ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council took some of the concerns of its residents into consideration last week when it voted Oct. 30 to amend its controversial 5G wireless policy, excluding cell towers from going up in residential areas, parks and high-risk fire hazard areas.
The towers, which have already started going up in the city, also cannot be installed within 500 feet of a daycare center, school or a home that is not in a residential zone.
Some of the amendments are in response to public input from a September workshop on the issue that was attended by about 200 residents. Some people at that workshop also indicated they wanted to restrict 5G towers from going up at or near hospitals. According to a city report, that request was not being included because Scripps Hospital does not support the restriction, saying it would be detrimental to the hospital’s daily operation needs.
Before the vote about 20 people spoke before the council, and all but one — a representative with Scripps — expressed continuing concerns about the cell towers. Another nearly 80 attendees did not speak but turned in slips to the city clerk indicating their opposition.
“The industry wants the world to be blanketed by cell antennas both on the ground where people live and sleep 24/7 and in the air with thousands of satellites emitting this radiation,” said Encinitas resident Deborah Sie. “There is no opting out of this, no free choice.”
Sie said that since 5G has been rolled out there have been numerous testimonies of harm and side effects being reported immediately and within days. Symptoms can include severe headaches, concentration difficulties, sleep problems, depression, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, memory loss, impaired learning and intense tinnitus.
Corinne Shriner, an Encinitas resident for more than 25 years and a member of the Stop 5G Encinitas group, said she has a personal interest in this issue, claiming technology has played a role in making her sick (she didn’t disclose the specifics of her illness but said she started getting sick in May).
“Once I got the … radio frequency … WiFi and others out of my house many symptoms were gone pretty rapidly, within days to weeks and I continue to improve,” she said.
Shriner said the Stop 5G group hired an attorney who has suggested 26 amendments to the current policy.
“And out of those one is probably passing right now … there’s a lot more change that needs to be had,” she said.
Amber Ter-Vrugt from Scripps said for the past decade a technological transformation has been happening at the Encinitas hospital, with more changes anticipated and expected from patients and families. She said the hospital was appreciative that it and other health care facilities have not been put into this regulation.
“All of our planning is pointed at increased wireless capabilities in our facilities,” she said. She later added, “We’ve built a hybrid infrastructure in our facilities to ensure connectivity needs are met everywhere in our facilities so we can dynamically switch between wireless and cellular service.”
In August the Encinitas City Council adopted its new “urgency” ordinance to regulate small wireless facilities and other infrastructure deployments in the public rights-of-way. This was in response to the latest ruling by the Federal Communications Commission, which has ordered local governments to remove any regulatory barriers and speed the transition to the new technology.
After public comment at last week’s meeting, Councilman Tony Kranz said to him the issue is more about giving people a choice.
“I’ve got WiFi all over my house but if you don’t want to have WiFi in your house I don’t think you should be getting pounded with signals” he said.
He said that while the overwhelming majority of speakers at the meeting take issue with 5G towers, there are also many residents in the city who think it’s “the greatest thing since sliced bread” and want it installed. He said those residents maybe haven’t been as active at meetings because it’s not always easy to express a different opinion.
“In the end I think that it’s fair to take some steps that I think will protect you to the greatest extent possible,” Kranz concluded.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the amendments. They said they will consider other community-suggested amendments at a later meeting.
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.