5G opponents cite health concerns in urging city to limit wireless antennas

More than 150 people, many waving “Stop 5 G” posters, attend a city-sponsored workshop Monday on a new city ordinance that will allow 5G antennas to be installed along city rights-of-way.
More than 150 people, many waving “Stop 5 G” posters, attend a city-sponsored workshop Monday on a new city ordinance that will allow 5G antennas to be installed along city rights-of-way.
(Barbara Henry)

The best thing that Encinitas could do with its new, controversial 5 G wireless antenna ordinance is to trash it and start over, taking as a model the strict regulations created by smarter California cities, many ordinance opponents told city officials Monday night, Sept. 23.

“I don’t want 5 G anywhere in the city,” Encinitas resident Lindsy Richards said as she urged Encinitas to join Monterrey, San Francisco, Mill Valley and many other places that are “vigorously opposing” a recent federal directive regarding the roll-out of the new 5 G technology.

If people even in places like Palo Alto in the center of Silicon Valley are opposing the installation of these wireless antennas in residential areas, “this raises a big red flag for me and it should for you too,” she told city officials and her fellow opponents.

The Encinitas City Council adopted its new “urgency” ordinance Aug. 21 in response to recent rulings by the Federal Communications Commission, which has ordered local governments to remove any regulatory barriers and speed the transition to the new technology. The Encinitas ordinance declares that antenna installation requires a city permit and installers must follow city regulations.

Billed as the next big thing in cell phone service, 5 G technology depends upon the installation of many small wireless antennas along city rights-of-way. Unlike the existing cell phone towers that beam signals across miles of territory, the 5 G system antennas each provide coverage to a several-hundred-foot area and they’re located close to the ground.

It’s the number of these antennas, their closeness to homes, and the radio wave frequencies they will use that concern many opponents, and not just in Encinitas. Opposition has surfaced in cities across the United States and in Europe. Concerns have been raised about everything from health risks to visual blight.

More than 150 sign-waving, passionate opponents turned out for the Encinitas city workshop and all of the some 30 people who provided the city with public testimony opposed the ordinance. The opponents so dominated the event that it was hard to tell at times that it was a city-sponsored activity, rather than a rally in opposition.

Every seat in the meeting room at the Encinitas Community & Senior Center featured three pieces of paper placed there by opponents. One was a colorful poster that people could wave when they supported someone at the speakers’ podium, one listed advice on providing public comment, while the third was designed as a check-off sheet that people could fill out and then drop off at the city table in the back of the room as they left.

Anyone who lacked a pen needn’t have worried --- leaders of the Stop 5 G group brought boxes of pens to share with the crowd. And they had their own people standing with clipboards outside the meeting room collecting attendees’ names and contact information, so they could notify them about future events.

The people who spoke out in opposition included scientists, real estate agents, retired teachers, mothers and even a middle school student, who said the city was “literally putting the weight of the world” on kids like her.

In a PowerPoint presentation, naturopathic doctor Deborah Sie listed more than two dozen health concerns related to electromagnetic field exposure ranging from seizures and cancer to insomnia.

“All living things will be affected,” she said, mentioning concerns about bees and migrating birds.

Cardiff resident Dietmar Rothe displayed a chart showing the wireless exposure limits permitted in various countries and said U.S. limits are far higher than in Europe.

Real estate agent Holly Manion said that she was deeply concerned by the effect the antennas would have on property values and expected that a house with one of the new antennas nearby would be “unmarketable.” People already avoid places that have the large cell phone towers close by, she said, commenting that she’s had several clients recently refuse to get out of the car to look at a property if there’s a cell tower within 200 feet of it.

Encinitas needed “to have something on the books” right away and that’s why the council adopted its urgency ordinance last month, city planner Roy Sapa’u told the crowd. Council members expect to revisit the issue at an Oct. 30 meeting and will use the public comments gathered at Monday night’s session to assist in the revision process, he said.

— Barbara Henry is a freelance reporter for The San Diego Union Tribune