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Letter to the Editor: Verizon Cell Tower Threatens Rincon Point Views

A vote was held Oct. 4 at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors regarding the proposed development of a 45-foot faux palm tree Verizon cell tower and utility station directly above Rincon Point. The Brown family appealed this proposed development with support from long-time local families and concerned neighbors.

Statements made against the project cited health concerns, the disruption of an iconic viewshed and loss of historic agricultural land use to an unnecessary utility placement.

Opposition pointed out that AT&T has an existing tower in a parking area below the proposed site that provides excellent service, thus challenging Verizon’s claim that the proposed site is the only viable location to address a problematic coverage gap in their current service, which is only one square mile. Verizon admitted that fewer than 400 people have complained about this drop — far smaller than the number of people who will see this proposed tower from Rincon Beach and Highway 101.

Right now we all see the towers at the top of Rincon Mountain. Citizens fighting the new cell tower fear that this could be the future of this new site, only now in proximity to our beloved Rincon Point.

State beaches bring $10 billion of revenue a year to California. Rincon, with the potential to be designated as part of a state scenic highway, has long been one of the most recognizable coastal areas in the world, helping to draw more than 2 million visitors to Carpinteria alone. It should be protected.

Those who strongly opposed the development urged the Board of Supervisors to question whether Verizon’s initial report that omitted information and skipped steps in the process, such as contacting Ag Preserve, allowed them to make the proposal based on misleading information and land classifications.

It was questioned whether Verizon fully explored all other viable options, considering there is an existing cell station 340 yards away. The opposition also requested that the supervisors consider the responsibility of planning decisions with regards to preserving the historic and iconic significance of this location.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors agreed to amend the proposal to include a “14 day from contact” for Verizon to replace or repair damaged faux palm fronds in order to minimize the poor aesthetics of a ragged cell tower, but ultimately voted 3-1 to deny the appeal and approve the application.

Prior to the vote, members of the Board of Supervisors openly discussed whether their shared concerns for the project would be considered adequate enough to require further review, as they seemed wary of the possibility of Verizon suing them for potentially interfering with FCC regulations.

The Verizon lawyer claimed there were no Caltrans poles in the right of way area on the coastline in this area when responding to a direct question from the chairman of the board. There was additional discussion regarding whether this project created a significant impact on the environment, and they concluded that the proposed project footprint was under the county threshold.

The board also questioned the plan of the 45-foot palm tree under new earthquake regulations, which require far more extensive construction of cell towers, often resulting in much larger profiles. Verizon was unable to give a committed answer to this issue.

One supervisor pointed out that this could damage the highway from ever getting Scenic Highway status. Another board member echoed that, acknowledging the role of good government in this decision, but voiced concern again about federal law.

No one disputed the coverage gap for Verizon, or the benefit of cell service, but it was not clear why Verizon was so resistant to place the pole next to the unobtrusive AT&T pole.

The proposed project is now continuing with one minor amendment and being passed to the California Coastal Commission for review. Perhaps it is not too late to stop this process and to save our Queen of the Coast.

Jehanne Brown
On behalf of concerned neighbors and Carpinterians

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