A vote was held Tuesday, October 4 at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors regarding the proposed development of a 45-foot faux palm tree Verizon cell tower and utility station directly above Rincon Point. The Brown family appealed with support from longtime local families and concerned neighbors. Statements made against the project cited health concerns, the disruption of an iconic view-shed, and loss of historic agricultural land use to an unnecessary utility placement. Opposition pointed out that AT&T has an existing tower below the proposed site that provides excellent service, thus challenging Verizon’s claim thatit is the only viable location to address a problematic one-square-mile coverage gap in their current service. Verizon admitted fewer than 400 people have complained about this drop — far smaller than the number of people who will see this proposed tower from Rincon Beach and the freeway.
Right now we all see the towers at the top of Rincon Mountain. Citizens fighting the new cell tower fear that this could be the future of this new site, only in proximity to our beloved Rincon Point.
State beaches bring $10 billion of revenue a year to California. Rincon, with the potential to be designated part of a state scenic highway, has long been one of the most recognizable coastal areas in the world, helping to draw over 2 million visitors to Carpinteria alone. It should be protected.
Those who strongly opposed the development urged Ventura’s supervisors to question whether Verizon’s initial report that omitted information and skipped steps in the process, such as contacting Ag Preserve, allowed the company to make the proposal based on misleading information and land classifications. It was questioned whether or not Verizon fully explored all other viable options, considering there is an existing cell station 340 yards away. Last, opponents requested the board consider the responsibility of planning decisions with regard to preserving the historic and iconic significance of this location.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors agreed to amend the proposal to include a “14 day from contact” for Verizon to replace or repair damaged faux palm fronds in order to minimize the poor aesthetics of a ragged cell tower, but they ultimately voted 3–1 to deny the appeal and approve the application.
Prior to the vote, members of the Board of Supervisors discussed whether their shared concerns for the project would be considered adequate enough to require further review, as they seemed wary of the possibility of Verizon suing them for potentially interfering with FCC regulations. The Verizon lawyer claimed there were no Caltrans poles in the right-of-way at the location. The Board had additional discussion regarding whether this project created a significant impact on the environment, and the supervisors concluded that the proposed project footprint was under the county threshold. The Board also questioned the plan of the 45-foot palm tree under new earthquake regulations, which require far more extensive construction of cell towers, often resulting in much larger profiles. Verizon was unable to give a committed answer to this issue.
One supervisor pointed out that this could damage the highway from ever getting Scenic Highway status. Another board member echoed, acknowledging the role of good government in this decision, but voiced concern again about federal law.
No one disputed the coverage gap for Verizon or the benefit of cell service, but it was not clear why Verizon was so resistant to place the pole next to the unobtrusive AT&T pole.
The proposed project is now continuing with one minor amendment and being passed to the Coastal Commission for review. Perhaps it is not too late to stop this process and to save our Queen of the Coast.