Not on My Drug Store

LOS ANGELES -- Baldwin Hills residents fighting a T-Mobile cellular telephone tower scored Wednesday when the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission denied the wireless provider a zoning permit.

In a split decision, the Planning Commission reversed its earlier position and denied a T-Mobile application to build a nine-antenna tower on the roof of a CVS Pharmacy at 4501 W. Slauson Ave.

"This will blight (the pharmacy). It will blight our community," said Commissioner Leslie Bellamy, who represents Baldwin Hills.

T-Mobile representatives at the hearing said the tower was needed to ensure coverage in the area, calling the site the "last and only candidate."

The commission tentatively approved construction in June over the protests of activists, who voiced fears that it would lower property values and pose health risks.

Citing unanswered questions about how the facility would affect the neighborhood's aesthetic, whether it could be put elsewhere and what impact it would have on 911 services in the area, then-Supervisor Yvonne Burke led the Board of Supervisors in calling for the commission to reopen the matter in

Burke, who retired at the end of November, represented Baldwin Hills.

Speakers at today's hearing accused T-Mobile of giving out inaccurate and incomplete information to trick the commission into approving the permit.

"The only thing they've proven is that they can't be trusted," said Sally Hampton, Baldwin Hills resident.

T-Mobile spokesman Joe Thompson said that the company's only goal was to improve cell phone service.

"I don't know why we're being demonized when everybody out here has a cell phone," Thompson said.

With Wednesday's denial of the zoning permit application, the matter will likely head back to the Board of Supervisors. T-Mobile has until March 4 to appeal the decision.

No one for T-Mobile at the hearing would confirm an appeal was in the works, though commissioners spoke of it as a certainty.

"This is going to go to the Board of Supervisors either way," Commissioner Harold Helsley said before the vote.

If anything, the commissioners seemed relieved to end the matter.

"What the answer is, I don't know, but I think ... this has become much larger than this community," Commissioner Pat Modugno said.

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