There are no immediate plans to construct 5G wireless facilities in Lodi, but that didn’t stop some residents from expressing their concerns with the technology this week.

A handful of residents told the Lodi City Council on Wednesday that “small cell” wireless technology, more commonly known as 5G, placed in Lodi would be harmful to residents during a discussion to introduce an ordinance that would make the city compliant with Federal Communications Commission regulation should any facilities be built.

Alex Aliferis claimed the city was “ramming” the technology down the throats of residents who were unaware any wireless facilities were being considered.

He wanted the city to place wireless antennas in non-residential areas, and away from schools and day care centers. Aliferis asked the city to begin providing homeowners within 500 feet of proposed wireless sites with notification that any antennas would be built, among other suggestions.

The city, however, already has these recommendations in place.

“Wireless phones, laptops, iPads, smart meters, emit harmful wireless radiation to your brain and body,” Aliferis said. “It’s far worse for kids, babies, pregnant women and the elderly. Who should decide how we integrate new technologies into out community, especially technologies that may be hazardous? Should it be the telecomms, whose primary responsibility is to shareholders? That’s what we’re hearing from right now. Or should it be our local elected officials, who know our communities, and their primary responsibilities are the health, safety and security and well-being of its citizens.”

Joan Wright told the council it needed to research the effects of wireless technology, pointing to incidents in Loma Linda and Palm Desert as examples where children allegedly suffered side effects from radiation exposure.

In 2009, residents in the city of Loma Linda opposed the placement of a cell tower in a public park.

After a 2018 investigation conducted by the International Association of Firefighters found firefighters suffered a variety of side effects from cell tower emissions, facilities were banned near fire stations.

While residents voiced opposition to cell phone towers, Wednesday’s discussion was not about any particular facility.

Rather, the council was tasked with approving an ordinance that would impose “reasonable time, place and manner” regulations on wireless technologies placed within the public right-of-way.

The proposed ordinance would also prevent any future facility’s interference with the public right-of-way; prevent visual and physical obstructions that cause safety hazards; minimize damage to city pavement; and protect the aesthetics and character of locations where such facilities are installed, according to Wednesday’s staff report.

Jory Wolf, vice president of digital innovation with Magellan Advisors, the firm contracted to consult on the ordinance’s adoption, said the concerns brought up by residents Wednesday is not uncommon to hear at city council meetings across the country.

However, experts hired by other cities, such as Sacramento, have debunked the claims many 5G opponents have brought forward.

“The city of Sacramento put a committee together made up of community members, included physicians, and hired a medical expert familiar with the physics of EMI,” Wolf said. “The recommendation from that medical professional were, that as long as FCC standards were being adhered to, there would not be any public harm. People have heard stories, they have beliefs, and then there’s disputable fact based on people’s beliefs. You have to go with either hiring an expert or believe what the experts are telling you, or have told other city councils.”

Wolf was not able to provide a complete presentation to the council Wednesday due to technical difficulties, and councilman Shak Khan cited that as one reason to table any ordinance adoption until a future meeting.

“My concern is we already have a lot of issues going on with hackers,” he said. “Our medical system is getting hacked. I received a letter from community development that said their system was hacked into. We have a hacker problem, a public health issue. We also didn’t get the whole presentation. I would like to request the city council bring this back for another meeting, and we talk in detail, get one more explanation and we have another city council member present.”

Vice Mayor Mark Chandler thanked the residents who spoke for sharing their concerns, but said that 5G was not being forced down their throats.

“This is the introduction,” he said. “This is the open process for your public input. And so, to Mr. Khan’s suggestion, we don’t need to reschedule this. It’s going to come back, and when it goes up for adoption, maybe the modifications that you suggest are going to be incorporated into our actions.”

The council adopted the ordinance introduction by a 4-0 vote. Formal adoption of the actual ordinance will be conducted at a future meeting.

Councilman Mikey Hothi was absent from the meeting Wednesday.

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