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SB 649 Restricting Small Cell Permitting to be Heard in Assembly Communications and Conveyance Commi

After a 3-hour hearing on SB 649, the bill passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee with 2 no votes and 1 member abstaining from voting on the bill. Over 10 elected officials joined in the long list of opposition testimony and there was substantial media coverage on the bill prior to and at the hearing.

Some members, even though they voted for the bill, voiced concerns that the bill still needed substantial clarifying amendments on the permit process, fees allowed, and how design standards would be applied, and said they wanted to see a deployment requirement in the bill for unserved and underserved areas in the state.

The Local Government Committee will be making some amendments to the bill, which will be in print on Wednesday. However, those amendments for the most part only make clarifications to the amendments coming out of the Senate Floor “deal”. The major problems in the bill still remain and APA California still has major concerns, as noted below:

  1. 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.

  2. There is very limited ability to apply design standards for property in the right of way, and those provisions are conflicting and difficult to interpret.

  3. Mandatory leasing of public property at prescribed fees remains in the bill.

  4. Fees for leasing of public property would be set by using the Buchanan Formula for attachments to PUC poles, plus an additional $250 for the time to set up the fee structure.  After applying the formula, 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 opposed. At the very least, we believe this bill should be made a two-year bill to allow more time for a meaningful discussion on the issue and a fair process.

Please send opposition letters/make calls to your local Assembly Members. Letters for the Communications and Conveyance Committee are due by this Wednesday, July 6th to staff: Please also send your letters to:

Author’s The Committee Chair’s Republican The Governor’s Lauren De Valencia y Sanchez:

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