ACTION ALERT: SB 649 Restricting Small Cell Permitting to be Heard in Local Government Committee June 28th

SB 649 passed out of the Senate after a last minute “deal” was announced to make further amendments on the leasing fees in the bill.  Those amendments have yet to happen but we do expect to see them soon and are now preparing for the bill to go to both Assembly Local Government Committee and then Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee if it passes Local Government.

Even with the amendments made by the industry in the Senate, APA California still has major concerns, as noted below:

  • Full discretionary review is eliminated. Discretionary approval of small cell permits are ONLY allowed in the coastal zone and in historic districts. All other areas must process these permits through either a building or encroachment permit
  • Very limited ability to apply design standards for property in the right of way, however the language is conflicting and difficult to interpret
  • Mandatory leasing of public property in and outside of the public right of way at prescribed fees
  • Fees for leasing of public property set at a range of $100-$850 per year, with an agreement to add language on how those fees could be calculated plus an additional $250 for the time to set up the fee structure –  after applying the calculated proposed to be used, those fees would likely barely cover maintenance costs.

APA California also believes SB 649 will set a dangerous precedent for other private industries to seek similar treatment. APA California, along with other local government associations and many cities/counties continue to remain very opposed.

Please send opposition letters/make calls to your local Assembly Members. Letters for the Local Government Committee are due by this Thursday, June 22nd   to Assembly Local Government Committee staff: angela.mapp@asm.ca.gov. Please also send your letters to: 

Author’s staff: Nidia.Bautista@sen.ca.gov

Myself:  lauren@stefangeorge.com

The bill will likely be heard in Assembly Local Government Committee on June 28th at 1:30 so if you are able to attend and voice your opposition, please plan to do so and let me know. Thank you!

Below is the original details on the bill from our earlier notice:


AB 2788, which would have severely restricted local agencies’ ability to permit “small cells”, IS BACK!

You might recall that a similar bill was introduced as a gut and amend in the middle of session last year and soon after dropped. This year there is a new author but the bill is just as onerous. “Small cell” is defined as: “a wireless telecommunications facility, as defined in Section 65850.6, using licensed or unlicensed spectrum that meets the following qualifications: Any individual antenna, excluding the associated equipment, is individually no more than three cubic feet in volume, and all antennas on the structure total no more than six cubic feet in volume, whether in a single array or separate. The associated equipment on pole structures does not exceed 21 cubic feet for poles that can support fewer than three providers or 28 cubic feet for pole collocations that can support at least three providers, or the associated equipment on nonpole structures does not exceed 28 cubic feet for collocations that can support fewer than three providers or 35 cubic feet for collocations that can support at least three providers.
The following types of associated ancillary equipment are not included in the calculation of equipment volume: Electric meters and any required pedestal, concealment elements, any telecommunications demarcation box, grounding equipment, power transfer switch, cut-off switch, vertical cable runs for the connection of power and other services. “Small cell” does not include communications infrastructure extending beyond the telecommunications demarcation box.

SB 649, by Senator Hueso, would:

  • permit the use installation of a “small cell” without a city or county discretionary permit, thereby eliminating CEQA review, and would preclude consideration of aesthetics, design and nuisance impacts.
  • require that the small cell only be subject to a building permit or administrative permit.
  • require small cells to be permitted in all zones.
  • require a permit with a duration of less than 10 years to be renewed for an equivalent duration unless the city or county makes a finding that the wireless telecommunications facility does not comply with the codes and permit conditions applicable at the time the permit was initially approved.
  • require cities and counties to make city/county owned facilities available for the installation of a small cell(s), precluding cities/counties from leasing or licensing publicly owned property.

The bill was amended this morning (attached) and will be heard in Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee next Tuesday, April 4th. While we know it’s late notice, if at all possible please send letters to the author and the committee staff: Nidia.Bautista@sen.ca.gov. In preparation for the likelihood that it will pass that committee, please also send a copy to the Senate Governance & Finance Committee staff, where the bill will be heard next: Anton.Favorini-Csorba@sen.ca.gov.

Please make sure you send a copy of the letter to your local Senator and Assembly Member and one to me for my records. We have attached a copy of APA California’s coalition letter for your reference.

Finally, if you have processed this type of permit, please let us know generally how long it took, if there were any issues with the process and any other details that would be helpful to provide to committee members.

APA California thanks you in advance for your help!

Lauren De Valencia y Sanchez
Stefan/George Associates
925 L Street, suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95814
Office: (916) 443-5301
Fax: (916) 443-3494