sally Davies said. "I'm not confident what they're telling us is the truth."

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