ENCINITAS — Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear announced during a council meeting on Sept. 25 that the council had unanimously approved joining a coalition to oppose the FCC’s petition to restrict municipalities, such as Encinitas, from having the ability to say no to 5G expansion and wireless facilities.

Two days prior, about 150 people showed up to a town hall meeting Sept. 23 in strong opposition of 5G cell towers going up in Encinitas.

The crowd, holding signs and at times chanting “Stop 5G,” had a list of reasons they want to keep the towers off their streets, including a number of possible health risks, the devaluing of property and aesthetic impacts.

One opposer who spoke at the forum cited that 5G technology is 10,000 times more powerful than the existing 4G and 3G and “may well be the atomic bomb of our contemporary world.” Another stated that new research shows that electromagnetic fields, or EMF, could lead to heart attacks and strokes, Alzheimer’s and neurological disease from brain degeneration. A middle school student packed a punch with her statement: “You will be long gone by the time people realize the truth. You are literally putting the weight of the world on us.”

The two-hour workshop, held at the Encinitas Community Center, seems to only be the beginning, as a conversation about the city’s new 5G ordinance continued the next day on a Facebook page called Encinitas Votes, described as a public group for those who know, or want to know, what’s up in Encinitas, especially as it relates to political issues. At last look the post had garnered 77 comments.

“There are legitimate questions that need to be answered before wholesale implementation of a technology that relies on focused beams of high-density radiation at frequencies that are higher than any previously used in large scale systems,” Eleanor Musick wrote.

Musick added in another comment that more study is needed, writing: “You’d think we would have learned from past experience with tobacco and chemicals that when an industry stands to make huge profits, they don’t give a crap about the long-term effects.”

Last month, 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.

The city’s previous cell phone ordinance was adopted in 2001. At that time, wireless communications carriers were rolling out a major expansion that resulted in the large antennas we have today, placed high above the ground that service a wide area.

In order to support 5G technology, small wireless antennae, which provide spot coverage to a relatively small area, would need to be installed. Because of its very limited coverage areas, many more antennae would be needed and they would have to be relatively closer to the ground, in close proximity to homes and businesses.

The industry plans to install the vast majority of these antennae in public rights-of-way, affixed to existing pole infrastructure — streetlights, traffic signals, and utility poles, or on new purpose-built small cell poles.

Several California cities are voting to place strict regulations on the federal directive, including Monterey, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Palo Alto and Mill Valley.

At least a couple people on the Encinitas Votes page noted that they’d like the council to take their time with this decision and not rush into anything.

“We have an opportunity here to delay the 5G infrastructure as so many towns and cities around the world are doing to demand more research on the effects of our health and the health of our children,” wrote Nellie Stein Jensen.

Cardiff resident Jim O’Hara concurred, commenting: “It seems like at the very least, there should be a pause while this debate gets hashed out. If there’s even a concern about health, it’s the council’s responsibility to observe it. Once these towers are up, it’ll be a lot more work, and more expensive to remove them.”

Some commenters felt that people might be getting all worked up for nothing. Glen Johnson, the original poster of this topic on the Facebook page, said he attended Monday’s forum and his one observation is that 5G causes mass hysteria.

“This should be interesting,” Johnson wrote. “93 million miles from us is a major source of EMF radiation and it has been shown that UV can cause skin cancer and sunburn. Yet the beach is a major attraction in Encinitas and people are not affected immediately.”

The next city council meeting to take up this issue is set for Oct. 30.