Councilmembers Vote Against Small Cells That Are “So Damn Ugly”


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The San Clemente City Council voted on Tuesday, February 4, to introduce an ordinance that will establish regulations and guidelines for proposed small cells within city limits. According to the San Clemente Times, the ordinance would restrict telecommunications companies from placing small cells within 500 feet of a school or a residence — which renders nearly all of the public rights-of-way as off-limits — as well as 300 feet from another cell site.

The ordinance had also come on the heels of a request by AT&T in 2019 to install a series of 4G-capable small cells on light poles near neighborhoods. 

The city’s Planning Commission denied those applications, but AT&T filed an appeal. The telecom did decide to table further plans for small cells until the city finalized its ordinance. 

The small cell activity stirred controversy among a group of residents who believe the towers will eventually be upgraded to 5G. They think next-generation wireless will expose families to harmful RF waves. Residents have also voiced concerns over obstructed views and lowered property values, according to the Times.

Speaking on behalf of telecoms, Michael Farrahar, a representative of Verizon Wireless, stated that there’s a need for small cell infrastructure. “Without the critical infrastructure, without the buttressing of the existing service, there will be a degradation of service; there will be a diminishment to the current levels of service and certainly no new addition of technology in the future,” Farrahar told the council. However, it fell on deaf ears.

On Tuesday, Councilman Gene James said, “I will vote an adamant ‘no’ on this, because [the towers are] so damn ugly.” Councilmember Chris Hamm agreed, adding, “I’ve been a firm believer that if we have a community that rises up and has a serious concern that we need to fight it and represent the community.” As for next steps, the council is expected to pass the ordinance during its meeting on February 18. 

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