In summary, our City Council and the Planning Board showed a concerted effort and desire to build a stronger updated wireless facility ordinance for Burbank. We should commend them for this, and also encourage them to follow-through with earlier comments made at the first Study Session in December 2009 to create preferred and non-preferred locations for these installations, keeping them away from our residential neighborhoods and schools.
We should also make sure to attend the upcoming Community Meeting that the city will be organizing to solicit resident input about the city's new ordinance and our concerns about wireless facilities near our homes, schools and parks; read more about this below.
City leaders and staff did not bring up the current loophole of not having regulations protecting residential neighborhoods from wireless facility installations in public rights of way (or PROW, on the sidewalk or alley or utility pole right next to your home, so one could go up without any notification, public hearing or means of appeal). We need to tell them to adopt strong regulations addressing these installations.
Details of the Second Study Session on June 14, 2010
Attorney Jonathan Kramer showed examples of various ideal and not-so-ideal cell tower designs and screening methods and pointed out how cities with ordinances that have aesthetic requirements have more legal protections against lawsuits when denying an installation. Jonathan Kramer has consulted for various cities in crafting regulations and ordinances regarding wireless facilities, including neighboring Glendale, CA, and you can find out more about him on his website: http://www.telecomlawfirm.com.
Mr. Kramer also summed up the current environment on how residents feel about these structures: "The closer you are to the public, the more you want it not to be apparently be a wireless site. The days of having a badge of having a cell site in town those are long gone."
Mr. Kramer showed various slides of DAS installations, which frequently target public right of ways or PROWs; please read our Home Page to find out more information about why these PROW installations are so threatening.
"The first couple of slides are Distributed Antenna Systems," Mr. Kramer said, "which are not interestingly enough wireless sites. According to them, they are telephone corporations that have wireless companies as their clients. That’s particularly interesting. The City of Davis, the City of Irvine and the City of Huntington Beach, which are all being sued by these people for the city not treating/ treating them as a wireless company. So they’re an interesting group of people that a lot of cities are being exposed to at this point. This is a technology that’s being deployed out."
Mr. Kramer mentioned how DAS sites are being deployed in areas that were prohibited by older (i.e., outdated) ordinances so the corporations that are installing these are pursuing an "end-run" approach to installation. "And these are popping up in more and more neighborhoods and frankly many neighborhoods find these sites to be less than aesthetically pleasing, to euphemistically put it," Kramer said.
Mr. Kramer also addressed the issue of RF compliance reports (reports showing compliance with FCC RF emissions levels), and how it often benefits cities to require such reports to help them build a case of evidence in case they deny a proposed installation.
Planning Board Member Vahe Hovanessian asked Mr. Kramer if it would be advisable for the City of Burbank to require this, and Mr. Kramer answered yes. As a result, City leaders are asking staff to modify the application process to require the applicant provide an RF compliance report. (Other cities already require this.)
Mr. Hovanessian mentioned how there are some 100 wireless communication facilities in Burbank right now, and Deputy City Planner Michael Forbes stated that the City receives about 2 cell site applications per month.
Planning Board Chair Kenneth San Miguel asked staff to come back with a definition of what "cumulative RF" means -- would it only apply to a set of facilities on top of one building, or also including those nearby?
Mr. Forbes (thank goodness) brought to light an important problem with our City's current code: "Our code right now allows the first facility to go in by right, which is different than most other cities. We would have to discuss that more with the City Attorney’s office, to see what flexibility we have, because right now it’s just a building permit over the counter."
Council Member Dr. David Gordon voiced his concerns: "You’re saying once the first goes in by right, the rest of them would have to comply in the same fashion?"
Mr. Forbes responded, "The first is allowed by right with a building permit, any subsequent facilities require a CUP." (CUP = Conditional Use Permit.)
As a result, our City leaders pushed to change this.
Council Member Dave Golonski: "The first site by right troubles me. In today’s environment, I don’t think that that necessarily makes sense. So maybe in that same memo, staff could come back with a quick modification...Maybe we eliminate that exemption and if we can do that in a relatively speedy way, without requiring a huge amount of work, and without significantly impacting our eventual solution." (Eventual solution = final updated wireless facility ordinance.)
Council Member Gordon supported that idea, as well as pursuing aesthetic requirements. "I think it makes sense. I don’t think we should have a first by right. I don’t understand why it was there...Aesthetics are important because these things can get ugly real fast, and concentrated real fast."
Planning Board Member Emily Gabel-Luddy wanted to know if non-conforming facilities could be improved after the City instituted new aesthetic requirements, and Mr. Kramer said this could be required [if such a requirement were adopted in our ordinance] when facilities want to modify or update an existing site. He mentioned that the wireless companies usually don't like doing this, but they can be required to do this. Gabel-Luddy later pushed for recommendations that would improve aesthetic requirements: "Aesthetics should be attacked aggressively as possible."
Mr. Kramer also addressed the FCC's shot-clock ruling, which is being challenged in court right now, and its constraints on local governments and their planning departments. He recommended cities have a very strong application process up front so that applicants must meet all the requirements at the start of the application process in order to avoid incomplete applications that would slow the discretionary review process. This would help to avoid potential lawsuits.
Mayor Anja Reinke was pleased that the City and staff are moving in a forward direction, but also recommended that the administrative process be beefed up.
Joe McDougall from our City Attorney's office mentioned that staff is currently studying other new wireless facility ordinances in an effort to come up with recommendations for what updated regulations would be appropriate for Burbank. They're looking at LaHabra's and Glendale's.
Council Member Jess Talamantes said: "I would like to see something between 4 pages and 100 pages, a happy medium. I don’t want to be the top of the hill with 200 pages."
Mr. Hovanessian stated that he is hoping that the city can put together a master ordinance, "Maybe we can have a code section that’s an accumulation of other cities, the best of all pieces."
Mr. Hovanessian also reiterated the need (sooner than later) for aesthetic requirements in our city's code. "It has to be specifically enumerated within your Code Section as to your grounds for denial. And that’s the one thing we can fix quicker than later. At least give us that opportunity to deny if it’s appropriate."
Mr. Kramer urged that our City leader not rush when developing the updated ordinance. "Aesthetics should be crafted in an ordinance. I agree with the [city] attorney, everything he said about not pushing this fast. You’re going to have to live with this document. It’s got to be legally defendable."
At the close of the meeting, Mr. Forbes recommended a community meeting to gather resident input before the next public hearing, and our Mayor and leaders approved the idea. [We will post any details we receive about this upcoming meeting on our website.]
Actions you can take
Attend the upcoming Community Meeting, and e-mail our City leaders to provide your comments and recommendations about keeping cell towers, including those on utility poles and in public rights of way, away from our homes, schools and parks. Tell them we need a PROW wireless facility ordinance, as well as a ordinance that will have preferred and non-preferred locations (a tiered approach, similar to Glendale's).
Previous update; updated 06-08-10 (below).
Burbank City Council and the Planning Board will be having its second Study Session on Wireless Facilities on Monday evening, June 14, 2010, at 6:00 p.m., City Council Chamber, Burbank City Hall, 275 East Olive Avenue in Burbank, CA.
This Study Session will not deal with the new ordinance, but will address the issues surrounding wireless facilities in general (regulations, laws, etc.). Attorney Jonathan Kramer,* who has advised several cities with their new wireless ordinances, will be attending to answer questions, as well as members of the wireless industry.**
Public can make comments and recommendations in person during a specified Public Comment period during the Session. Public comments are limited to 5 minutes per person. If you plan to make any comments, please fill out the proper ID card after you arrive at the meeting and present that to the City Clerk so your name will be called during Public Comment time. If you cannot attend, you can also e-mail your comments/suggestions in advance (see below "Notes" *** for e-mail information).
Burbank's updated wireless ordinance will be addressed at a separate Study Session, yet to be scheduled; information about the updated wireless ordinance will be posted on Burbank's website (see below, Q&A #3).
Deputy City Planner Michael Forbes recently provided us with helpful information about the structure, contents, and public participation for the June 14, 2010 session. Its time, location and agenda will be posted on the website noted below (see Q&A #4). Here are Mr. Forbes' answers to our questions:
1. Could you share with us the structure of the meeting? And the items/topics of discussion?
A: The structure of the meeting will be that City staff and our consultant will give a presentation. This will be followed by a public comment period during which any member of the public may speak for up to 5 minutes each. Following public comment, staff and the consultant will respond to any questions raised, and the City Council and Planning Board members will ask further questions and provide input on the issue.
The City’s consultant who will speak at the study session is Jonathan Kramer,* an expert on wireless facilities and technologies who has worked with the FCC and many cities. He will be giving a presentation on wireless technology, how it works, how it is regulated, and other general issues related to the wireless industry. There will be a PowerPoint presentation that will be made available prior to the meeting.
2. Will there be an opportunity for members of the community to provide comments or questions, and if so, at what point and how would they do this?
A: Yes – please see my answer above. Any member of the public may speak during the designated public comment period. We expect that representatives from the wireless industry will also be attending the meeting and speaking during the comment period.**
3. If any members of the community, in advance of the June 14th session, have any questions regarding this session, to whom should they direct (e-mail and phone) their questions?
A: The primary contact for this study session and other general wireless issues is Amanda Klotzsche. All questions about the study session can be directed to her via email or phone at 818-238-5250. I am also always available to answer questions.***
4. Where should members of the community also check for any updates regarding this session (agenda items, etc.), for example, a specific web address/link on the Burbank city website?
about this study session and the update to our wireless ordinance will be
available soon on our web site. A specific link will be available from the
Planning home page at www.burbankusa.com/planning. [Or more directly here: http://www.ci.burbank.ca.us/index.aspx?page=964, scroll to bottom of page; for the actual June 14th Agenda, go here: http://burbank.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=6&event_id=17 and scroll down to Item #3, and click the links to the "Staff Report" and "Attachments A&B" for more details.]
5. Do you plan on having more than one Study Session and if so, how will they be the same or differ and on what dates will they be scheduled?
A: We will have at least one more study session at which we will discuss the specifics of the proposed update to the City’s ordinance. That study session has not yet been scheduled. The study session on the 14th will not include any details about the City’s existing ordinance or any proposed updates and instead will focus on wireless technology, facilities, and regulation in general.
* For more information about attorney and consultant Jonathan Kramer, please visit his website at: http://www.telecomlawfirm.com
** For more information about representatives of the wireless industry, see the California Wireless Association (CALWA)'s website: http://www.calwa.org
*** Send any questions in advance of the Study Session to Assistant Planner Amanda Klotzsche and/or Deputy City Planner Michael Forbes:
Ms. Klotzche's e-mail address: AKlotzsche@ci.burbank.ca.us
Mr. Forbes' e-mail address: MForbes@ci.burbank.ca.us
Public Comment is limited to 5 minutes per person at the Study Session; if you cannot attend the meeting, you can send your Comments (concerns and recommendations) in advance to both City Council and City Clerk Maria Campos at:
You can also watch the Study Session live on Burbank TV at http://burbank.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=2.