Senate Bill 649 - Wireless Telecommunications Facilities

Updated November 28, 2017
Small Cell Summary
SB 649 would prohibit local discretionary review of “small cell” wireless antennas, including equipment collocated on existing structures or located on new "poles, structures, or non-pole structures," including those within the public right-of-way and buildings. The proposal preempts adopted local land-use plans by mandating that “small cells” be allowed in all zones as a use by-right, including all residential zones.

Also troubling is that as currently structured, SB 649 provides a de facto exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the installation of such facilities and precludes consideration by the public of the aesthetic, nuisance, and environmental impacts of these facilities, all of which are of particular importance when the proposed location of facilities is within a residential zone.

SB 649 also preempts local authority by requiring local governments tomake available sites they own for the installation of a “small cell.” While the city may place “fair and reasonable terms and conditions” on the use of city property, the proposal does not provide the city with any discretion to deny a “small cell” to be located on city property except for fire department sites. In effect, this measure gives control of public property to private telecommunications companies, while also placing a “cap” of $250 annually per site on the amount a local government may charge for the leasing of the publicly ownedproperty. Currently, the City has leases that provide $2,500 monthly per site in revenue for the same purpose.

The telecommunications industry is aggressively advocating for this bill saying it will bring greater connectivity to communities, create jobs, and boost economic development throughout the state. In addition, the industry claims it needs the additional small cell infrastructure in order to implement 5G technology at some, still to be determined, date in the future. They claim the only way this can be done effectively is to use the infrastructure that cities and counties have constructed in the public rights-of-way. At the same time, there is no requirement in the legislation for 5G technology to be installed by a certain time, if ever.

Roseville, like with many other cities and counties opposed to this bill, does not disagree that increased access and the effectiveness of wireless technology are beneficial to our communities. However, there is no documented problem with the current process used to approve the placement of wireless equipment on public infrastructure that requires the dramatic changes contained within this bill. The current process allows for the placement of equipment once an applicant’s permit has been approved. Roseville’s current process includes local input into the location and design of the equipment, an analysis that the infrastructure can safely accommodate the equipment, and the negotiated market-rate lease for the use of the publicly owned infrastructure. This bill drastically changes this process, prohibiting what input the local authority has over the process and approval for the placement of this equipment on city or county owned infrastructure,

Roseville currently receives more than $200,000 from negotiated cell tower leases. If SB 649 is signed into law it would negate current leases held by cities and counties on January 1, 2018 and would require the leases to be renegotiated using the new conditions and limits required by this bill. In effect, this amounts to a public subsidy for private, for-profit companies by reducing revenue that would otherwise be generated for the city.