Television Tower - Expand or Go?

Decision - August, 13 2009 City Council


For Profit, Commerical Operation Approved by Planning Commission
City Council to Review Commission Decision on August 13th.

Update July 2009: At the June 23rd Planning Commission meeting, several residents commenting unanimously called for the tower's removal.

With the departure of KOCE television, the site changes from the public benefit of a public television station to a commercial tower rental site.

Representatives from CCCD waffled when answering Commission questions regarding what their long term intentions were. They started off saying that they had no intention other than keeping the CHP and Sempra Energy antennas on their tower, but finally revealed that they had an FM broadcaster that had been interested in the site for 2 years, and they were waiting for the City extension of the CUP before they applied. CCCD also said that if anyone else expressed interest in renting space on the tower, that they weren't going to turn down the revenue.

A resident in the broadcast business said that an FM transmitter could wipe out FM radio reception for much of the Heights, as it would overwhelm our already marginal reception.

Commissioner Margarita McCoy raised several issues, such as whether the tower height could be lowered, to which CCCD guessed it could be by at least 75 feet; why their promised long term plan was not provided, to which CCCD didn't know; whether the large on-site propane tank was permitted and safe, to which CCCD said they had received a permit 2 or 3 years ago (a subsequent look at city permit records showed no such permit); why a staff recommended EIR had not been done, to which the new staff said it wasn't needed; and opined that a 5 year extension should be considered rather than the 10 year proposed, due to rapidly changing technology. Commissioner McCoy was skeptical of several of their "answers".

The other Commissioners did not carry her recommendations forward.

CCCD said that they have 214 La Habra Heights residents as students in the Districts' Colleges. That would be about 25% of college aged residents, which seems unikely.

An interesting exhange between Commissioner McCoy and Commissioner Fernandez dealt with the benefit to the community. McCoy said among all the other outstanding issues, there was no benefit to the community. Fernandez said it didn't matter if there was a benefit to La Habra Heights, it benefitted others and that was good enough.

Watch the exchange between McCoy and Fernandez - 2 minutes

The Commission approved the 10 year Conditional Use Permit 4-1.

This is the first approval of a commercial operation in the City since a court ordered one in 1986.

Does bringing in Commercial operations to the City represent a change by the new Council, contrary to the residential uses of the City until now?

Two City Council members called the matter up for review, and it will be heard at the August 13, 2009 City Council meeting.

Residents should make their wishes known to the Council regarding whether the 25 story tower stays, with likely expansion, or goes, as required by the 2004 CUP.

Should La Habra Heights remain residential or should commercial facilities that provide no benefit to the community be allowed?

See Staff Report for June 23rd hearing, and recommendation of approval for a 10 year CUP, contrary to accepted conditions and restrictions.

The CCCD has submitted an application to the City for a permanent Conditional Use Permit.
Even though the permit expires June 22nd, and the hearing is on June 23rd, the Applicant applied back in February, so it is still a valid permit.

The City has a choice between having the 25 story high red & white television transmission tower on the hill removed as per agreements with the City, or expanded as desired by Coast Community College District stated at the March 13, 2008 City Council hearing, below.


The minutes for the May 5, 2008 meeting of the Coast Community College District (excerpt below) indicates the intention to expand the facility for revenue generation.

Note: KOCE-TV/Coast Community College District originally received approval for the television tower because of the broad public interest of a public broadcasting station, not for revenue generation.

5/5/08 CCCD minutes excerpt

item k. Authorization for Independent Contractors

Moss & Associates, Inc. to serve as an Independent Contractor pursuant to the District’s standard independent contractor agreement, to complete Conditional Use Permit at La Habra Heights Tower, July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, for a fee NTE $61,000 to be paid from General Funds. (Revision is to increase contract amount from $35,000 to $61,000. Prior Board Approval: 12/12/07).
Trustee Patterson expressed concern that this item was on the Consent Calendar instead of the Action pages, noting the large fee of $61,000. He requested that this item be deferred to the Action section of the Agenda, or that the Board receive a thorough report at this time.
Vice Chancellor C.M. Brahmbhatt clarified that KOCE would no longer be using the La Habra Heights Tower, and the District would be developing the Tower to be utilized as a source of revenue. He noted that the large amount for the Conditional Use Permit for the City of La Habra was due to delays associated with concerns raised from local neighborhoods. Mr. Brahmbhatt offered to prepare a written report to the Board.
President Ruiz commented on different ways of providing information on Board Agendas, and suggested that the Board direct staff to investigate options, and work with the Board to develop an Agenda that everyone is comfortable with.
It was then moved by Ms. Hornbuckle and seconded by Mr. Howald that Personnel Item 4k, Authorization for Independent Contractors, be approved.
Motion carried with the following vote: Aye - Ms. Hornbuckle, Mr. Howald, Mr. Moreno, Mr. Patterson, and President Ruiz.

Past City approvals require the removal of the tower in 2009 (see History below).

The tower is no longer used for it's approved use, public television broadcast.

Any use other than television broadcast requires enlarging the site to a conforming size.

There should be no surprise if the City holds to its agreements and requires the tower to be removed.

Further, allowing other wireless facilities on the KOCE/CCCD tower appears to violate the 1986 Consent Agreement between the City of La Habra Heights and Mobile Telecomm, the owner of the antenna"farm" site just east of the Coast/KOCE tower.

That agreement (below) directs new antennas to the Mobile Telecomm site (now owned by Crown Castle) in order to reduce the blight of towers on the ridgeline.

Residents will need to be vigilant, and let the City Council know that they want the City to stick to its agreements, and remove the antenna tower, not expand the facility.

The Conditional Use Permit for the site will be decided prior to June 2009. Stay tuned...........


In 1971, KOCE/Coast Community College District obtained from Los Angeles County an entitlement for the 25 story public television broadcast antenna on the city's northern ridgeline.

In 1982, the incorporated City of La Habra Heights granted a Variance for substandard lot size conditioned that the site be used for a television transmitter only, stating that if any other use is intended, the site must be brought up to a conforming lot size.

Also in 1982, the City granted a 10 year CUP for the transmitter.

In 1994, the City granted another 10 year Conditional Use Permit for the television transmitter facility.

The 1994 CUP required an additional Conditional Use Permit for any additional antennas.

However, a 1994 photo of the site showed many bootleg antennas.

1994 photo with bootleg antennas

In 2002, the Coast Community College Board approved renting space on the tower (minutes excerpt below), contrary to the conditions of their CUP.

In 2004, in consideration of the upcoming conversion to digital television, the Conditional Use Permit was only extended for 5 years, also stating, below, that no additional transmitters be added, and that the tower be removed at the expiration of the CUP (2009), or abandonment of the site.

During 2004-2006 KOCE moved transmission facilities to Mt Wilson.

In 2006 the sale of KOCE was finalized. CCCD states that KOCE rents the tower from them.

In 2007, Coast Community College District asked for a new CUP for antennae for their own use. Even though the request violated the 1982 Variance, and the 2004 CUP, it was approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Councilmember Vipperman recused himself from the March 2008 CUP hearing due to an unstated reason because of some unstated relationship between his wife, Fire Watch, and Coast Community College District.

In February 2009, Analog television broadcasts will cease.