In 2018, during the Rye Fire, some residents of Stevenson Ranch were unable to communicate with loved ones due to poor cell phone reception. That fire came dangerously close to the community and sparked evacuations of West Ranch High School, Ranch Pico Junior High School and parts of Stevenson Ranch and Westridge. There were parents who were unable to communicate with their children or contact emergency services because of cell phone dead zones in the community.
Those dead zones make cell phone reception an important life and safety issue for our community. AT&T has presented a plan that will help to remediate the reception issues by adding an additional cell phone antenna tower to the community.
This is a first step in improving the cell phone receptivity and one that other service providers can piggyback onto.
A careful and thorough evaluation was done with many homeowners, L.A. County, and other stakeholder involvement. This group, which I was a part of, looked at five (5) separate sites in the community. The current proposed location was chosen through a consensus among community homeowner volunteers, which included the Stevenson Ranch HOA who represent the entire community. This process took YEARS of public community meetings where every aspect of the plan was discussed and debated.
At the 11th hour, a small vocal group, who never bothered attending or participating in the voluminous number of community meetings, are now against this cell reception improvement plan. This group does not represent the homeowners.
They claim to have 400 residents who are against the proposed cell tower out of a community of more than 12,000 residents. This small group has consistently spread misinformation in an effort to sway residents to their viewpoint. Their motivations have nothing to do with what’s best for the community and everything to do with their selfish not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) stance.
One opponent of the cell tower sighted an ambiguous “probable health hazard,” which can be applied to all electronics including handheld devices. Most electrical devices from a blender, microwave oven, television, to computer monitors, etc., emit electromagnetic radiation.
Yet, these same people have no problem holding their cell phones to their heads throughout the day. Should they then advocate to take computers, cell phones and game devices away from their children to protect them? We live in a world where just breathing the air is a probable health hazard.
Those opposing this cell tower continue to change their arguments as each of their objections have been neutralized by the science and facts. Now their dispute boils down to esthetics and property values.
Yet the cell tower is going next to a large monolithic water tank, which has had no impact on their home values. Many of those opposed to the cell tower purchased their homes with the water tank already in place and in their sightlines.
And guess what, property values have greatly increased since they bought their homes.
This small group makes no mention of the ugly esthetics of the water tank or that the cell tower will be camouflaged as a pine tree with other natural trees around it — something that will actually soften the look of the water tank.
Allowing these few vocal individuals to ruin it for all is wrong. As a community we cannot let that happen. The years-long effort to improve cell reception is for the greater good and overarching safety of our residents, especially during times of natural disaster and other emergencies.
As more homeowners do away with their telephone landlines there is an increased reliance on cell phones, which in turn warrants improved reception in our communities. This is no longer a convenience but is now a critical life and safety issue that needs to be addressed with science and the facts.
I, along with many residents of Stevenson Ranch and the HOA, fully support this effort.
My hope is that Supervisor Kathryn Barger and the L.A. County Planning Commission will continue their support of the current plan to improve cell phone reception in the Stevenson Ranch community. The vast majority of residents support the current plan as represented by the Stevenson Ranch HOA approval.
After nearly 10 years of work by community volunteers, this plan needs to be implemented before the next disaster strikes.
Dave Bossert is a long-time community volunteer who serves on several boards. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organizations he is affiliated with or those of The Signal.