Cell Towers

If you have concerns about a nearby cell tower or antenna mounted on a utility pole, here is some useful information:

If there is a cell facility mounted on a utility pole or otherwise located in the public right of way (sidewalk), it is governed locally by the City's Above Ground Facilities (AGF) ordinance.  Utility pole installations are exempt (meaning they are not required to be permitted, notice isn't required, and there is very little that can be done if an individual resident wishes to protest).  There are also state regulations that govern utility pole installations under the Public Utilities Code.  The poles themselves are subject to something called the Joint Pole Authority (an agreement among utility companies, including telecoms and DWP, pertaining to the common use of such poles).  


There are no particular restrictions against locating cell facilities in the public right of way in residential neighborhoods. 


If a facility is instead located on private property, it is governed by the Municipal Code and a CUP would have been required.


Overall, cell installations are governed by federal law (the Telecommunications Act of 1993).  Federal law in general favors the installation of wireless telecommunications facilities in order to promote broadband access. The FCC in recent years in particular has sought to impose greater restrictions on the ability of local governments to regulate cell facilities in the public right of way.  This is particularly true recently, when cell companies are seeking to install thousands more towers to accommodate the coming 5G technology via what are termed "small cell" facilities.  


Moreover, a recent bill that passed in the state legislature -- which similarly sought to restrict the ability of local governments (cities) to regulate "small cell" facilities in the public right of way -- was vetoed by Gov. Brown; it is expected to come back to the legislature in another form.


Under controlling federal law cities are not permitted to consider "health" concerns related to RF emissions from proposed cell facilities in making permitting determinations.  The FCC sets limits on such emissions; if an individual believes that a facility is exceeding allowed emissions, they must present their concerns to the FCC.