Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

RECOMMENDATION:

Direct the City Attorney to prepare a letter to Congresswoman Jane Harman voicing the Cityís opposition to HR 4720 and detailing the manner in which the current regulation is being evaded and misused.

BACKGROUND:

HR 4720 is a bill now in Congress aimed at providing relief to amateur radio operators faced with private deed covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) in erecting antennas. Freshman Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced the "Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Consistency Act" on May 14. The measure--HR 4720--would require private land-use regulators, such as homeowners' associations, to "reasonably accommodate" amateur radio communication consistent with the PRB-1 limited federal preemption. PRB-1 now applies only to states and municipalities. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) and Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) signed on as original co-sponsors of HR 4720. Since its introduction, the bill also has attracted several additional co-sponsors. These include Representatives J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), Patsy Mink (D-HI), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Rick Boucher (D-VA), Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA), John Duncan Jr (R-TN), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Charles Stenholm (D-TX) and David Price (D-NC).

DISCUSSION:

In an E-mail to Congresswoman Jane Harmanís office, Mayor Pro Tem Douglas Stern described HR 4720 as "bad news." He pointed out the problem that stripping the cities of regulatory authority has had on Rancho Palos Verdes. Specifically, the Courts have, in one of our cases, held that once the amateur antenna is in, it can be switched to commercial broadcasting. In January Judge Wilson, in Abrams v. Rancho Palos Verdes, ruled that because we had allowed an "amateur" to place an antenna, the antenna owner could switch its use to commercial broadcasting and the City had no ability to exercise the zoning authority that the 1996 Telecommunications Act (TCA) expressly granted to the cities. While the City believes that the court erred, there is no doubt that this problem is not clearly addressed at it should have been in the TCA, and it should be fixed.

Allowing the federal government to essentially eliminate private CC&R's that consensually protect a neighborhood is not good policy. It is unlikely that there is evidence that regions are prevented from having effective coverage because of CC&R's.

More importantly, the amateur regulation (PRB 1) and the proposed legislation should include provisions to close the loophole that presently allows an amateur to switch to broadcasting commercial signals. While it is clear that no one in Congress intended it to work that way, the "switching" that the courts are allowing dramatically impacts neighborhoods, as it results in the areas that are good antenna sites being converted by the economic value into antenna sites. The City should request that Congresswoman Harman assist in enacting legislation that requires a commercial antenna to be evaluated without reference to the existence or non-existence of an antenna that is present as an amateur antenna. Keep the amateurs under the regulatory scheme that addresses their virtue, and keep the commercial antennas entirely under the 1996 TCA without the cross over.

CONCLUSION:

The City should request an amendment to HR 4720 to provide that the Courts interpret the Telecommunications Act (TCA) in a manner such that when there is an amateur antenna, the cities have the same regulatory power that the Act presently provides, as if there were no antenna at all. The cities could still exercise the regulatory power that the TCA expressly contemplates, without antenna owners switching from amateur to commercial, in situations where they could not get commercial antenna approval from a city.

Respectfully submitted,
Les Evans,
City Manager

For:
Douglas Stern
Mayor Pro Tem