Tower of Power

Written by Oscar Scholin, Journalist

The debate over new cell towers in Monterey and Pacific Grove began last March and continued until this September, with fervid arguments made against the cell towers. In Monterey, the city council voted unanimously to deny the construction of a cell tower in the Buena Vista neighborhood of Monterey. Many citizens fear for the health of their children or for the possible devaluation of their property. In Pacific Grove, however, the city council voted to allow the construction.


Why would Verizon want to construct cell-towers when they face obvious pushback? The answer lies in the latest cellular development: 5G. Most smartphones currently utilize the 4G (or Verizon’s LTE) wireless coverage. 5G is essentially a faster and more efficient type of wireless coverage than 4G. 5G is less straining on internet-providing servers because of its higher frequency radio waves, which carry more energy and therefore more information. However, the higher frequencies of the 5G network do not propagate well through the dense foliage of Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. In response, Verizon has planned to construct more cell towers to boost the signal. “For every square mile of 5G coverage, Verizon might deploy 9,292 small cell towers,” writes Gary Baley in his article “Small Cell Towers Nixed in 7 Hour Monterey PLanning Commission Meeting” for the Cedar Street Times. The city of Monterey comprises 8 square miles, meaning Verizon would install approximately 74, 663 cell towers in Monterey alone. Verizon seeks to be the first to install a 5G network in the Monterey Peninsula to remain competitive with their competitors. Accordingly, the towers will only benefit Verizon customers, further angering citizens.


On September 6, the City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s decision to approve a cell-tower in Pacific Grove. When Verizon proposed the area between the Country Club Center and the land behind the Pacific Grove High School, many citizens demonstrated that a cell-phone tower there is unnecessary: Pacific Grove High School’s Principal Matt Bell comments that “We have a Wi-Fi system that totally handles all their [students’] needs to go online.”


Other citizens have vehemently protested the placement of the cell tower near Pacific Grove High School: resident John Fletcher, as quoted in Carly Mayberry’s article “Pacific Grove upholds decision allowing new cell facility” for the Monterey Herald, exclaims that “We pay an arm and a leg to live here. I don’t want to see an ugly fake tree tower anywhere in P.G. … Let us walk through the trees we pay so much to live by. Leave our cute little town alone.” Resident Toula Hubbard pleads “You [the City Council] have the unique ability to be heroes to the community of Pacific Grove…You have legal grounds to approve this appeal and pull the permit. Please today, have our back.” Hubbard has also raised $1400 to appeal the Planning Commission’s Decision.


While many residents are fearful for their children’s health, Heidi Flato, the public relations director for Verizon’s Pacific market, explains that Verizon’s cell-towers operate well below the government minimum and are safe for children — and adults — to live near. In fact, she says that the radiation emitted from the proposed cell-tower is 800 times lower than that emitted from

a smartphone. So, while the tower itself may not be entirely necessary nor sightly, it apparently poses little — if any — potential harm to students. However, even though the proposed cell phone tower seems to not pose any serious health risks, is right next to the high school the best place for it?