In response to recent changes in the wireless communication industry, the City of Escondido is in the process of updating its codes and policies in order to adequately address and regulate the deployment of small personal wireless service facilities (“small cells”). Small cells are wireless service facilities that are typically placed on existing structures in the public right-of-way (light poles, utility poles, traffic signals, etc.), are limited in size, and are intended to provide additional wireless capacity at congested locations. 

The City will be hosting an information session to discuss the proposed Zoning Code Amendment and draft Guidelines on Monday, November 25, 2019, at 6 p.m. in the Mitchell Room at City Hall. This session will provide you with an opportunity to receive additional information and ask questions related to the proposed amendment and guidelines, and to provide your input. More information on that meeting can be found here

Additional Information:

Over the past two years, the City has received applications from several wireless service providers to install small cells in various locations throughout the city. Ultimately, the City expects to see applications for “5G” small cells, however, applications that have been submitted up to this point have been limited to “4G” sites.  

The City has prepared draft revisions to Article 34 (Communication Antennas) of the Escondido Zoning Code to ensure compliance with current Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations, while at the same time exercising discretion in the best interests of the City. Additionally, the City is creating guidelines for proposed small cells that will address various aspects of their deployment including, but not limited to, locational criteria, size, height, screening, and other aesthetic and technical considerations. The guidelines are intended to serve the following purposes:

  • Provide a detail related to the procedures and requirements for installation of small cells in the public right-of-way.

  • Describe the regulatory environment within which the City of Escondido must operate as it relates to the deployment of small cells.

  • Outline the City’s permitting process for small cells

  • Provide clear and objective design and development standards which the City will use to review proposed facilities.

  • Provide definitions that are quantifiable and measurable.

It should be noted that the City of Escondido does not have the authority to regulate the technologies wireless carriers use, but it does have certain power to regulate the time, place, and manner of small cells as long as said regulations do not effectively prohibit their deployment. Additionally, the City is preempted from considering health-related impacts of small cells (or any wireless service facilities) when reviewing applications for proposed facilities.

The Guidelines provide comprehensive information to all parties involved in the processing of applications for small wireless facilities proposed in the City of Escondido’s public right-of-way. Specifically, they are intended to help achieve the following goals:

  • Protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

  • Accommodate and support the deployment of personal wireless service facilities to provide robust coverage and capacity throughout the city.

  • Protect the City’s visual environment from potential adverse impacts or visual blight created or exacerbated by small cells and related communications infrastructure.

Next Steps

The Planning Division will be presenting the proposed Zoning Code Amendment and Guidelines to the Planning Commission at a public hearing on December 10, 2019, at 7 p.m. The public hearing notice can be found at the following link:

Planning Commission Notice of Public Hearing

The staff report prepared for the Planning Commission’s public hearing includes the proposed Zoning Code Amendment and Guidelines (Exhibits “B” and “C,” respectively, to draft Planning Commission Resolution No. 2019-13), and can be found at the link below. Additionally, due to their size, links to certain staff report attachments have been provided separately below.

Planning Commission Staff Report (December 10, 2019)

Comments on the draft documents and other information contained in the Planning Commission staff report can be provided to Adam Finestone, Principal Planner, via email at afinestone@escondido.org or delivered to Mr. Finestone’s attention at City Hall (201 N. Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025). Comments received prior to the Planning Commission meeting will be provided to the commissioners immediately preceding the meeting.

Mr. Finestone can be reached by phone at (760) 839-6203, if you have any questions regarding the City’s current efforts to update its policies and regulations related to wireless service facilities.