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Posted on: July 12, 2017

WRCOG Opposes SB 649: Small Cells

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On behalf of the Western Riverside Council of Government (WRCOG), we respectfully submit our opposition to SB 649, adopted unanimously by the WRCOG Executive Committee on June 23, 2017. WRCOG represents 17 cities, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Eastern & Western Municipal Water Districts, the Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.  WRCOG serves as a collective voice to address issues of mutual concern for the future of Western Riverside County, and SB 649 poses significant detriment to local control for our members.

SB 649 would unnecessarily shut out public input by eliminating local consideration of the aesthetic and environmental impacts of “small cells.” It would preclude local discretionary review of specified “small cell” wireless antennas and related equipment, regardless of whether they will be collocated on existing structures or located on new “poles, structures, or non-pole structures,” including those within the public road right-of-way and on buildings. The bill 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. SB 649 goes too far by requiring local governments to approve “small cells” in all land use zones through a ministerial permit, thereby shutting the public out of decisions that could affect the aesthetics of their community and the quality of their environment.

Cities would also have to live with the size parameters established by the bill for “small cells” which, when taking into account the cumulative size specifications of all the small cells and associated equipment, far exceed the perceived impacts from a single cell. Furthermore, cities would be unable to impose any meaningful maintenance requirements for the industry’s small cells and are limited to requiring building and encroachment permits confined to the bill’s parameters.

The ability for cities to negotiate any public benefit would be eliminated by this bill. Benefits, such as network access for police, fire, libraries, and parks, negotiated lease agreements for the city general fund to pay for such services, or the ability to use pole space for public safety and/or energy efficiency measures are effectively stripped down or taken away entirely. In addition to the permitting issues raised by this bill, it would also cap how much cities can negotiate leases for use of public property and a city’s ability to maximize public benefit at $250 (was $850 under prior version of the bill) annually per attachment rates for each “small cell”.

For these reasons we strongly oppose SB 649.  If you need further information, please contact Jennifer Ward, WRCOG Government Relations Director, at jenniferward@wrcog.us or (951) 955-0186.

View Opposition Letter
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