New restrictions imposed to address widespread community concerns about health risks

Encinitas will amend its controversial 5G wireless policy, adding new restrictions on antenna placement in response to opponents’ well-organized lobbying efforts.

“I think much of your feedback is reflected in what’s being presented tonight,” Councilman Tony Kranz told the many 5G antenna opponents as the council debated some proposed amendments Wednesday.

Kranz said he is a fan of wireless communication and has Wi-Fi throughout his house, but added that he understands some people are highly sensitive to radio frequencies and they should have a choice about whether antennas are located near their homes.

Other council members praised audience members for their behavior that night, saying they acted with restraint though they were passionately opposed to having 5G antennas placed near their homes and their children’s schools.

“It makes us feel like the public process works,” Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze said as she thanked people for their civility.

For their part, many members of the Stop 5G Encinitas group told the council that they wanted these new amendments to be the first of many, and they urged city leaders to continue working with their attorney on this issue.

“There’s a lot more change that needs to be had,” Encinitas resident Corinne Shriner told the council, noting that the group’s attorney has suggested 26 amendments.

Amendments the council unanimously agreed to Wednesday include barring 5G antennas from being installed in residential zones, park lands and “very high” fire hazard areas. They also cannot be installed within 500 feet of a day care center, a school or a residence that is not in a residential zone.

However, wireless antenna companies can seek an exemption to these requirements. If a company seeks such an exemption, the city’s planning director would decide whether to grant the request and, if granted, the director’s decision could be appealed to the City Council.

The council originally adopted its 5G “urgency” policy in August in response to recent rulings by the Federal Communications Commission, which has ordered local governments to remove any regulatory barriers and speed the transition to the new technology.

Promoted as the next big thing in wireless communication, 5G technology is expected to revolutionize the industry, allowing rapid downloading speeds for large files and greatly increasing the number of devices that can be used in one location. However, the new technology involves the installation of many small antennas located close to the ground, often on street light poles, and that’s got people concerned about both health risks and visual blight.

At Wednesday’s hearing and at a city-sponsored workshop last month, 5G opponents said they thought the health risks of the new technology have not been adequately studied and noted that there are movements around the world to ban the 5G systems.

Encinitas 5G opponents want “the most protective ordinance” that the city can create, city resident Lindsy Richards told the council. She said she thought the city was on the right track with a proposed amendment that blocked 5G antennas from being placed within 500 feet of a primary school, but wondered why middle and high schools were not included.

“Why would we not protect all of our children?” she asked.

Council members then asked Robert “Tripp” May, an attorney with the city-hired Telecom Law Firm, why older kids were being left out. May said he thought the word “primary” represented kindergarten through 12th grade. Told that wasn’t the case, he said the council could go ahead and eliminate the word primary, so that the restriction would apply to schools generally.