SMUSD Bans Future Cell Towers

In a step forward for many San Marino parents and residents, the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education formally banned the future construction of cellphone signal towers on district property.
Although the resolution approved by the board at last week’s meeting does not force the removal of the two towers — the subject of regular objection by community stakeholders — on school district property, it will comfort those aggrieved by prohibiting them in the future.
“We’re still trying to get the current cell towers moved from their current location,” Superintendent Alex Cherniss said in a phone interview. “It’s taking longer than we would have liked.”
Verizon Wireless owns both of the towers. It is presently upgrading a tower at a senior living facility in unincorporated property nearby to allow for the relocation of its equipment from San Marino High School. The site near the district office and Huntington Middle School, however, remains in limbo as Verizon works with city officials to determine an amenable option.
Options include deploying a number of smaller devices atop a series of commercial buildings along Huntington Drive. A previously discussed plan involved placing the tower behind City Hall, but both the police and fire department objected because of that area’s immediate proximity to the city’s Emergency Operations Center.
Both towers have earned ire from residents for a variety of reasons, including safety hazards that might arise from an earthquake or strong winds, and even worries about signal radiation.
“Everybody has different concerns,” Cherniss said.
Resident Miriam Quan, who with husband Ray, have long vocally opposed the towers, said she was excited about this resolution.
“This is a positive move in the right direction and something that I think both parties have worked toward for a long time,” she said after the board voted on the resolution. “The resolution will be a placeholder to give future school boards pause before they consider signing any future leases with a wireless company.
“I feel that this also shows that the current school board cares about the health, safety and welfare of future generations of students who will be attending our wonderful No. 1-rated school district and will be a positive accomplishment and lasting legacy of the current school board,” Quan added.
Although the school district was earning rent money for leasing the site, the language of the resolution established that the costs “outweigh the benefits” of such an arrangement. Cherniss indicated the district would continue working to have the two towers removed.
“I think they’re happy with the resolution, but ultimately, I think they want the towers moved,” he said of residents. “I think it’s a step in the right direction, but dealing with the current towers is really our priority right now.”

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