Rancho Palos Verdes City Council

City Council






  1. Receive an update on the installation of telecommunication facilities within the public right of way by wireless providers.
  2. Receive an update from Sprint and ATT on the installation of cellular facilities at three locations where the City has received negative feedback from residents.
  3. Provide staff with direction regarding the review process.


In the summer of 2001 staff was notified by both Sprint Communications, and ATT Wireless that they intended to upgrade wireless communication throughout the City by installing a number of new cellular sites in the public right of way. At the October 16, 2001 City Council meeting, staff made a presentation regarding the City’s ability and limitations on regulating the use of the right of way by wireless providers in light of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. At that meeting the proposed procedures for reviewing applications also were reviewed and discussed by the City Council.

Since October 2001 a total of 41 applications for new cellular sites within the public right of way have been received. A total of 25 applications have been approved all of which have been constructed or are in the process of being constructed.

Elements of a cellular site

Cellular sites generally consist of the following elements:



Configuration on Sprint PCS facility

Configuration on an ATT facility


Various types and configurations

Mounted on existing pole

Mounted on existing pole

RFI Cabinet

Contains the telecommunication facilities

Cabinet attached to pole

Cabinet attached to pole

Electric Meter

Required by SCE for certain installations

Cabinet mounted on the ground


Back up power

Installed at the discretion of the provider

Cabinet mounted on the ground


Because their technology does not require the construction of an electric meter and back up power, ATT is able to install a significantly smaller facility. See Exhibits B and C.

For the most part the process has been very successful, and the construction has generated only minor feedback from the public. One reason for this is that the review process utilized the experience gained when several similar cellular sites were installed in the right of way a number of years ago. The review process attempts to strike a balance between the fact that the principal issue for most homeowners is view impact, versus the fact that the City has limited authority with respect to restricting the use of the rights of way by wireless providers due to the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Some of the more important principals considered when the review process was established:

  • The element of a cellar site that sets it apart from other utility installations is the need for a pole and antenna.
  • The most controversial aspect of a new cellular site is the placement of the antenna.
  • It is difficult to assess whose view will be impacted by a new antenna.
  • Residents have a low tolerance for new poles.
  • Residents have a higher tolerance for new cabinets. This is likely because many utility companies, as well as the City, install cabinets within the public rights of way.
  • Although the public has a higher tolerance for cabinets, no one wants a cabinet directly in front of their home.
  • A dark cabinet color generally helps to minimize impact.

Based on these principals the following guidelines and procedures were established:


  • Facilities shall be located along arterial roadways whenever possible.
  • New poles shall be discouraged in areas where existing utilities have been placed underground.
  • New cabinets shall not be installed above ground directly in front of a residential structure.
  • If a proposed installation is along a roadway with homes on only one side, the above ground cabinet shall be installed along the side of the roadway with no homes.
  • Antennas shall be located such that views from a residential structure are not impacted.
  • New poles shall be discouraged.
  • Whenever possible, new cabinets shall be screened by existing foliage or existing features (such as walls, ditches or berms).


  1. Applicant submits a ‘before and after’ photo and computer rendering of the proposed installation.
  2. Staff performs a field review of all applications to assure compliance with City standards.
  3. If the proposed site receives preliminary approval from the public works department, the applicant installs a ‘mock up’ of the antenna for a period of 30 days to surface any issues from property owners with a view impact.
  4. If negative comments are received from the public regarding the antenna the process returns to step one.
  5. If no negative comments are received, a permit for construction is issued.

No written notification process is utilized. This is because with respect to cabinets the City is limited in its ability to regulate their construction by wireless providers, given that other utility companies are generally permitted to construct cabinets in the rights of way. With respect to the antenna, it is difficult to assess to whom the notification should be sent. Moreover the antenna ‘mock up’ for a 30-day period is the tool that is used to notify property owners.

This process has been successful; out of the 25 sites approved, the City has received complaints on only three sites. Those locations and complaints are as follows:


Type of complaint


Palos Verdes Drive East at Headland



Ganado Drive

Antenna and Cabinet


Geronimo Drive



An October 5, 2002 letter to the City Council from a nearby property owner regarding the proposed site on Ganado Drive is attached. Based on the feedback staff has received on the three permitted sites listed above, construction work has been stopped at these sites. Sprint and ATT have been asked to work directly with the impacted homeowners in an attempt to resolve any issues, and to report any progress at the November 5, 2002 City Council meeting.

Criticism of the Procedure

The department has received criticism of its guidelines and procedures from both the public and the wireless providers. Two residents have complained about the lack of a written notification process. They maintain that they should have been notified in writing about the installation of a new cellular site in their neighborhood. In addition ATT maintains that the City’s policy against allowing new poles will restrict their ability to provide service along Palos Verdes Drive East.


Based on the experience gained when several similar cellular sites were installed in the right of way a number of years ago and the limitations of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Public Works Department established guidelines and procedures for the installation of new cellular phone sites. These guidelines and procedures have been very successful, as the construction generated only minor feedback and criticism from the public.

The City has recently received complaints at three sites and Sprint and ATT are currently talking with the impacted property owners to resolve their concerns.


Staff could identify no fiscal impacts to the recommended actions. The full cost of reviewing, and inspecting the construction of the cellular sites is the responsibility of the wireless providers.

Respectfully submitted,

Dean Allison

Director of Public Works


Les Evans


Exhibit A – Status of all applications

Exhibit B – Typical Sprint Installation

Exhibit C – Typical ATT Installation

Typical Sprint Installation

Exhibit "B"



Typical ATT Installation

Exhibit "C"