La Jolla DPR Committee wants more information about proposal for 5G antennas in bell tower – La Jolla Light

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People with opinions about Dish Network’s planned installation of 5G wireless equipment in La Jolla Presbyterian Church’s bell tower will have a few more opportunities to weigh in before the project leaves the local review cycle.

The proposal was heard at the May 21 La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meeting, but board members asked the applicant team to return with more information at a future meeting before the committee votes on whether the project complies with local codes.

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The proposal would place wireless antennas inside the church tower at 7715 Draper Ave., with screening to hide the equipment. The antennas would be entirely within the building and therefore comply with height and setback requirements. There is no proposed extension of the bell tower.

The screens would be painted to match the medium-blue tile color from the mosaics on the bell tower that are in place to prevent birds from flying into the tower.

Rachael Reynolds, representing Dish Network, which provides satellite TV and mobile phone services, confirmed there would be 5G equipment in the tower. 5G is a fifth-generation wireless network that is intended to increase internet speeds and provide more reliable connections through the use of higher-frequency radio waves.

When newer technology becomes available, Reynolds said, the equipment now planned for La Jolla Presbyterian would be removed.

A lease agreement is being drafted that would outline how much the church would be paid for use of the tower and how long the equipment would be there.

The lease term being sought was unavailable, but “typically, the wireless carriers are looking for a 25-year lease because they spend so much money upfront that it takes several years to break even,” Reynolds said.

The project also was discussed at the May 13 La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee meeting, where parents expressed concerns about the possibility of children who attend the church’s preschool and play at the La Jolla Recreation Center across the street being exposed to electromagnetic fields, or EMFs.

However, according to the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, advisory boards cannot make decisions on cell towers based on EMF and health issues.

The PDO Committee, which reviews projects only for architectural standards and conformance to the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance, voted unanimously that the planned screening complies with the PDO. It did not vote on the equipment.

Reynolds said at the DPR Committee meeting that Dish “has to comply with the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] and their guidelines, so we had a report completed that … ultimately determined that, at the higher level, [the emissions are] at 9.12 percent of what is allowed.”

She added that more information had been requested about how the radio waves fan out from the source and how and whether the nearby playground would be exposed.

Many scientific and government sources say 5G electromagnetic radiation is too low-level to be hazardous to human health. Others say there may be risks and that additional research is needed, along with ways to reduce exposure to EMFs when possible.

“We had a report completed that … ultimately determined that, at the higher level, [the emissions are] at 9.12 percent of what is allowed.”

— Rachael Reynolds, representative of Dish Network

La Jolla Presbyterian Church communications director Jim Sedgewick said previously that the church “initiated a thorough review process to consider this proposal. We are currently in the preliminary stages. This permit process is designed to ensure there is ample opportunity for environmental review and public input before any decisions are made.”

The bell tower is more than 45 years old and therefore will undergo a review by the city of San Diego to determine whether the installation is appropriate for the potentially historic building.

The DPR board questioned how far into the tower the antennas would be set back from the tower’s face, and requested a rendering depicting the interior with the wireless equipment.

The proposal will return to the DPR for a vote or additional review at an undetermined date. Once the committee votes, the project will proceed to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for ratification or further review.

The city will have the final say.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee next meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, at a location to be announced. The agenda will be posted 72 hours in advance at lajollacpa.org. ◆

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