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.
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.
Planning Commission Action:
The Planning Division presented the proposed Zoning Code Amendment and Guidelines to the Planning Commission at a public hearing on December 10, 2019. At that meeting, the Planning Commission recommended approval of both documents to the City Council with no modifications. The Planning Commission resolution, including the draft documents (Exhibits "B" and "C"), can be found at the link below.
Planning Commission Resolution No. 2019-13
The Planning Commission staff report prepared from the December 10, 2019 meeting is provided in 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)
The draft Zoning Code Amendment and Guidelines will be presented to the City Council for consideration at a public hearing on February 5, 2020 at 6 pm. Additionally, the City Council will be asked to adopt various rates, fees, and charges related to permits, licenses, and administration of small wireless facilities. The public notice can be found at the following link.
February 5, 2020 City Council Public Hearing Notice
The proposed fees are intended to provide full cost recovery for staff time and city resources necessary to process, monitor, and administer small wireless facilities in the City's public right-of-way. A list of fees can be found at the link below, and additional detail will be provided in the City Council staff report, published at least 72 hours prior to the February 5, 2020 meeting.
Draft Rates, Fees, and Charges for Small Wireless Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way
Comments on the proposed Zoning Code Amendment, Guidelines, and rates and fees can be provided to Adam Finestone, Principal Planner, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered to Mr. Finestone’s attention at City Hall (201 N. Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025). Comments received prior to January 29, 2020 will be attached to the City Council staff report.
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.