CSAC Bulletin Article

CSAC Opposes Wireless Permitting Bill that Preempts Local Land-Use Authority

June 16, 2016

On Wednesday, AB 2788 by Assembly Member Mike Gatto was gutted and amended to prohibit local agencies from requiring discretionary review of specified “small cell” wireless antennas. This bill would unnecessarily preempt local authority by requiring the antennas to be a permitted use in all zones, shut out public input by eliminating consideration of the aesthetic and environmental impacts of “small cells,” require cities and counties to lease or license publicly-owned facilities for the installation of such facilities, and impose an arbitrary 60-day time limit for the issuance of permits.

While the bill includes size limitations for installations that can be built without discretionary or aesthetic review, many components of a “small cell” are not counted toward that limit.  Specifically any associated electric meters, concealments, telecom demarcation boxes, ground-based enclosures, battery backup power systems, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, cutoff switches, cables, or conduits are not included in size limitations. Even worse, a loophole in federal law renders the size limits unenforceable, since cities and counties are prohibited from denying requests to later modify the installations.

CSAC issued an opposition letter yesterday along with the Urban Counties of California, Rural County Representatives of California, the League of California Cities and the American Planning Association’s California Chapter. While these organizations all support broad deployment of telecommunications services, this goal is not inherently in conflict with appropriate local planning and consideration for the environmental and aesthetic impacts of such facilities. AB 2788 goes too far by prohibiting discretionary and aesthetic review of these facilities.

The bill was amended only two and a half weeks prior to the last policy committee deadline of the 2015-16 legislative session and now faces two policy committee hearings before July 1. The bill is expected to be heard in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee on June 21 and the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on June 29 (follow links for lists of committee members). CSAC urges counties to weigh in in opposition to this unwarranted intrusion on local land use planning and to reach out directly to your representatives serving on those Senate policy committees.

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