Over the years, the City has heard from residents expressing their discontent with the availability and options for local internet service and cell phone coverage. The City has consistently responded that telecommunication services are a utility and private-sector business not regulated or provided by cities, and as such, it’s a market-driven decision by the service providers to install the infrastructure and implement services for residents.
Approximately a year ago, Crown Castle on behalf of AT&T submitted approximately 20 applications to install cell sites throughout the Palos Verdes Estates to provide and improve telecommunication services to customers. State and Federal laws, and a variety of Court rulings prescribe and limit all cities’ ability to influence the locations for cell sites. In fact, cities can only control “time, place and manner,” and under, the Palos Verdes Estates Municipal Code (PVEMC) Chapter 18.55, we specifically regulate the location, design, and aesthetics of wireless facilities or commercial antennas. In support of this, Palos Verdes Estates won a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court in that was just reaffirmed last month that provides cities with the authority to control the aesthetics of cell sites.
The City is continuing to work its way through the Crown Castle applications. They are before the Planning Commission for a determination of the least intrusive locations in the community given Crown Castle’s absolute right to install cell sites in the public rights-of-way. Unfortunately, the location(s) of cell sites may not be desirable to all residents, but under the conditions established by State and Federal law, there is little-to-no City discretion in the location of their siting. The denial of a location may, in turn, result in a lawsuit against the City.
Wireless facilities may be located on private property (e.g., commercial and residential properties), publicly-owned property (Parklands, City Hall), or within the public rights-of-way (parkways or medians). There are numerous existing cell sites throughout the City in Parklands, on commercial property, within the City right-of-way, and on residential property. When feasible, the City steers new wireless facilities to be located at the same site as existing similar facilities (known as “collocation”), or on City-owned poles (e.g., stop signs) or utility poles. The City’s design guidelines require that facilities be designed to be as visually unobtrusive as possible, and the approval process strives to minimize the number of installations irrespective of the location.
In the upcoming months, the Planning Commission is expected to make a decision on the applications before them. Their decisions go to the City Council for confirmation unless appealed by an interested party or the applicant. If the Planning Commission decision is appealed, the City Council will hear the application “de novo” (anew) to come to its own decision. The City Council may deny the appeal (affirm the Planning Commission decision), approve the appeal (reject the Planning Commission decision), modify the decision of the Planning Commission or remand the application back to the Planning Commission with directions for its reconsideration. The City Council’s decision is final and only subject to change by a Court as a result of a lawsuit.
The City has prepared a FAQ about cell sites that is posted on our website; please see the link below or call the Planning Department at 310.378.0383 for more information. In the meantime, please know that the City continues to work at finding the least intrusive locations for cell sites within its authority prescribed by law.