As a pro-resident group focused on raising awareness about important issues around town, Los Altos Residents seeks to present both sides of these Hot Topics by describing the Pros and Cons of issues and to provide information to help residents become more informed and how to take action. 

5G cellular wireless transmitters “small nodes” are coming to Los Altos. we will continue to post any new information so stay tuned here!


At the Aug 5th Los Altos Special City Council meeting, the Mayor and the three City Council Members present (Anita Enander, Jan Pepper and Neysa Fligor) came prepared to enact a 5G wireless transmitter urgency ordinance. They had thoroughly reviewed the draft ordinance modeled after Mill Valley’s ordinance and had a number of amendments to offer and discussion of the intent of the language employed by BKK, the city’s outside counsel. In a marathon session, they went through each and every section of the ordinance and the two accompanying resolutions and passed amended versions unanimously. The ordinance has been deemed somewhat more restrictive than the Mill Valley ordinance and was drafted specifically for Los Altos. It went into effect immediately. The ordinance as passed by the City Council will be posted as soon as it is made available by the City.

PRO argument and perspective:

5G is the current iteration of a decade long cycle of upgrading the global communication infrastructure. What this means for us residents is that our cell phones will have much higher connection speeds. While this will allow such niceties as downloading movies in a matter of seconds, more importantly, it’s the next wave of innovations that 5G will enable like the Internet of Things (IOT) and self-driving cars that will drive the next Silicon Valley or the next internet modality.

In addition, first responders rely on the newest and most sophisticated technology to remain in contact with their colleagues, hospital staff and the general public in the wake of an emergency or natural disaster. Included in the staff report from the Aug 5th special city council meeting was a memo from Los Altos Police Capt. Scott McCrossin to Police Chief Andy Galea, asserting that allowing 5G technology in the city is critical during and following an emergency. McCrossin cited the Camp Fire in Paradise as an example, noting that the failure of previously established early-warning communications technology in Paradise resulted in the quick spread of flames that ultimately engulfed the town. “In short, macrocells (large-cell nodes) are for coverage and microcells (small-cell nodes) are for capacity,” McCrossin wrote. “In the public safety environment, fewer nodes means less capacity and would effectively hinder FirstNet BAND 14 build-out.”

While there may be no solid proof that 5G radiation causes no harmful effects, there is also no way to scientifically prove a negative. Even with 3G and 4G which have had decades of use globally, there have been no reputable studies that demonstrate with confidence that 3G/4G radiation causes any health effects - nor have any that proven there is no effect. Loosely speaking, scientists use a principle of statistical confidence intervals that can only describe how big a sample needs to be (like the entire global population) in order to have a certain amount of confidence that there is any effect. So, as with 4G with a global population and a decade of time, the confidence level is fairly high (but never 100%) that there is no health concern. And so with 5G that uses the same type of microwave radiation but at a higher frequency, we only have basic physics to help us, which only tells us that additional non-ionizing radiation can only cause thermal (heating) effects.

The following list of reputable sources documents what is known about health effects from cellular radiation.

National Cancer Institute EM Fields fact sheet: ‘No mechanism by which ELF-EMFs or radiofrequency radiation could cause cancer has been identified.’

US Food and Drug Administration Do cell phones pose a health hazard? ‘Many people are concerned that cell phone radiation will cause cancer or other serious health hazards. The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.’

World Health Organization Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones. ‘A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.

2018 NY Times article Cancer Risk From Cellphone Radiation Is Small, Studies Show.

A NY Times article describes studies of tumors in brain cancer patients tended to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone. Your cell phone emits far more radiation than from transmission towers. When using a cell phone held up to your body (eg. your ear), the radiation emitted from your phone is more than 10x higher than from a nearby cell tower (see ref below). The state of California issued advice to consumers about how to lower their exposure by keeping the phone away from the head and body.

Real Clear Science critique of the US Health and Human Services 3G study points out that the number of tumors detected were so small that they statistically could have occurred by chance and they highlight that the irradiated test rats lived longer than the unexposed control rats. 

Wikipedia basics of EM radiation: How ionizing radiation that damages DNA occurs at high frequencies well above visible light and 5G radiation. 

FCC guidelines for cell tower power: Exposure is not allowed to exceed 0.5 mW/cm2.

FCC SAR regulations for handheld cell phone radiation power essentially allows your cell phone to emit up to 3 Watts, or approximately 15 mW/cm2 if your phone is held up to your head (approximately 20x higher than from a tower.)

Further information with documentation to consider in your decision making:

  1. 5G signals from cell towers diminish significantly when they pass through walls or other solid objects. The attenuation is serious enough that cellular carriers are stating that to have reliable fast 5G inside buildings, repeaters will be needed inside. This very concern is the main technological hurdle requiring a much higher number of transmitting devices.

  2. There have been documented attempts using social media and other means to create disinformation campaigns that actively seek to portray efforts to implement 5G as dangerous. In a recent NY Times article “Your 5G Phone Won’t Hurt You. But Russia Wants You to Think Otherwise,” RT America, a network known for sowing disinformation, is spreading a new alarm: the coming ‘5G Apocalypse.’

  3. Noise specifications for these small nodes is hard to find, but as these devices have no moving parts or fans, they should, in theory, produce no noise. However, there have been reports to ATT about degrading microcell units because of faulty circuitry or power supplies that occur just before devices failed and were replaced in the system.

CON argument and perspective:

Update: Carey Lai led a large contingent of residents who spoke in favor of strict regulation of 5G wireless transmitters. To read Carey’s prepared remarks, please click on this link. To view the public comments, please click on this link. Attorney Kevin Hoeke discussed the NRDC v Federal Communications Commission lawsuit over the lack of public input on safety testing; and Sen. Blumenthal’s questioning of the Telecom industry. He provided Council Members with copies of a Harvard article, the FCC: Captured Agency; and a petition relating to the health effects of RF radiation.

Residents have raised legitimate concerns about 5G technology being placed in and around our homes out of concern that these devices will be an eyesore, lower property values, cause excessive noise and increase health and safety risks. The cellular companies cannot promise or prove that the higher frequency of 5G will not be a risk, and residents want safe and sensible deployment away from homes and schools while the technology and research are still underway.

Carey Lai, and other North Los Altos residents have raised this issue, and brought this to Los Altos city council at the July 9th meeting. Residents are against cell towers being placed so close to homes and schools. They advised that fiberoptic and wired alternatives are safer, more secure and cheaper in the long run than adding cell towers every 200-300 feet.  In addition, they opined that many carriers will use these towers not just for 5G, but 4G will be essential in these towers as backhaul. In particular, they are concerned that no safety testing has been done for 5G or the mix of frequencies that Los Altos residents will be exposed to 24/7, especially vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. They ask that the City Council consider not just the highly marketed industry upside, but also the long-term consequences of this continuous and increasingly invasive technology with security risks.

Carey Lai: There are 5 primary reasons why I reject placing cell towers close to our homes and schools: (1) aesthetics, (2) lower property values, (3) noise, (4) health effects and (5) safety.  In addition, neither AT&T nor the City provided adequate notice to residents that 5G nodes were being installed in Los Altos.

Aesthetics. 10-20-foot extensions will be added on top of utility poles, and so called "small" refrigerator-sized boxes will be mounted to the side of the pole. At max deployment, the major wireless carriers have the ability to deploy close to 1,700 cell towers in Los Altos. (According to the FCC, each carrier can deploy a maximum of 60 cell towers per square mile. Given that Los Altos covers an area of seven square miles, the four major carriers would be able to deploy close to 1,700 cell towers).

Lower Property Values. Many home buyers are concerned about diminished aesthetics, noise nuisance, and potential health effects associated with cell towers. According to Realtor Magazine, a study found that 94% of homebuyers would not purchase a home near a cell tower due to fear of health effects.

Noise. The equipment installed on these utility poles have cooling fans generating constant noise pollution. There’s no denying the constant hum reported from these cell towers.

Health.  Cell towers are never to be placed so close to homes and schools, especially where children, elderly and other vulnerable people live and/or spend extended periods of time. Initial peer reviewed research from Environmental Health Trust (EHT) and Physicians for Safe Technology state exposure to cell towers are linked to higher rates of cancer. More time and research needs to be conducted to show what long-term health effects there are. As we've learned from smoking and asbestos, I’m a strong proponent for a smart and sensible approach while the verdict is still out, as countless other cities in the Bay Area have done. Allowing wireless companies to put cell towers wherever they like with little oversight sets a dangerous precedent the city cannot easily control or retroactively fix.

Safety. PG&E does not have a good track record of maintaining safe utility lines as they were found liable for the 2007 Malibu and 2018 Camp fires. It doesn't make sense to add an additional 300-500 pounds per utility pole increasing its weight and instability. Many poles lean dangerously in Los Altos and power lines have gone down in previous winter storms.

Lack of Effective Notice. The Los Altos City Council held a public Study Session meeting on July 9, 2019, but only at the urging of residents after a small number of us began receiving notices in nondescript envelopes from “LA Mapping Service” which were easily mistaken as junk mail. Prior to this, there was no mention whatsoever of AT&T’s planned approval on the City of Los Altos website and no notice to hundreds of directly impacted homeowners and neighbors either. 16 AT&T and Verizon cell towers were proposed in Los Altos without our City Council knowing. According to Gail Karrish attorney from BBK, the city’s outside counsel, a minimum of 3 residents adjacent to each pole must be notified.  As of this date, a request for the identity of those residents actually notified has not been honored.

To read Carey Lai’s statement in its entirety, click on this link.

There is strong community opposition and approximately 800 signatures have been collected in petitions opposing AT&T’s application.


While the research on health effects do not conclusively show cell tower radiation causes health effects, it also doesn’t prove without doubt that these technologies have a clean bill of health.  It’s important for us residents to become educated and voice our informed opinions. So, each of us will need to make a decision: What is our sense of risk after we’ve done our own research - do the risks outweigh the benefits?   We recommend reading current information on this topic from diverse and trusted sources, and then taking action:

  1. Send an email to city council ( and let them know where you stand; and/or

  2. Attend regular City Council meetings which are held every 2nd and 4th Tuesday evenings at 7pm in order to have your voice heard on this important topic.

  3. Come back here and watch for other LAR communications on breaking news.

TECHNICAL information ABOUT 5G

  1. 5G operates in the microwave spectrum as do the current 4G and previous 3G networks except it operates at a higher range of frequencies. 4G operates in the range of 0.7 to 2.7 GHz, and 5G will operate in a range from 1 to 90 GHz.

  2. The microcells that will be placed in urban areas will operate in the 1-10 Watts range. In comparison, the base stations for 4G LTE (which is the current technology) to supply 12 channels at 20 W, the output at the antenna that is concentrated at the cell tower is typically about 250 Watts (example assumes 3 sectors, 2x2 MIMO and 2 carriers)

  3. Since 5G operates at much higher frequencies than 4G, the range is diminished and much more sensitive to interference from e.g., trees, rain and other factors. Because the range is diminished, there is a requirement to deploy many more 5G small cell transmitters.

EM frequency basics

  1. 5G (and 4G and 3G) operate using microwaves, similar to your microwave oven. As a reference, consumer microwave ovens use EM radiation at 2.4 GHz, which is in the 4G operating range.

  2. If the frequency increases above 5G, the radiation becomes infrared, similar to your TV remote control, or a heat lamp, or the warmth you feel from the sun.

  3. Above infrared, the radiation becomes visible light and then UV which causes the skin to tan, a ‘photo-chemical’ effect.

  4. Above UV, radiation then becomes X-ray radiation, which is ionizing and can cause DNA damage and cancer when the dose is sufficient [ref].

EM graph.png

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