By Kendra Sitton
August 24, 2017 (Jamul) — San Diego Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) sponsored SB 649, which would let technology companies install 5G mini and micro cell sites on any government property without county or city oversight. The usurpation of local authority is already sparking protest from his home district: in its Aug. 22 meeting, the Jamul planning group joined other city councils as well as the County of San Diego in opposing the bill, which will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Sept. 23.
The new 5G technology provides faster connectivity from smaller units than traditional cell towers. It will also be necessary to advance other technologies such as driverless cars as it enable car-to-car communication. The downside is that these small units have short ranges which require many more to be installed.
Mini cell sites can be placed on any post, which would mean any telephone pole, street light, or traffic light. Micro cell sites can be hung from a telephone wire. The units are only the size of an appliance, but because the bill does not rule against clustering, the units could be much bigger, up to 21 cubic feet for micro cell sites, or roughly the size of a refrigerator. For mini cell sites, clustered together they could be roughly the size of a small dumpster.
The planning group would normally make sure none of the cell sites inappropriately blocked anyone’s view and would ensure they were spread out more, but the bill takes away that level of oversight.
The Jamul Planning Group drafted a letter during the meeting and voted to send it to Dianne Jacob to assist her as makes a presentation to Sacramento officials about why the County and cities within the County oppose the bill. The letter states that the Jamul board could not support the bill in its current form because it encroaches on local authority and had no provisions about the aesthetic impact of the cell gear.
110 other cities have already opposed the bill. Reinette Senum, City Council member from Nevada City, testified in April that “This is nothing short of the telecommunications industry [and the State of California] basically hijacking and staging a hostile takeover of our local governments—cities and counties. It will remove local authority and also risk property rights.”
In the discussion, Chairperson Michael Casinelli and Member Dan Neirinckx brought up that the review process currently in place has made better towers than when they were first proposed. Member George Novinger dissented because the Board, in his view, can spend too much time reviewing cell towers. “I have real reservations about standing in the way of modern life and innovation,” Novinger said, “I would be more than happy to give people what they want in the 21st century.”
Currently, Verizon has the most coverage in Jamul, with AT&T attempting to catch up. There are still many parts of the rural area in which there is sluggish or no cell service at all. For many residents, faster and more consistent cell coverage would be a welcome addition.
Other people have different concerns than merely the aesthetic problems of the units. Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, is concerned about the health risks that wireless radiation entails. She cited the opinion of cancer researcher Dr. Anthony B. Miller that radiofrequency (RF) radiation, which is emitted by cell phones and towers, is a “Group 1 carcinogenic to humans.” The World Health Organization already classifies RF radiation as a possible carcinogen to humans.
An additional concern with the bill is that it would reduce people with Electromagnetic Sensitivity (EMS)’s access to housing free from radiation. EMS is recognized by the U.S. Access Board and is protected under ADA. In 1998, three percent of Californians had the condition. Rural Jamul may be a haven for those suffering this condition.
Despite Novinger’s reservations, he voted in favor of the new letter drafted by the group, which cited aesthetic and local rights concerns with the bill in its current form.
The public can send comments about the bill to County Supervisor Dianne Jacob or Senator Ben Hueso before the Sept. 23 hearing.
Update: Below is a copy of the board's letter to Supervisor Jacob:
Jamul Dulzura Community Planning Group
P.O. Box 613 – Jamul CA 91935
August 24, 2017
Supervisor Dianne Jacob
1600 Pacific Highway
San Diego, CA 92101
Dear Supervisor Jacob:
Having reviewed SB649 (Hueso) Wireless Telecommunications Facilities, the members of the Jamul Dulzura Community Planning Group, (JDCPG) a publically elected body in San Diego County, voted to oppose SB649 in its current form.
- We feel this bill unnecessarily silences community input by eliminating review of sites and construction of installations within public right of way.
- There is no requirement to consider or mitigate the aesthetics, location, character or impact to nearby residences.
The purpose of planning and zoning is to promote and preserve the quality of our communities. JDCPG supports the initiative to bring enhanced services to the community and desires that it be done without damaging the rural character which makes our community attractive. The siting and construction of mini cell and micro cell installations needs to continue to be subject to review as a discretionary permit.
Jamul Dulzura Community Group
Cc: Senator Ben Hueso Assemblymember Bill Quirk
Kristin Gaspar, Chair Board of Supervisors Assemblymember Randy Voepel
Greg Cox, Supervisor, District 1 Ron Roberts, Supervisor, District 4
Bill Horn, Supervisor, District 5