La Jolla Shores group is second ‘no’ vote on proposed park cell tower

By Ashley Mackin

Torrey Pines Elementary School (TPES) parents opposed to a proposed cell tower at Cliffridge Park scored another victory when the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) voted to oppose granting the conditional use permit required for the tower’s installation at its June 11 meeting.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association also voted against the tower earlier this month.

The approximately 25 parents at the LJSA meeting heard a presentation from AT&T acquisition consultant Debra DePratti Gardner, who indicated that despite their concerns, AT&T plans to pursue the location. She said the proposed site at the northwest corner of Cliffridge Park helps fill a coverage gap and their only alternative is to place the tower behind a nearby single- family residence.

Parents of students at Torrey Pines Elementary School, which is adjacent to the park, expressed worries about insufficient notice of the proposed 30-foot tower and Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure.

Darang Tech of DTech Communications conducted an on-site reading of current EMF levels at and around the school, which were low enough to be considered ambient.

Although according to the Federal Communications Commission, EMF concerns cannot be a factor in the LJSA decision, aesthetics and land-use issues can be, so TPES parent Marc Kuritz argued that park lands should not be used for commercial purposes. He cited Section 55 of the San Diego City Charter to illustrate his point. “All real property heretofore or hereafter designated or set aside for park, recreation or cemetery purposes shall not be used for any but park, recreation or cemetery purposes,” he read. “... Until such changed use or purpose is first authorized or ratified by a vote of two-thirds of the qualified electors of the city voting at an election for that purpose.”

DePratti Gardner countered by saying the proposed tower would be outside the usable area of the park.

However, LJSA Chair Tim Lucas agreed with Kuritz’s position. “One thing that struck me is that there is no recreational benefit of this (tower) to the park, and I think that’s a key concept,” he said. Addressing aesthetic, he referenced a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding a cell site proposed for a street. “The panel of the Ninth Circuit said ‘the experience of traveling along a picturesque street is different from the experience of traveling through the shadow of a wireless communication facility.’ ”

He added, “They were worried about something in a road, not even a park, but a road, and this is an actual park that is supposed to be open space. I read Section 55 of the charter before the meeting and I agree with (Kuritz’s) contention. The city should not be siting these things in parks.”

LJSA member Janie Emerson made the motion to oppose granting the permit and lease for the tower. She included the proposed tower’s bulk and scale being larger than the other two towers currently on the park site (possibly setting a precedent), and the faux eucalyptus tree used to disguise the tower as being incompatible with the scenery as reasons for the opposition. Further, her motion included LJSA asking the City of San Diego and Director of Parks and Rec to cease leasing park land to wireless communication facilities until the formation of a comprehensive plan that explores these facilities in parks. The motion carried 12-0-1.

A second motion made by LJSA Vice Chair Susan Thomson-Tschirn requested AT&T return to LJSA with a viable “plan b,” which also carried 12-0-1.

Lucas added that in his research, he discovered the Director of Park and Rec has the authority to put a limit on the number of towers at each park.

In other LJSA news:

■ Avenida de la Playa construction

As the Avenida de la Playa infrastructure and repair project nears completion, LJSA voted to waive the summer construction moratorium to complete the final facets.

Lucas explained the outfall – where the drains feeds into the ocean – does not have a gate because the original design would not have worked. He said he hopes to see a design proposal soon, as there is currently only a fence surrounding the outfall.

Additionally, at the westernmost end of Avenida de la Playa, there is a water main, which has yet to pass bacterial testing. Once the main passes, the city will patch the area with concrete and let it cure, which should take approximately three days. During this time, the boat launch will be open.

■ DecoBike drama continues

During the May meeting, LJSA voted 6-3-1 to oppose the three DecoBike bike-share kiosk locations proposed in the Shores. At the June meeting, in light of the recently announced July 1 public comment deadline, LJSA affirmed their vote, 7-6.

The City of San Diego has a contract to implement DecoBike bike sharing citywide, with a guaranteed 180 stations. There is not a minimum number of stations guaranteed for each community.

■ Next meeting La Jolla Shores Association next meets 6:30 p.m. July 9 at 8840 Biological Grade, Scripps Institute of Oceanography.