Fight over South Tahoe cell towers taken to federal court

Laney Griffo


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A South Lake Tahoe woman and several nonprofit groups are taking their fight against cell towers to the California District Court.

Monica Eisenstecken, Tahoe Stewards, LLC, Tahoe for Safer Tech, and the Environmental Health Trust are asking the court to put a halt on the development of new cell towers and wireless antennas and facilities.

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and its board and Tahoe Prosperity Center have both been named in the suit as well as Verizon Wireless.

When a cell tower was approved by South Tahoe officials to be built across the street from Eisenstecken’s home, she appealed the city’s decision. She, along with many members of the community cited health and environmental concerns from the cell towers and small cell boxes, as well as fear of a decrease in property value.

The city denied her appeal.

The case filed against TRPA and TPC states, “TRPA is actively engaged in licensing a few telecom companies to blanket the Tahoe Region with radio frequency radiation emitting small and large cell towers, without any consideration or assessment of the risks to Tahoe’s unique environment, the increased fire hazard, and the danger from increased and untested RFR exposures to thousands of Tahoe’s residents, especially our most vulnerable communities — children, the elderly, disabled persons, and minorities.”

The lawsuit also claims TRPA is in violation of the American with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act.

In a press release from Tahoe for Safer Tech, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Julian Gresser, said, “‘I believe our case is strong and we will prevail in our efforts to preserve and protect the greater Lake Tahoe region from the scenic blight and environmental destruction Verizon’s and other telecoms’ unbridled 5G rollout will otherwise unleash. The health of the region and its citizens is more important than the profit of private companies. We are excited to press forward with this litigation which will offer Lake Tahoe residents a wise balance between environmental protection and economic development.’”

TPC was unable to comment on an active case but legal counsel for TRPA said the agency, “understands the pressing concerns in the community about the health and environmental impacts of cell towers. Our role in cell tower permitting is to ensure the project complies with Lake Tahoe’s environmental thresholds and zoning guidelines.

“Federal regulators set the emission standards from cell towers and review the environmental impacts of those standards,” continued the statement. “The agency is not charged with implementing those federal regulations regarding communications equipment.”

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