City Hall and Cell Towers


California Cities Now Limiting 5G/Small Cells: Petaluma, Mill Valley and Other Cities Writing and Updating Ordinances to Maintain Control of Utility Poles and Cell Towers. Burlington Massachusetts set up a policy to require annual recertification of small cells with a fee, causing Verizon to withdraw it’s application. Cities are also looking at Municipal Fiberoptic Options. Copper Landline alert to to cities to protect this important emergency communication system. Other States moving forward with Streamlining bills.


FCC and Federal legislators Pushing Faster Deployment of 5G Small Cells in 2018


Small Cell Tower Applications: Cities Writing Preemptive  Ordinances

Cities and counties are receiving more applications for small cell tower permits on city utility poles and churches as industry is pushing to expand its small cell distributed antenna system (DAS) for 4G, 5G and the Internet of Things. Local governments are responding by reviewing their wireless siting procedures and amending  or rewriting ordinances and codes in order to  maintain some measure of control in the placement of cell towers in addition to maintaining equitable revenue from cell tower installations.

While cities still have limited protected zoning authority, federal laws are being proposed and have passed which broadly preempt local control i.e. proposed  Senate Bill S.3157 The Streamline Small Cell Deployment Act  and  Senate Bill S.19 The Mobile Act Now  which was signed into law in May 2018. Under the guise of empowering rural america and creating millions of jobs, The Mobile Act Now speeds permitting for  “Small Cell”deployment and fastbacks  Smart City” Initiatives to widely expand IoT and wireless broadband such as in  San Jose California.  The problem is that the “small cells” are not so small and can comprise any frequency or mix of frequencies not just 4G or 5G.

Verizon Writing It’s Own “Model” Industry Ordinance for Cities

It appears the cell phone carriers are now writing their own city ordinances to expand their 5G cell towers.  A resident of Massachusetts found this Verizon “Model ordinance” for cities to adopt. It seems on the surface innocuous however reading the fine print this ordinance limits money per pole cities can charge.  There is still the issues of liability for adverse effects of EMF. Verizon Ordinanace Small cell MA Model Small Cell Ordinance 10-31-18

Environmental Health Trust found that the increase in risk and  liability  for EMF exposure from wireless equipment is admitted by the telecommunications companies to their investors. EHTrust Insurance Liability. Along with that “General Insurance Exclusions” are standard in most insurance policy contracts  and now commonly add harm from electromagnetic fields from their equipment or service as an exclusion. Unfortunately cities do not require specific  liability insurance for affects of long term EMF exposure.EHTrust liability exclusions for EMF


Emergency 5G Ordinances  

Cities such as Mill Valley are deciding to pass an emergency Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance to maintain some modicum of local control over placement and monitoring of cell towers.

Mill Valley Ordinance Sept 6, 2018 amending the city code to provide uniform and comprehensive standards

  • Provides a 1,500 foot buffer from each small cell facility
  • Prohibits such facilities in residential and multi-family zoning districts.
  • Connect to an existing utility pole that can support its weight.
  • Encourages co-location on existing towers
  • Underground (flush to the ground, within three (3) feet of the utility pole), all ground-mounted equipment not installed inside the pole.
  • Adheres to the Americans for Disability Act

Burlington Massachusetts: Verizon Withdraws Small Cell Applications to Avoid Annual Recertification Fee, Oct 2018

After officials in Burlington Massachusetts questioned Verizon about the need for and monitoring of proposed small cells, it became evident that there were looming unanswered questions and many concerns, including health. To remedy this, town officials formed a committee and discussed a new policy that would not only require poles meeting ADA standards and not interfere with other pole equipment,  but there would be an annual recertification to measure EMF and other aspects of the cell antenna safety along with an annual recertification fee as a condition of approval.  Verizon attorney Mr. Klasnick  stated “My client respectfully requests to withdraw the petition rather than have a fee,” he said.

Burlington Massachusetts Board Recommendations for Small Cell Towers

  • No apparatus on double poles
  • An agreement to annual recertification with annual fee
  • Equipment shall be located on top of the poles, colored similarly to the poles so as to blend in.
  • Equipment shall not interfere with other equipment on the pole, nor obstruct or interfere with access to or operation of street lights or traffic controls devices on the pole.
  • Poles must meet ADA standards

Verizon Drops Small Cell Wireless Booster Application in Face of Fees.

Burlington Cable Access Television– Other shows on Small Cell Wireless Technology .


The Town of Hempstead passed a protective and legally binding  ordinance that

  • Requires a special use permit for cell towers that gives preferential placement of cell towers in historically sensitive areas around residences, schools, houses of worship, day-care centers that goes in preferential order from existing towers to industrial areas to non residential use (other) to business to residential property as the least desirable.
  • Limited the height of towers to below which lighting was required
  • Allows the town to hire consultants and do inspections
  • Set a fee schedule of $500 per pole
  • Requires a 4 foot warning sign on the pole


Tools for Cities and Citizens

Tools Cities and Citizens Can Use to Preserve Wireless Facilities Control


Here is a short list of Consultants and Firms for Telecommunications Ordinances- Communities Have Used 2018


Citizens are Fighting Cell Tower Proposals

To fight back citizens are arming themselves with knowledge about cell towers, 5G, health and environmental issues related to telecommunications, the law, options to rewrite local wireless facilities ordinances and sharing this with local government officials as well as crowding city hall. My Street My Choice indicates that the 3 most effective strategies residents can use are

  1. California Public Records Act (CPRA), Government Code Section 6250 et seq.,
  2. The number of people that show up at hearings/meetings is much more important than persuasive letters/reasons; it is much faster and less expensive to win the political battle than the legal battle.
  3. Stuff the public record in advance of any Planning Commission/City Council hearing; all decisions and appeals are based on what is in the written public record at this first hearing. It is recommended to start every major email with something like, “Will you please place this email/letter into the public record for the Verizon and Mobilitie Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antenna – Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (CPMRA-WTFs) applications in (city name). Other information can be found at


Petaluma City Council Meeting July 16, 2018 on Importance of Small Cell Ordinance Limits

Petaluma City Council Meeting July 16, 2018 discussing ordinance to limit 5G in residential areas of the city. Discussion of the importance and fine print details of an ordinance needed to protect cities and citizens from excessive numbers of small cell towers on every lamp post.

Co-location: One Cell Tower Antenna on a Utility Pole Becomes Many

A major problem about approving one or a group of cell antenna, is that once a cell tower is placed on a public utility pole or other structure it becomes, according to the 1996 Telecommunications Act,  an “eligible facility’ structure and other antenna equipment can be added if it does not create a “substantial change”. This is a vague term and cities hesitate to deny collocation of antennas due to threat of lawsuit. In addition, other carriers can request to have their antennas on each pole and plea “discrimination” if their antenna are denied.


Verizon CEO, Lowell McAdam, Admits 5G can be Colocated on Existing Macro-Cell Towers

This video points out that it appears line of sight is not needed for 5G. Could this be due to elevated power density? It is recommended that cities become aware of this information and update their Municipal Wireless Code to only allow  Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTF) antenna in commercial and industrial zones- never in residential areas and establish a 2500 foot resident setback  from any WTF antenna in residential zones.  Also for information

New City Rules: Stronger for Citizens or For Industry?

Although a few cities have proposed municipal code changes to streamline the process and make it easier for industry to place the cell towers, others such as Palos Verdes have chosen to strengthen theirs for increased public input. See  Palos Verdes, California Wireless Technology Facilities Ordinance June 2017.   Hempstead, Long Island  has also led the way for other municipalities to regulate cell antenna and wireless telecommunications equipment in their city  ordinance.  Although it was not able to have specific setbacks from schools or homes, the law asks for significant proof from cellular service providers to establish the need for new cell towers (significant gap in coverage)  and also ensures that approved wireless communications equipment is located in areas that minimize negative impacts on local communities by mandating a special use permit in residential neighborhoods (section 142.6).

 States Approve Small Cell Streamlining. Unfortunately, 13 states have passed laws in 2017 that now allow for streamlining placement of “small cell” antenna throughout cities on public utility poles by removing local control, oversight and the amount a city can charge the telecommunications company to rent the public utility poles. 20 States  in 2017 have been lobbied by the wireless industry to pass bills streamlining local permitting of 5G antenna.  13 States Have Passed Fast Tracking of Small Cell Antenna. California’s Governor Brown vetoed such an effort (SB649) in 2018 leaving the telecommunications industry to individually request permits for cell tower placement in local jurisdictions 

Denying Applications: Significant Gap in Coverage Required

An issue of importance to be able to deny cell towers is a significant gap in coverage. Local governments may not regulate wireless facilities on the basis of environmental effects, may not unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services as per Section 332(c)(7)  They can however deny applications in writing on the basis of traditional zoning principles, such as aesthetic impact or specific city zoning requirements in business districts and residential districts. Local municipalities may not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services with a general ban but can deny cell antenna on the basis of “substantial evidence” that there is  No Significant Gap in Coverage” and if there is then the proposal must include the “Least Intrusive Means” of filling this gap.  See Page 11-12 of  Navigating Cell Tower Zoning

Is There a Gap in coverage? Find Out

Verizon states they cover 322 million and 98% of the population and over 2.4 million square miles.  It appears on their website that in cities there is no gap in coverage. Have the companies done independent engineering assessments of the RF power and tested the gap? If not cities can do this.

How many registered cell towers are  near you? You can go to Antenna  Antenna Search to find out how many cell towers are registered or proposed in a radius of 4 miles from you.


Lack of Transparency, Monitoring or Consideration of Environmental or Health Concerns

Cell tower placement still suffers from a continued lack of  transparency in terms of monitoring, power densities or frequencies allowed. There is also growing awareness of the potential long term health effects from close proximity to cell tower radiation.  The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits discussion of environmental concerns and some interpret this to mean health concerns as well in the placement of cell towers. This is despite growing awareness and scientific confirmation of the potential health effects from exposure to cell tower radiation and all radiofrequency wireless devices. Cities and citizens are questioning this provision by giving “substantial evidence” of health harm but judges can vary in their interpretation. According to Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 environmental but not health impacts are mentioned, thus by law should be able to be discussed and argued as a reason to deny a cell tower.


(a) NATIONAL WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS SITING POLICY- Section 332(c) (47 U.S.C. 332(c)) is amended by adding at the end the
following new paragraph:


“No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.” 1996 Telecommunications Act

Arguing Health Concerns

If a city or county does not wish to allow cell antenna placement they can argue aesthetics or gap coverage but it is commonly thought that there is no ability to argue health or environmental effects as a reason to reject a cell tower (Telecommunications Act of 1996).  Some argue that environmental concerns not health concerns are the problem. In San Diego City planners in 2015 opposed the cell towers in residential neighborhoods not on health grounds. They denied these, stating “Cooper made a motion to deny the cell tower for reasons that included it is a commercial, industrial application in a residential area, is along a scenic highway, exceeds the county height limit and has potential to decrease property values.”

Substantial Evidence of Health Harm

There is Emerging and Historical “Substantial Evidence” of Health Harm from Wireless Radiation

The results of the recent 1) NTP study on cell phones and cancer, the 2)  Ramazinni Institute study on long  term exposure to low level microwave radiation and 3) Dr. Li’s prospective study at Kaiser on increased miscarriage with exposure to electromagnetic fields greatly strengthens the case for “substantial evidence” of harm. This adds to the growing body of science on broad adverse health and environmental effects from non thermal levels of radiation from wireless devices as well as cell towers.   Blake Levitt’s article is a good read on the subject. Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays(2010) Levitt Article . The Bioinitiative Report has been updated and has an abundance of scientific research on RF EMR which has been summarized and is easy to understand.

Invisible Hazards: State of the Science CHE Webinar

More evidence of harm from wireless radiation comes from a May 9, 2018  CHE Webinar was sponsored by the Collaborative for Health and the Environment-Invisible Hazards: State of the Science on EMF Impacts and Steps for Policy Change. This featured Dr. Frank Barnes, Distinguished Professor in the Biomedical Group of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at the University of Colorado, Dr. De-Kun Li, Senior Research Scientist at the Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California and reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist and Dr. Joel Moskowitz, Director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley

Firefighters Get Legal Health Exemption

Firefighters Oppose Cell Towers on Grounds of Neurologic Health Effects

If there are no health effects why do firefighters get a health exemption under law? Health symptoms in those living near cell towers have been reported for years.  In 2004 The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) passed a resolution approved by over 80% of firefighters calling for a moratorium on placing cell towers on or adjacent to fire stations. They did this in response to a number of reports of  headaches, dizziness, inability to concentrate, insomnia and other neurologic symptoms in their own firefighters when first responder cell towers were erected  on their fire stations.  They conducted their own pilot study in 2004 and found the firefighters studied had delayed reaction time, lack of impulse control, and difficulty in maintaining mental focus. The brain scans confirmed this and also controlled for other toxic exposures from fires. Letters in opposition to fire stations have been written by Union Leaders.

Firefighter Stations Have Been Given Legal Exemptions for Cell Towers: AB 57

AB57- Firefighters have gotten an exemption to have cell towers on or adjacent to their facilites.This was codified in California’s 2015 legislation AB57 . CA AB57 (2015) Legiscan Text of Bill.  ” Section 65964.1.  (f) Due to the unique duties and infrastructure requirements for the swift and effective deployment of firefighters, this section does not apply to a collocation or siting application for a wireless
telecommunications facility where the project is proposed for placement on fire department facilities. “

SB649- They also received an exemption in  California’s SB649 (2018), a bill which was vetoed by Governor Brown.  SB 649 California (2017) Wireless Telecommunications Facilities – 65964.2. “(a) A small cell shall be a permitted use subject only to a permitting process adopted by a city or county pursuant to subdivision (b) if it satisfies the following requirements: ….(3) The small cell is not located on a fire department facility.”

The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Policy includes the following:

WHEREAS, the brain is the first organ to be affected by RF radiation and symptoms manifest in a multitude of neurological conditions including migraine headaches, extreme fatigue, disorientation, slowed reaction time, vertigo, vital memory loss and attention deficit amidst life threatening emergencies; and

WHEREAS, most of the firefighters who are experiencing symptoms can attribute the onset to the first week(s) these towers/antennas were activated; and

WHEREAS, RF radiation is emitted by these cellular antennas and RF radiation can penetrate every living cell, including plants, animals and humans;

For the safety of the citizens whom they are responsible to protect the firefighters are asking for state exemptions from cell tower placement on their facilities. In California, SB649 (2018 ), that was to streamline placement of cell towers on utility poles, the firefighters asked for and received a health exemption.  The proposed SB649 Section 65964.2 reads “(3) The small cell is not located on a fire department facility.” The bill passed both the California House and the Senate but was vetoed by Governor Brown.

Keep Your Wired Landline! 

Landlines are the safest and most reliable communications we have.  Ethernet can work well for wired internet connections.  Corded phones still work well with landlines and have much better voice quality than Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and landlines have provided wonderful communication for decades. Although possibly a bit slower, landlines are more private, more secure and without potential harm from constant electromagnetic radio frequency radiation, for those who wish to reduce their exposure. Landlines can be hooked to public or private fiberoptic for residents if that option for faster broadband is made available. See Muni Fiberoptic Broadband options at  Broadband Expansion News 

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 10.35.08 AM

Saving Your Landline May Save Your Life: AT&T is Poised to Remove your Landline by 2020. Dr. Cindy Russell  Saving Your Landline: It May Save Your Life SCCMA Article

First to 5G: Sacramento, 

Sacramento is first to 5G with 6 antenna already constructed and others under construction. Verizon is now asking  households in Sacramento, as of August 2018,  to put 5G routers in their homes as a “free trial”.  Here are Verizon’s 2017  comments regarding Federal streamlining of wireless expansion. Los Angeles New York, Seattle and others are soon to follow.


Industry Challenges Cities

Verizon and other Cell phone companies have challenged cities who deny applications based on health or public safety, stating they have to supply substantial evidence.

However, a European Parliamentary Resolution states that wireless radiation emissions should abide by the “as low as reasonable able” policy set forth in the 2011 European Parliament Resolution 1815: The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment.  European Parliament 2011 Resolution 1815  For scientific information on cell tower health effects visit PST Cell Tower Health Effects

My Street My Choice

A Neighborhood Survival Guide

A new website has surfaced that has information on how to fight cell towers in your neighborhood. It is based in California. A Neighborhood Survial Guide: My Street My Choice  My Street My Choice

Wireless Action

Another recent website that may be useful is Let Your Voice Be Heard.   Wireless Action

Citizens Fight Back and Oppose Cell Towers

Attorney Patrick Shannon testifying against a 16 tower planned installation in Hillsborough, California

Patrick Shannon, an attorney who lives in Hillsborough, challenges the Hillsborough City Council who approved a cell tower cluster in residential neighborhoods in January 2017 without providing notice to the Hillsborough Wireless Committee, a city watchdog group.

December 22, 2017, residents in Hillsborough, a wealthy San Francisco suburb, successfully fought a 16 cell tower installation in their residential neighborhoods on the grounds of improper public notice, no community meetings and no environmental review.  Although the telecom company is expected to return with another proposal this was a thoughtful and researched approach to addressing cell towers in residential neighborhoods. Attorney Patrick Shannon who has lead the fight in Hillsborough, California highlights the need for reform in city governments to ensure proper review of cell towers.   Hillsborough Homeowners Push Back Against Cell Towers

 Mr. Shannon argues that cell towers should not be allowed as they:

  • Reduce property values, thus life savings for residents
  • Installing massive cell towers near homes and schools violates Hillsborough laws, rural character, local values, aesthetics, public right of way under state law and least intrusive means under federal law.
  • Does not preserve rural character of the town
  • Violates location standards as according to Hillsborough city code the highest preference for placement is on public property and the lowest is in the public right of way.
  • Is not the “least intrusive means” to close any alleged significant gap in coverage which is to colocate antennas on existing macro towers.
  • Violates the municipal code to have under grounding rules. New development needs to be underground
  • Violates design standards
  • Violates height limit
  • Violates camouflage code
  • Inconsistent with setback rule that prohibits placement of any structure higher than 8 feet  within 40 feet of a residence without homeowners approval
  • Federal law allows unilateral extension of towers by 10 feet.
  • This then sets a precedent for all other 26 national carriers to install the same number of towers and co-locate antennas.

Arguing Against Cell Tower Placement

Ordinances and Arguments to Deny Cell Towers

Ordinances and arguments cities and citizens have used as reasons to oppose cell towers include provisions about placement in residential or scenic areas. These include:

  • Requirements for specific set backs from  homes
  • No commercial/ industrial application of towers in a residential zone
  • Historic preservation considerations
  • Placement along a scenic road
  • Aesthetic requirements
  • Excessive Noise Mini Cell Towers A Maxi Threat. Sept 2016
  • Exceeds county height limit
  • Least Intrusive method to achieve wireless coverage (Telecom Act 1996)
  • Decrease in property values Greenwood Meadows NJ
  • Monitoring requirements for radio frequency radiation levels
  • Placement of cellular communication equipment that is only currently commercially available and specifically not for planned or future equipment
  • Placement of accessory equipment underground
  • Requirements and limits on power density radiation levels that can be broadcast from the equipment.
  • Significant Gap in Coverage: On a Federal level significant gap needs to be shown to permit cell towers. Citizens can take their own measurements if done in a valid manner. See  Santa Rosa Fights Cell Tower Placement.
  • Use the”least intrusive means” to close any alleged significant gap in coverage,  which is to co-locate antennas on existing macro towers.

 Hempstead Town in Long Island- Setbacks from Homes, Schools

In Hempstead Town an ordinance was passed which states that no new cell towers or antennae shall be located closer than 1500 feet to a residential home, house of worship, day care center or school. Town of Hempstead Ordinance

Bar Harbor, Maine- 1500 foot Setbacks from Schools

Residents in Bar Harbor Maine approved a change in zoning laws that increased the  cell tower setback distance from 500 feet to 1500 foot from schools in 2008. Bar Harbor Maine School Setback for Cell Towers. Nov 2008.

Mason, Ohio- Small Cell Facilities Zoning Restrictions

In Mason, Ohio, Chapter 1188.8 Cellular or Wireless Communications Systems in their city code states that:

  1. Every attempt shall be made to mount a small cell facility to an existing structure,
  2. A small cell facility shall not be located within a residential zoning district, a residential subdivision, or within 100 feet of a property that contains a residential use.
  3. No small cell facilities may be located within 2,000 linear feet from another small cell facility or cellular or wireless communication tower, unless such facility is co-located as defined in this chapter.
  4. All related equipment, including, but not limited to, electrical boxes, conduit, wiring, and mounting equipment shall be placed underground or be wholly contained within an enclosure so as not to be visible. Further, all electrical and communications connections shall run underground to the facility.
  5. Small cell facilities shall not exceed thirty (30) feet in height.
  6. Co-Location. Small cell facilities shall consist of not more than one small cell antenna per wireless communications user and shall be capable of providing the operation for two or more wireless communications service users.
  7. Footprint. Small cell facilities shall not exceed twenty-four (24) inches in diameter with the exception of the foundation, which said foundation shall not exceed six (6) inches above grade.

Appealing Cell Tower Sites

Palo Alto, California:

Citizens have become more aware of how to file and appeal cell towers. One has to look at the city application or call city hall to find out where to file an appeal.  In Palo Alto, a plan to install 92 Antennas in 10 neighborhoods has been appealed.  Palo Alto: Residents oppose Verizon’s plan to add 92 cell antennas in neighborhoods.

Unfortunately the Appeals by 7 parties were denied by the Palo Alto City Council May 22, 2018. The Council discussed the under grounding of equipment and aesthetics but not the need for Verizon to prove a significant gap in coverage, least intrusive methods to bridge that gap,  health, privacy or  environmental effects. Cities are generally not prepared for the amount of information they need to read and comprehend in a the short amount of time the Spectrum Act Shot Clock gives them. Industry has made it clear that lawsuits will follow if the letter of the law is not followed.  Verizon Wins Approval of Antenna Plan in Palo Alto

Appeal Letters to the City of Palo Alto

Appeal letters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ask for under grounding of equipment and to reject the proposal on these ground.
Appeal Letter 7 discusses the health, fire and safety issues
Appeal letter 8 discusses not only health effects but also gives specific recommendations in legal terms how to amend the municipal code to add 1500 foot setbacks from homes, schools, hospitals, forestations, child care centers, require significant gap in coverage, least intrusive means to bridge the gap, and more.
Project Documents for Verizon Wireless Project 17PLN-00169  Palo Alto 

Palo Alto Cluster One Appeals

  1. Appeal — Ap-18-2: Herc Kwan, 2490 Louis Rd. (27 pages)
  2. Appeal — Ap-18-3: Francesca Kautz, 3324 South Court (8 pages)
  3. Appeal — AP-18-4: Christopher Lynn, 2802 Louis Rd. (5 pages)
  4. Appeal — AP-18-5: Jeanne Fleming, 2070 Webster St. (20 pages)
  5. Appeal — AP-18-6: RK Partharathy, 3409 Kenneth Dr. (12 pages)
  6. Appeal — AP-18-7: Russell Targ, 1010 Harriett St. (46 pages)
  7. Appeal — AP-18-8: Amrutha Kattamuri, 3189 Berryessa St. (126 pages)

No Significant Gap in Coverage

No significant gap in coverage could be found in any location where cell antenna were proposed in Palo Alto. This demonstrates a lack of need for the cell towers.

No Significant Gap in Coverage- Cluster One

Palo Alto, California: Proposed Cluster 1 cell towers: A “significant gap in coverage” is a stated reason to place cell towers however citizens are doing their own homework and showing substantial evidence of no significant gap in coverage using cellphones for that carrier listed at the locations targeted for cell towers.

No Significant Gap in Coverage- Cluster Two

Palo Alto, California:  Proposed Cluster 2 cell towers:  Substantial evidence of no significant gap in coverage.  5 bars on the phone seen at each location.

  • While significant gap in coverage is preempted by federal law, Increasing capacity is not preempted by federal law and is the choice of cities and counties.

City of Palo Alto: 100 New Small Cell Antennas Proposed 2017: Federal laws referenced

Here is an Architectural Review Board staff review  September 21, 2017  for the permit request for 100 new small cell applications for the City of Palo Alto. Palo alto  opposed  California’s SB649 to “streamline” applications for small cells which would remove local authority for cell tower placement.  Unfortunately, a California law sets the rates utilities can charge for municipally owned utilities. Palo Alto is a Publicly Owned Utility.

Many cities in California are now actively fighting cell towers in residential and business areas- Hillsborough, Monterey and Nevada City to mention a few. Palo Alto Architectural Review Board Small Cell antenna 2017

Here is Palo Alto Ordinance  5340 on Wireless Communications Facilities Updated in 2015. Palo Alto City Code 18.42.110 Pertaining to the Siting and Permitting of Wireless Communications Facilities. 

City of Palo Alto Ordinance Office of the Attorney clarifying Spectrum Act definitions


Court Hearings in the Appeal of Cell Towers

Cell Tower Appeal Upheld in Pennsylvania: T-Mobile vs Richard W.Shoemaker

 Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania: Richard W. Schomaker vs ZONING HEARING BOARD OF the BOROUGH OF FRANKLIN PARK and T-Mobile.  Here the Judge favored the citizen’s right to maintain the legal ordinance setback for a tall cell tower. In this 2010 appeal regarding placement of a cell tower on private property, the judge reversed a prior ruling allowing the Zoning Board Hearing to permit a variance of the city ordinance for T-Mobile. The Borough of Frankin Park, Pennsylvania has an ordinance requiring a 200 foot setback of cell towers to adjacent property. As stated, this ordinance and not the variance was ultimately upheld in court.

Cell Tower Lawsuit Reversed in Palos Verdes, California

Here is a 2009 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on a lawsuit filed by Sprint vs City of Palos Verdes Estates after Palos Verdes denied a permit in a residential neighborhood. The court reversed the decision by the lower court and ruled in favor of Palos VerdesPalos Verdes vs Sprint 2009

Ordinance on Cell Towers Palos Verdes

Here is the ordinance in Palo Verdes, California which has some specific provisions for placement of cell towers such as in residential areas, on new poles, or where their would be impairment of view.  Palos Verdes Wireless Technology Facilities Ordinance June 2017

Austin and Dozens of Other Cities Sue Texas Over Law Streamlining Cell Towers

Texas passed a cell tower streamlining law in 2017 for widespread placement of small cell antenna on city utility poles, however, the City of Austin had concerns about the loss of millions of dollars of annual revenue, in addition to a loss of local control. Austin has sued the state of Texas. Bennett Sandlin, Executive Director for the Texas Municipal League stated stated “The problem is, the Texas constitution doesn’t allow rights of way to be given away. You have to compensate the taxpayers.”

As of November 2017  three dozen cities have sued the state of Texas over SB 1004, the cell tower fee-cap bill. It is argued that the bill does not compensate cities fairly and that the rental per pole should be more like $1500-$2500. Cities Sue Over Cellular Right-of-Way Cap Fees  Athens Daily Review. Nov 16, 2017.


Timely Fashion Ruling for Cities to Deny Cell Tower Applications

In Georgia a Supreme Court Ruling in 2015 highlighted the need for cities to provide in a timely explanation for denial. Supreme Court Tells Cities to Explain a Cell Tower Denial in Timely Fashion.

 Repeal of Section 704 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act?

Federal bills are being introduced to remove local authority Streamlining Small Cell Permits. Cities and counties can craft their own ordinances now  to give more power and flexibility to local governments for cell tower siting.  Legal assistance is important to assure there is no violation of the Telecommunication Act of 1996. Many feel section 704 needs to be repealed because it prevents discussion or consideration of health or environmental effects as a reason to deny antenna placement.

5G and Small Cell Information Fact Sheets for Printing

Environmental Health Trust has created information sheets on 5G and Small Cells  that have valuable information and can be shared with policy makers, community leaders and others.

US Factsheet on 5G and Small Cells in Color With Hyperlinks

US Factsheet on 5G and Small Cells in Black and White For Printing

International Factsheet on 5G and Small Cells in Color With Hyperlinks

International Factsheet on 5G and Small Cells in Black and White

In additon, see also a list of scientific letters on small cells at this link.


Cell Phone Towers Outside Your Window – Why You Don’t Have The Right To Fight

CBS news discussing a local fight in San Francisco in 2015 to prevent installation of a small cell tower in a neighborhood. A resident appealed the cell tower which would have been 10 feet from his window and won. This was only one of hundreds of permits that have been allowed.

Many Cities and Schools Now Fighting Cell Towers

In California

Concord Regional School Committee rejects cell tower; debate continues in Concord Concord School Cell Tower Debate April 17, 2018

Danville Danville Residents Express Radiation Concerns Over Building of Small Cell Towers   New rules are being proposed for Danville that “would exempt small cells from land use permit and the associated submittal requirements.”  Danville Commission New Cell Tower Fast Tracking Permitting Rules Proposed

Hillsborough Hillsborough Residents fight Cell Towers

Monterey  Monterey Vista Residents Concerned About New Cell Technology

Napa  Napa Valley Decides Plain Cell Tower Looks Better Than Fake Pines

Oakland    Oakland Residents Fight to Keep Cell Towers at Bay

Palo Alto   Palo alto Residents Oppose Verizon Plan to Add 92 Cell Antennas in Neighborhoods. 

Petaluma- Municipal Code updated 

Piedmont Cell Antenna Sites OK’d: No One’s Happy . Piedmont, an East Bay city, denied antennas for 5 of 8 cell antenna sites, stating that they were out of compliance with city standards, design guidelines, noise levels and the general plan. City of Piedmont, Council Meeting Oct 16, 2017.  The city did approve some cell towers out of fear of being sued. Fear of Lawsuit Prompts Site ApprovalWith All Parties Unhappy.

ConsumerWatch: 5G Cellphone Towers Signal Renewed Concerns Over Impacts On Health. CBS News Jan 25, 2018

Running Springs- Catholic Church and Retreat Center,  Proliferation of Cell Towers Raises Concerns

Sebastopol Commentary: Cell Tower Moratorium Needed. March 7, 2018

Sonoma EMF Network Files Lawsuit in Sebastopol January 2018

Santa Rosa New Verizon antennas generate unwelcome buzz in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa Citizens Fight Back at a City Council meeting January 30, 2018

Residents point out among other things, that there is no significant gap in coverage and showed a video near each proposed tower demonstrating full cell phone coverage.  They argue more new cell towers are NOT needed.  5G is not yet developed and these will be 3G and 4G towers in residential areas adjacent to homes.

First to 5G: Sacramento Already with 6 Antennas and San Jose Smart City Initiative Close Behind

The First City to Have 5G- Questions Raised About 5G Health Risks Months Before Sacramento Launches Service. May 29, 2018.  CBS Local.  The City of Sacramento partnered with Verizon to offer 5G. A spokesperson told CBS13 the City of Sacramento currently has six active 5G sites- all are on SMUD utility poles:

  • 1731 E Street
  • 1619 E Street
  • 421 14TH Street
  • 2330 Q Street
  • 2019 21ST Street
  • 801 16TH Street

Sacramento will soon initiate testing in residencies for 5G. Editor’s Corner—How the city of Sacramento got to 5G, and what it means for the rest of the U.S. April 2, 2018 FierceWireless.

How Smart is San Jose? Silicon Valley’s Biggest City Tries to Catch Up with the Digital Future. July 26, 2018. Metro Silicon Valley. Lauren Hepler.

San Jose Smart City Initiative: San Jose picks three companies to make street lights ‘smart,’ set groundwork for 5G. Silicon Valley Business Journal. June 15, 2018.

San Jose Smart City Vision.  Offering Game changing technology and data-driven decision making. Office of Mayor Sam Liccardo.

San Jose Smart Cities and Service Improvement Committee Meetings Held Quarterly. Smart City Improvement Workplan


Federal Regulations Proposed

Below is a list of some of the regulations that come into play and important to understand. There are several new Federal laws proposed to fast track cell tower placement.  Federal Streamlining Small Cell Antenna Laws 2017

Federal Laws

The Telecommunciation Act of 1996.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act of 1996 has several clauses to consider. One prohibits any discussion of health or environmental harm in a public forum or for denial of a permit. It also  discusses discrimination of carriers, the language of  “significant gap in coverage” as a reason for approving a permit. Supplying written substantial evidence is important for cities who wish to deny a permit.Telecommunications Act 1996


The Spectrum Act of 2012

The Spectrum Act,  is an added section of the Payroll Deduction Act and called the  Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, 

This Act facilitates the telecommunications industry’s rapid deployment of wireless  infrastructure by requiring local governments to approve any application by a carrier that asks to modify and existing cellular communication structure that does not “substantially change” the existing facility.   Section 6409 states cities ““may not deny, and shall approve any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.” (47 U.S.C. § 1455(a)(1).) Section 6409 defines “eligible facilities request” as “any request for modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that involves –

(a) collocation of new transmission equipment;

(b) removal of transmission equipment; or

(c) replacement of transmission equipment.”