Some residents in Summerland were surprised to find a wireless antenna installed in their neighborhood this week, and are now claiming that they never received a proper notice from the County of Santa Barbara. “A bunch of us didn’t get any notification and didn’t know anything until, literally, they put it up,” said Con P. Curran, who lives on Shelby Street with his wife and two girls, age 11 and 12. While he’s somewhat worried about the potential health effects of the radiofrequency emitted by the antenna, he already knows that his ocean views are now impeded and that his property value may also suffer as a result.
What’s less surprising to Curran and others, however, is that the official notices most likely got lost in the mail. Such is a common trend in Summerland, where residents cannot have mail delivered straight to their homes and must instead rely on the Post Office box system. In this case, the county — as per the noticing guidelines of the telecommunications ordinance — used information from the assessor’s office to send the notices, but then soon discovered that many of the properties do not have the P.O. boxes on file.
“We’ve noticed an ongoing problem with Summerland,” explained Megan Lowery of the county planning department, which is processing a number of antenna applications from wireless company NextG. In addition to the sign being posted on the pole in question, the county also bolstered the outreach effort in the coastal community by bringing this proposed antenna to the Summerland Citizens Association twice and posting it inside the Post Office itself. “We’ve tried our best to keep people updated,” said Lowery, who explained that, technically speaking, the county is in compliance with the ordinance and the permitted antenna is legal.
A call to the county assessor’s office confirmed that Curran’s mailing address on file is indeed his street address. That surprised the office’s Rick Holly, who laughed, “I don’t know what to say,” but quickly assured that Summerland residents can add their P.O. box info to their file by contacting the assessor’s office at 805-568-2250.
P.O. box woes aside, Curran remains stuck with the antenna, and claims that the noticing on the pole was inadequate as well. “My view is the whole ocean,” he said. “The white antenna looks pretty good up against that blue backdrop!” More troubling is that Curran had been considering splitting his large lot in order to build a duplex. Based on the conceptual plans from a decade ago, that would put the antenna right near the new structure. “Now you’d be able to reach out of the kitchen window with an orange-picker and grab the antenna,” said Curran. “This is really a screw job to this parcel. It’s just unbelievable.”
He’s directed his complaints to 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal’s office, who put Curran in touch with a higher-up in the planning department. Curran has also spoken with attorneys at Price, Postel and Parma about his dilemma, but is not sure whether he’ll pursue any legal moves yet.
Meanwhile, the appeals of 10 or so other antennas in nearby Montecito are still being examined by the planning department, said Lowery, who expects some of them to come back to the Board of Supervisors for a hearing sometime in July.