by Mitch Lehman
The San Marino Unified School District’s Cell Tower Advisory Committee voted unanimously Tuesday night to wait for the city’s Planning Commission to hear a request from Verizon Wireless for a conditional use permit – or CUP – to certify and operate a controversial tower currently located in the maintenance yard at Huntington Middle School rather than negotiate with the carrier to relocate the 80’ structure to another part of the campus.
Because the cell tower was never approved by the City of San Marino when it was installed 9-1/2 years ago, Verizon is currently in the process of getting a retroactive CUP. Since original construction drawings for the tower have not been located, Verizon has agreed to reconstruct an identical tower approximately six feet from the existing tower. Since the tower could conceivably fall in an area where students could be present, Verizon has entertained offers to move the tower to another location on the campus.
Superintendent Loren Kleinrock reported that Verizon has offered to relocate the tower at the southwest corner of the maintenance yard, but its “fall zone” would still include a portion of Valentine Elementary School’s playground as well as well as an adjoining Little League field. The City and School District would both be required to approve a relocation. Verizon has yet to schedule a hearing before the San Marino Planning Commission.
But some members of the advisory committee feel this might be a good time to play hardball with the carrier.
“We have them on the run,” said Judge Peter Lichtman (Ret.), a member of the committee since its inception. “This plays perfectly into our hand. They are scrambling for position right now. When they had an advantage on us, they wouldn’t let us up. Why should we let them up now that we have an advantage? Let’s get them to pull up stakes and leave.”
Lichtman’s comments were met with applause by the more than forty members of the committee and other onlookers in the Barth Community Room at the Crowell Public Library.
After the cell tower lease agreement was approved in 2004 by the San Marino School Board, Verizon was told by the City of San Marino that it had no jurisdiction over the tower or its installation. When residents began sparring with Verizon over the tower in 2012 – and another on the campus of San Marino High School – attorneys for the district discovered the lack of a CUP and began asking questions. Because Verizon could not provide construction drawings, they have agreed to reconstruct a similar tower on the same location in order to obtain the CUP.
The tower became functional in November, 2004 and the lease expires in 2029.
If the tower receives a CUP from the City of San Marino, it would still need to be certified by the California Department of the State Architect.
The committee agreed to meet on Tuesday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the district office.
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