I attended the League of California Cities Annual Conference on Thursday and Friday in Sacramento where the City of Richmond picked up two more Beacon Spotlight Awards (we got two last year also). We received a Gold Level Award for Community Greenhoiuse Gas Reduction and a Platinum Level Award for Sustainability Best Practices.
The nominations for all four of these awards, which includes extensive data gathering, were prepared by Christopher Whitmore, Director of Policy and Strategy of the Mayors’ Office. We all know how much we are doing for sustainability in Richmond, but these awards showcase Richmond statewide in a way that enhances our reputation as an “Out Front” city.
Figure 1 - Mayor Tom Butt receiving the Beacon Awards on behalf of the City of Richmond
Figure 2 - Two Beacon Awards to add to our growing collection
On Friday morning, I joined hundreds of city council members and mayors from across the state protesting the passage of SB 649 – Wireless Telecommunications Facilities and urging Governor Brown to veto it.
The League, and over 215 cities, opposed SB 649 related to the permitting of wireless and small cell telecommunications facilities. This bill represents a major shift in telecommunications policy and law by 1) requiring local governments to lease out the public’s property; 2) cap how much cities can lease this space out for, eliminate the ability for cities to negotiate public benefits; 3) the public’s input and full discretionary review in all communities of the state except for areas in coastal zones and historic districts, for the installation of “small cell” wireless equipment.
The bill is not limited to just “small cells.” SB 649 applies broadly to all telecommunications providers and the equipment they use from “micro-wireless” to “small cell” to “macro-towers.” It’s clear from the direction of this bill, that the intent is not about 5G wireless deployment, but rather local deregulation of the entire telecommunications industry. This latest version places a new ban on city/county regulation of placement or operation of “communication facilities” within and outside the public right of way far beyond “small cells.” This new language would extend local preemption of regulation to any “provider authorized by state law to operate in the rights of way,” which can include communications facilities installed for services such as gas, electric, and water, leaving cities and counties with limited oversight only over “small cells.”
Despite the wireless industry’s claim that the equipment would be “small” in their attempt to justify this special permitting and price arrangement solely for their industry, the bill would allow for antennas as large as six cubic feet, equipment boxes totaling 35 cubic feet with no size or quantity limitations for the following equipment: electric meters, pedestals, concealment elements, demarcation boxes, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, and cutoff switches.
Figure 3 - Hundreds of California elected officials tell Governor Brown to veto SB 649