5G Impact and Santa Barbara City Council Update: Part 1

By Joanne A Calitri   |   May 28, 2020
SB City Council Members and Mayor Murillo (file photo)

Most people have heard of “next generation” 5G wireless signal, its technical merits, and you may have even perused some research on its effects on humans including in utero. This series presents published 5G information, the status of 5G in our town, and interviews to provide current vetted information with references for the reader.

About 10 years ago Montecito was home to multiple vocal protests about cell tower placement, so historically we know that wireless signal is an issue of both great local awareness and also concern.

Pertinent issues regarding 5G include: the March 2020 ordinance before the SB City Council [see photo], the proposed installation of 5G transmitting devices hidden in the street lamps on State Street by Verizon, other cell phone companies deploying 5G here and when, and literally do the citizens of our town get to have a say in any of this?

If the SB City Council and the citizens it represents have a say in 5G, to what extent will that be road blocked by the FCC, who in 2019, “…unanimously proposed to expand its over-the-air reception device (OTARD) rule, which prevents governments, landlords and home owners associations from blocking the use of satellite receivers on a customer’s owned or leased property, to wireless internet service provider hubs serving multiple users – homes and businesses. The rule prohibits laws, regulations, or restrictions imposed by State or local governments or private entities that impair the ability of antenna users to install, maintain, or use over-the-air reception devices.” That quotation comes to us from Robert F Kennedy, Jr. of Children’s Health Defense.

And on the Federal level, “Under Chairman Pai, the FCC is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology (the 5G FAST Plan). The Chairman’s strategy includes three key components: (1) pushing more spectrum into the marketplace; (2) updating infrastructure policy; and (3) modernizing outdated regulations. The FCC adopted new rules that will reduce federal regulatory impediments to deploying infrastructure needed for 5G and help to expand the reach of 5G for faster, more reliable wireless service. The FCC reformed rules designed decades ago to accommodate small cells. The reforms ban short-sighted municipal roadblocks that have the effect of prohibiting deployment of 5G and give states and localities a reasonable deadline to approve or disapprove small-cell siting applications. FCC Record Citation: 33 FCC Rcd 9088 (14)” [Feb 2020, www.fcc.gov/5G]

The ordinance to be voted on by the SB City Council for Verizon to install small cell facilities on city street lights effective for 20 years

In 2017, California Firefighters received an exemption in SB 649, written by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), based upon potential harm from cell towers. This was the result from firefighters lobbying against the bill backed by both the results of the 2014 SPECT brain pilot study on firefighters and IAFF Resolution No. 15 (International Association of Fire Fighters August 2004 to prohibit cell towers from being placed on their fire stations).

Susan Foster MSW who led the SPECT study and filed a formal affidavit to the FFC wrote, “Senate Bill 649 was designed to allow for rapid deployment of small cell towers to be placed every five to ten homes without the local zoning procedures that have been guaranteed for 20 years by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This expansion is part of the coming 5G infrastructure build out. The industry-friendly California legislature may claim they know nothing about health concerns, but in fact they do. The legislature granted an exemption from SB 649 to the firefighters who have fought cell towers on their stations in court and in their cities for almost 20 years.” Governor Brown vetoed the bill October 2017. [https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7022117660.pdf]

California State Assembly member Bill Quirk, a former NASA scientist, authored CA AB57 (Quirk 2015) to make it easier for wireless companies to put up towers without going through the planning commission or the city council. In a 2018 interview with San Francisco CBS Local, Quirk said he may resurrect the bill that was recently vetoed by governor Brown, “I know scientifically that putting up these cell phone towers is safe” although he agreed more studies should be done. [“ConsumerWatch: 5G Cellphone Towers Signal Renewed Concerns Over Impacts on Health” by Julie Watts and Abigail Sterling, January 25, 2018, San Francisco CBS Local]

September 2019, Firefighters asked for an exemption or protections in Palo Alto, as a new Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance for “small cell” towers was being amended, and the Ripon Elementary School Los Angeles Sprint Cell Tower was shut off in 2019 due to several cases of cancer in students and teachers.

As of April 30, 2020, 253 EMF scientists from 44 nations have signed the EMF Scientist Organization International Appeal, “Scientists call for Protection from Non-ionizing Electromagnetic Field Exposure”: “We are scientists engaged in the study of biological and health effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF). Based upon peer-reviewed, published research, we have serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices. These include – but are not limited to – radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitting devices, such as cellular and cordless phones and their base stations, Wi-Fi, broadcast antennas, smart meters, and baby monitors as well as electric devices and infra-structures used in the delivery of electricity that generate extremely-low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF). Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.” It was sent to Antonio Guterres Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director-General of the World Health Organization, Inger Andersen Executive Director of the UNEP Environment Programme, and to all U.N. Member Nations. [ref: https://emfscientist.org/index.php/emf-scientist-appeal]

That bring us to our town March 2020, when the SB City Council voted, after hearing over 12 citizens make presentations against 5G, to take more time to study the potential health impacts of the technology before giving license to Verizon for full installation, appointing City Attorney Ariel Calonne to provide a memo to the council within 90 days. Council members Michael Jordan District 2, Eric Friedman District 5, and Mayor Cathy Murillo voted to move forward with the contract without any impact studies or constituency input. Voting against making the decision until further studies of impact were addressed are Council members Kristen Sneddon Mayor Pro Tempore District 4 who represents Montecito’s Coast Village Road, its adjacent areas and the Coast Village Road Association, Alejandra Gutierrez District 1 whose area borders Montecito direct routes in and out, Meagan Harmon District 6, and Oscar Gutierrez District 3.

In an effort to accurately define the position of the Council Members directly connected with Montecito, I contacted Kristen Sneddon and Alejandra Gutierrez for an e-interview or statement about the situation. They chose to submit their e-statements, which are published here:

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Kristen Sneddon Mayor Pro Tempore and District 4: “As the nation leaps toward advancements in 5G technology, there are many anticipated benefits in communication and connectivity, while the potential health risks are less well-understood. We need more research before we encourage mass installation of a 5G network in Santa Barbara. 

“There is a growing body of peer-reviewed published scientific research describing potential harmful effects of exposure to radio frequency radiation and electromagnetic fields. At exposure levels below those currently allowed, there could be increased risk of genetic, reproductive, and neurological damage, among other types of risk. FCC guidelines address the intensity of these types of exposures, but do not currently address the way the signal is conveyed. 5G technology utilizes advancements in signal conveyance, including focused beams and phased arrays of millimeter wavelengths. The effects of these advancements in how the signal is conveyed are possibly detrimental to health, and are not taken into account by current FCC guidelines. Research shows varying levels of potential effects, and does not conclude that there are no effects. We need to pause until there is more information on the effects of this type of radiation conveyed in this new format. There is nothing to conclude it is safe, and more to indicate the potential for damage. We need more research.

“FCC rules at this time are intended to ease the installation of network upgrades to 5G, particularly utilizing public utility poles. As this is being challenged in the courts, it is my hope and direction that Santa Barbara join this challenge as well, along with Berkeley as a city leading the charge in using municipal codes to regulate placement of the wireless cells. In Santa Barbara, our City Attorney is working with 5G Free to participate in the development of our local ordinance. On the basis of favoring local control, Santa Barbara entered our formal opposition of SB 649 through the League of Cities and our Legislative Platform. We are looking at this from every angle. There is debate about how to address the placement of active sites and this is where we are working with stakeholders, including 5G Free and the wireless providers, to draft an ordinance that will maximize our local control as much as possible under federal and state law. This draft will come before the Ordinance Committee in the coming weeks before being presented to City Council. Until there is further research on the potential health risks and plans for mitigation, installation of 5G should not be necessary.”

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez District 1: “As Santa Barbara City Council members we acknowledge the need to improve modern innovations that will enhance communication and business, however, we are torn about wanting to meet the demand of the community. We are also very concerned about the health impacts it has on the people when bringing these 5G towers into our community.  These concerns are not only central to Santa Barbara, but these are also concerns across the state. People do not know the social ramification of having these items create disruptions throughout many public spaces in the city. The current COVID-19 situation has taught us to always take preventive measures before it becomes a crisis. These 5G towers have been controversial since we don’t have enough data to prove that they are safe for all constituents residing within our city boundaries. It is our ethical responsibility to protect the wellbeing of our constituents’ wellbeing, especially those that live on the margins – those who don’t have a say in these types of matters. As city council members, we must make informed decisions, and we must call on our federal government to be transparent about all benefits and risks associated with installing 5G towers on public grounds.

“As a District representative, I acknowledge that our citizenry is diverse: social, economic, racial, gender, immigrant, and often Spanish speaking. I want to make sure that the current environmental climate isn’t unthreading and won’t lead to compromising our constituents’ health. I am especially concerned for the children and youth that live in my district. My district has a high volume of light poles, and we have three elementary schools, one junior high and the largest high school in our city. Most of the students walk to their schools and have no way of avoiding these towers. I am very concerned about the health risks to Santa Barbarians, and I want to make sure that as a City Council member, I voice these concerns. I understand that there are federal regulations that hold back cities from restricting the towers in our cities. Yet, I am willing to advocate for the people and unite with other cities with the same concerns to find solutions to this uncertainty.”

Next week, this space will share statements from my interviews with SB City Attorney Ariel Calonne and Assistant City Attorney John Doimas concerning their 5G Impact Study and what comes next. Stay tuned.


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