Bringing down the towers: Cell antenna misstep causes district to backtrack on project

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

San Dieguito Union High School District’s plan – and the school board’s initial approval – to place cellular antennas at Canyon Crest Academy stunned many in the CCA community, some of whom were suspicious of the timing and the lack of notice.

If not for a front-page story in this newspaper on July 5 that triggered protests from many quarters, Sprint/Nextel’s agreement with SDUHSD to erect three arrays of four antennas each on top of classroom buildings at CCA would have been a done deal at the school board’s July 26 meeting. It was that close.

It’s an uncharacteristic misstep for a school district that is generally regarded, justifiably so, as open and transparent, communicative and approachable.

In two fundamental ways, the district and school board members failed the community. First, by not informing stakeholders of the plan. Second, by treating this project as just another ordinary business deal, without regard for the safety of students and employees in close daily proximity to radiation emissions of undetermined consequence to human health.

The lack of notification is most baffling. If it was not intentional deception, then incompetence is the only other explanation. Neither is admirable.

Eric Dill, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of business services, insisted this was no deliberate attempt to sneak it past the community.

“I want to dispense with the notion that we were trying to hide or push something through during the summer because nobody would be around,” Dill said. “We’ve heard that accusation a couple of times in the last weeks, and nothing could be further from the truth.”

Dill said all procedures were followed properly, including hosting a public meeting that was requested by the Carmel Valley Planning Board, which first reviewed the project on April 26.

“From what I understand, this public meeting wasn’t even a requirement of moving this forward,” Dill said. “We enter into lots of business arrangements where we don’t go out and notify the entire world.”

John Addleman, SDUHSD’s director of planning and financial management, said a notice was placed in the May 23 issue of the North County Times, calling a public meeting at Canyon Crest Academy for June 1.

Dill said the district chose the North County Times to reach a wider audience than just Carmel Valley. But since the overwhelming majority of students attending Canyon Crest Academy live in the southern portion of the school district where the North County Times is not widely read, the obscure notice did not serve to alert the community.

The Carmel Valley Planning Board, in a letter to the district objecting to the project, called the North County Times “a newspaper with little circulation among the CCA community.”

“The North County Times is the place where we put all those kinds of public notifications,” said SDUHSD superintendent Ken Noah last week. “But when I learned that there had not been information provided [to the Carmel Valley area], I think that was an error on our part. We should have.”

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