North Torrance ACTION’s first in-person public hearing with the Telecommunications Committee on Oct 11, 2022. Pictured from left: Grace Mayeda, Wilton Soohoo, Julie Soohoo and Angie Lee.

Rafu Staff Report

TORRANCE — An ongoing battle to stop the construction of a cell tower in a Torrance neighborhood will be an agenda item at the next Torrance City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

The proposed tower would be put up on the 2100 block of Redondo Beach Boulevard by Crown Castle, a telecom giant that has deployed several cell nodes in Downtown Los Angeles. A temporary tower was illegally erected in the neighborhood for two years before obtaining a permit. It was placed behind a children’s jiu jitsu studio after the first one exploded and burned down.

At issue are the negative effects such towers have on people’s health.

After losing by a 2-1 vote of the city’s Telecommunications Committee, the residents, led by Grace Mayeda, 89, decided to appeal the decision and take it up with the Torrance Planning Commission. They collected $750 from neighbors in order to submit an appeal application.

The commission held a series of public hearings with the residents of District 1 in December 2022, January 2023, and May 2023. The commissioners voted 6-0 to deny the residents’ appeal and proceed with the permit of the cell tower installation in front of a children’s dental office.

A new proposal would place the tower closer to residences. In fact, it would be 10 feet away from 92-year-old Yoshiko Morohoshi’s back fence, where she spends most of her waking hours growing an extensive vegetable garden. It was she who first alerted the neighbors that a new cell tower was coming to the neighborhood, and with much pushback from the residents, construction at this location has been halted for over a year.

Planning commissioners visited the site, decided it was too close to residences, and asked the company to move it further away, but only by 140 feet adjacent to the sidewalk and parking lot of the children’s dental office.

Leonor Edmondson at the podium. Front row far right: 92-year-old Yoshiko Morohoshi, who ignited the initial spark to organize her neighborhood.

The neighbors are now appealing to the City Council. Ahead of the meeting, the group, known as the North Torrance ACTION (Against Cell Towers in Our Neighborhood) Coalition, sent an email to all councilmembers, written by Nsomeka “Nomi” Gomes, that read, in part:

“Chuck Choi, a resident of 160th Street in District 1, told us the other day that since the temporary cell tower was installed in 2020 … all the bees that used to visit his garden, for over 30 years, have disappeared. ‘The bees don’t come anymore since they put that thing up,’ he said sadly.

“Yoshiko Morohoshi, the 92-year-old former preschool director of Nakayoshi Yochien at the Japanese Gardena Buddhist Church, who lives next door, told us she couldn’t sleep the same anymore and started experiencing strange headaches and confusion since the stronger temporary cell tower was installed not far from her bedroom window.

“There is much more to this picture than many of us understand. The science is still unfolding and the FCC continues to battle communities in courtrooms across our sacred nation, while the multi-billion-dollar corporations planned quietly on how they can acquire more land to install towers to prepare for their future profits.

“What we do know is that Crown Castle has proven to be an unreliable corporation when it comes to maintaining their cell towers and complying with Torrance’s required annual RF (radio frequency) reports to ensure the radiation levels are complying with FCC regulations.

“What we know for sure is that Crown Castle has no issue breaking our telecom wireless ordinances by not complying with the general provisions and sneaking in cell towers without obtaining permits. Their towers are installed without public knowledge oftentimes, and sit there loudly for over two years before the city discovers their deployments.

“What we cannot understand, though, is why they keep getting away with it. What is going on in our planning department and building permit department that allows this abuse and puts our citizens in danger? Why isn’t there any accountability? Why does this corporation take our land and put up hideous, loud, unnecessary tall towers next to our homes, schools, and small businesses where children gather? …

Grace Mayeda (left) led the charge as the appellant to represent residents opposed to the new cell tower in District 1. After losing 2-1 at the Telecommunications Committee meeting, neighbors decided to appeal the decision and take it up with the Torrance Planning Commission. Neighbor Jim Lurie made the first $100 donation to submit the appeal application.

“We are urging each of you our honorable council members to deny the project at 2124 Redondo Beach Blvd. Northeast Torrance resident Alvin Takamori submitted an 11-page appeal and we urge you to consider his appeal. That massive cell tower is not needed in our community. It isn’t serving any service gaps. We have ample towers and antennas nearby and have continuously received good service. In fact, since they put the tower at 2124 (without obtaining permits), our service has not improved one bit. Many of the neighbors surveyed have indicated so.

“The blight and obstruction this cell tower will cause to our small business community, which is doing its best to stay afloat, is absolutely unfair and unjust. It not only blocks their only plaza signage and takes away their only greenscape (which again, goes against our General Provisions in Article 39 Ordinance), it also puts their employees at constant risk on a daily basis for potential exposure, especially since Crown Castle has historically not maintained their towers. The community is alarmed for their safety.

“We ask that you protect us now. Maybe one day the bees will return.”

Neighbors organizing to appeal the Telecommunications Committee’s decision to allow a cell tower to be built near their homes included (from left) Angie Kim, Makoto Tad Morohoshi, Alvin Takamori and Grace Mayeda.

“Initially, I viewed this as local problem,” said Takamori. “But now I see it as a growing issue that has national consequences. Federal laws handcuff local governments from considering health issues when determining the placement of cell towers. As long as they abide by FCC standards, local government cannot use health and safety as an argument against the placement of these towers. However, those standards are questionable.

“On Aug. 13, 2021 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ignored scientific evidence and failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its 1996 regulations adequately protect the public against all the harmful effects of wireless radiation. When you notice that the FCC is populated by former telecommunications industry employees and lobbyists, you begin to question just how safe we all are.

“So we feel our best argument is just power of the people. We’d like as many people as possible to attend the next Torrance City Council meeting to support our cause. If you are available, please come to this meeting. If you know people in the Torrance area, please urge them to attend. Even if they’re not in the area, we’ll take that support.”

The City Council Chambers are located at 3031 Torrance Blvd. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

During a Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 18, Yoshiko Morohoshi voices her strong opposition to the cell tower during her allotted two-minute public comment in Japanese while her daughter Marie Morohoshi waits to give the English translation.

Crown Castle has been operating in Torrance for more than two decades and owns a significant number of the city’s cell towers and fiber connections, which it rents out to providers like AT&T and Verizon.

According to The Daily Breeze, Crown Castle, which sued the City of Torrance in 2019 over denial of permits for new small cell installations, says it needs to create a 5G network, which will be able to handle significantly more traffic and at faster speeds than its predecessors. Since then, the case has been dismissed.

The Environmental Health Trust, the Children’s Defense Fund, and other groups that filed suit against the FCC and won, said of the 2021 court decision, “The legal case challenged the FCC’s 2019 decision not to update its 1996 regulations regarding allowable radio frequency radiation exposures from wireless technologies — including 5G, cell phones, cell towers, wi-fi, and wireless networks.

“FCC limits are based on the outdated belief that heating is the only proven harm from RF.  Over 11,000 pages of evidence — 447 exhibits in 27 volumes — was submitted to the court documenting biological effects and illness from wireless radiation exposure below heating levels. Research has found brain damage, headaches, memory problems, reproduction damage, synergistic effects, nervous system impacts, brain cancer, genetic damage, as well as harm to trees, birds, bees, and wildlife.”

Read the ruling here:

Northeast Torrance residents take a break during intermission at the Torrance Planning Commission’s May 17 meeting. Their appeal of the Telecommunications Committee’s decision was the last item on the agenda and the meeting went past midnight, but the residents, including children, stayed as late as they could.

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