KFI’s Tower of Trouble

Airport cites safety concerns
By Pam Wight, Staff Writer

LA MIRADA ? The La Mirada Planning Commission unanimously recommended Thursday that KFI-AM radio be allowed to build a 684-foot antenna in the same location where a slightly taller one was knocked to the ground by an airplane two years ago. The 58-year-old original tower rose 760 feet and had been the cause of two fatal accidents in which private planes from nearby Fullerton Municipal Airport had hit the tower or its support wires. But even after more than 25 pilots spoke Thursday of the danger of the antenna’s location, all three of the commissioners present ? two were absent ? agreed it was more of a land-use issue. They said a report by the Federal Aviation Administration had vouched for the safety of rebuilding the tower ? a report criticized by the pilots.

” has every right to build the tower I think they’ve satisfied the conformities of the general plan,” said Commissioner Gabe Garcia. “We don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way, but we’re only looking at the land-use aspect.”

Rod Propst , manager of the Fullerton airport, said earlier Thursday that the “obstruction evaluation” by the FAA determined that the new tower would pose “no more of a hazard than the previous one.”

“But in the next paragraph, the report says the new tower must have lights put on it,” Propst said. “That’s like saying someone’s a little bit pregnant. It either is a danger or it’s not.”

The planning commission recommendation must be approved by the La Mirada City Council.

Antenna Graphic

In December 2004, a Temple City couple died when their Cessna 1892 severed a support wire on the tower causing its collapse. In 1970, a pilot was killed when his plane flew into the guy wires of the tower.

“This antenna is widely recognized as a dangerous presence,” said Joe Felz, assistant city manager for Fullerton. “If you moved our airport 400 feet to the west, the tower would be in our airspace. It blends into the background of the industrial area.”

KFI wants to rebuild the new tower at a shorter height of 684 feet but had required a permit from the city.

The station now has a 204-foot auxiliary antenna but its signal does not reach as far as the higher tower, said Greg Ashlock, general manager of KFI.

Earlier, Ashlock had said the old tower had covered a large portion of the Western United States and played an important part in Southern California’s emergency response system.

“It’s tough to say how far it reaches because it’s not an exact science, but there’s a significant difference between the two [antennas’] heights,” Ashlock said. “We’ve done exhaustive studies to find another site, but we’d always be infringing on other frequencies. We’re restricted to where we can build a new one.”

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