Small Cells

Image of three small cell towers
Small Cell Towers Map

The City of Santa Rosa has made pubically available a map showing encroachment permits that are in review, issued or completed for small cellular towers. Small cell sites located in county islands or otherwise outside of city limits are not included with this map.

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What's a Small Cell Wireless Facility?

Small Cell facilities are low-powered antennas that provide cellular and data coverage to smaller geographic areas, supplementing the larger cellular network and improving service for wireless customers. Traditionally, wireless antennas and equipment were primarily installed on large towers located on the rooftops of private and public buildings.  In recent years, wireless services companies increasingly seek to install small wireless facilities in the public rights-of-way on wooden utility poles, streetlights, and new poles. Current predictions indicate that the next wave of wireless facility deployment (5G) will involve as much as $275 billion in investment through 2030, with the vast majority of these new facilities anticipated to be placed in the public right-of-way. 

City of Santa Rosa Small Cell Development Standards Ordinance 

In June 2021, the Santa Rosa City Council approved an ordinance that established by resolution a comprehensive set of codes, standards and submittal requirements associated with the placement of wireless facilities in the public right-of-way. That ordinance has been updated into the City Code under Chapter 13-06 about wireless facilities.

In summary, the ordinance focuses on the placement, design, installation, construction, maintenance and operation of wireless facilities in the city’s rights-of-way in a manner that considers the aesthetic and public health and safety requirements of the city. The ordinance addresses the type of wireless facilities that are exempt, permitted, conditionally permitted and prohibited within the city’s public right-of-way and place a specific focus on the following areas:

Ability to amend requirements efficiently

State and federal law associated with wireless infrastructure can change fairly rapidly and it is critical for local agencies to maintain flexibility and ensure that they are receiving the most useful and appropriate information available through the permitting process.  The ordinance authorizes the city to publish permit application requirements on a separate form that can be amended administratively, as well as update from time to time its design and location standards for such deployments. The application information collected can include demonstrating compliance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards and fire safety standards.

Transparency and notice

The ordinance contains public notice requirements to maintain transparency and provide residents and property owners with notice of pending wireless encroachment permit decisions, as well as the opportunity to appeal such decisions.

Compliance with shot clocks

The FCC has created shot clocks that specify the maximum number of days that a city can take to act on an application for a new wireless facility. The ordinance establishes an administrative process for taking action on small cell applications in order to ensure that the review process can be completed within the 60 or 90 day shot clock. Generally, the review process limits to ensuring that applications for new wireless facilities are consistent with the city’s wireless facility regulations, design and location standards, and any applicable state and federal laws.

Appeals

The ordinance creates an expedited administrative appeal process in order to maintain consistency with federal law. The appeal process must operate within the applicable FCC shot clock periods, which as noted above are quite short.

Learn More, Ask Questions

In order to learn more about the future city council items related to wireless facilities in the public right-of-way or to provide any initial questions or comments to staff regarding wireless facility deployments, contact Gabe Osburn at (707) 543-3853 or gosburn@srcity.org.