California cities keep regulatory power over cell antenna placement |

California cities keep regulatory power over cell antenna placement

Senate Bill 649, which would have allowed cell companies to install antennas on streetlights like this one on Broad Street in historic downtown Nevada City, was vetoed this week by Governor Jerry Brown.
Elias Funez/ |

Nevada City and Grass Valley are celebrating a victory this week after Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have stripped local governments of the power to regulate wireless infrastructure.

Senate Bill 649 — the wireless telecommunications facilities bill — proposed allowing cellular companies to install equipment on locally-owned utility poles, streetlights and other suitable host infrastructure located within the public right-of-way without approval from local governments. It also proposed stripping municipalities of the right to profit off of those installations.

Nevada City was among the first cities to send representatives to Sacramento to declare opposition to the bill.

Grass Valley voiced its opposition by sending letters to state officials.

“SB-649 effectively eliminates the ability for our residents and businesses from having fair input over the character of their own communities,” Grass Valley’s city council said in a letter to Brown.

Though SB-649 passed the state legislature, Brown announced Sunday he was returning the bill without his signature.

In a statement, Brown said there is “real value” in expanding wireless technology.

The bill proposed that California take steps to ensure its communities “have access to the most advanced wireless communications technologies and the transformative solutions that robust wireless connectivity enables.”

“Nevertheless,” Brown said, “I believe that the interest which localities have in managing rights of way requires a more balanced solution that one achieved in this bill.”

Nevada City Councilmember Reinette Senum, who called the bill a “hostile takeover by the telecom industry of local authority,” said she was thrilled by Brown’s decision.

Senum helped gather signed letters of opposition to the bill from community members late last month. In two days, she helped send nearly 200 letters, she said.

Besides her concerns that the bill would have stripped local governments of regulatory power and may have resulted in the expansion of technology which she fears could cause negative health effects, Senum said the recent wildfires in California pointed out another issue with what SB-649 proposed.

Installing extra equipment on power poles, which SB-649 would have allowed without local approval, she said, could create a fire hazard.

“This is a huge victory,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email or call 530-477-4231.

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