Verizon in Sebastopol, CA

By E.I. Hillin, Staff Writer, Mar 23, 2018; Original article here.

Sebastopol Council Initiates Update on Telecom Ordinance

Although the advancements in telecommunications have been unprecedented in the last two decades, the city of Sebastopol has failed to update its telecommunications ordinance since 1996.

As telecommunications giant Verizon swoops in to implement “better” network coverage, attempts from city government and backlash from concerned citizens may not be enough to hold off the impending “small cell” towers. The Sebastopol City council approved the initiation of an updated telecommunications ordinance during its regular meeting on March 20. The moratorium on telecommunication applications that several citizens had requested was pulled off the table.

Although agenda item 12 did state the council would be “considering enacting a temporary moratorium on telecommunication applications during the ordinance update,” Mayor Patrick Slayter announced it was in fact not on the agenda and that it was a “typographical error.”

Verizon submitted an application on Feb. 6 for two Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennas (CPMRA) installations within city limits. One proposed installation would be on an existing wooden pole at the intersection of Woodland and McFarlane Avenues and the other would be on an existing wooden pole at the intersection of Highway 116 and Hutchins Avenue. A revised application for the installation on McFarlane Avenue was submitted on March 6.

On legal advice from the city attorney Larry McLaughlin, enacting a moratorium could potentially open the city up to be targeted for a lawsuit:

“Normally when a city council takes up the subject of revising a land-use type of ordinance, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that city council could pass a moratorium on applications while it considers updating that particular ordinance. In this case, with the topic being telecommunications, enacting a moratorium would be problematic”

The Verizon application is still under review and is being processed under the existing telecommunications ordinance. City Planning Director Kenyon Webster said staff has a 150-day timeline to make a decision on the application, from the date it was filed. Failure to do so could allow the applicants to receive automatic approval. “The clock is still running,” he said.

Given the process for updating such a complicated ordinance, including initial discussion, public input, direction from the commission; preparation of a draft and allowing time for comment; a formal commission hearing; final direction from the commission; and then a similar process with the council, Webster predicted it would take four to six months to finalize the updated telecommunications ordinance.

Verizon, one of the largest communication technology companies in the world, boasts it powers the nation’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network with wireless coverage in more than 98 percent of the U.S. Now Verizon plans to unleash its advanced 5G wireless technology. According to the Verizon website, Verizon’s first commercial launch is planned to be in Sacramento in the second half of 2018.

In an article about public policy driving the 5G network, Verizon’s Vice President of Public Policy, Melissa Glidden Tye said the Sacramento launch will also include several other communities”

“Verizon is at the forefront of this vision for America’s future, because we’re building the modern network infrastructure all over the country that will make it a reality.”

Verizon is not only dealing with just City councils. Verizon lost it’s heavily-lobbied State Telecom Bill, Senate Bill 649 which Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed on October 15, 2017 — a bill that was strongly opposed by over 300 California Cities, including Sebastopol, and a majority of California Counties. Not a single California County or City supported this bill.

Verizon also continues to lobby at the Federal Level, according to Verizon’s Melissa Glidden Tye:

“To accelerate the benefits of 5G, we need elected leaders at every level of government to adopt smart policies that support the deployment of new infrastructure. Leaders on both sides of the aisle and across the federal government have sent strong signals that it’s time to double down on America’s future in 5G, and time to start finding ways to accelerate deployment, remove regulatory barriers, connect local communities and close the digital divide.”