San Rafael, CA – On July 9, the Marin County Board of Supervisors plans to consider an urgency ordinance and new policy regarding the installation of fifth-generation cellular wireless technology, commonly called 5G, in locations throughout unincorporated Marin within the public roads.
The County's telecommunications facilities plan, last updated in 1998, does not explicitly address small cell wireless facilities.
The Board has set a 1:30 p.m. session in the Marin County Civic Center Board chamber, Suite 330, in San Rafael. Residents will be able to attend, watch the webcast live or archived, or tune in on Channel 27 for Comcast and AT&T U-Verse subscribers.
Staff from the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA), which oversees the County’s telecommunications plan, will ask the Board to adopt an urgency ordinance to recognize and allow small cell wireless facilities. Next, it will ask the Board to approve a new policy for the purpose of regulating the permitting, design, and location of small wireless facilities within public roads.
The County’s existing Telecommunications Facilities Policy Plan (TFPP) was first adopted in 1990 and comprehensively updated in 1998 – more than 20 years ago. The plan does not explicitly address small cell wireless facilities. Similarly, the telecommunications facilities ordinance, Section 22.32.165, also does not include explicit standards applicable to small cell wireless facilities.
The proposed regulations outline the requirements for 5G application and installation procedures, establish the County’s location preferences and design standards, lay out public notification procedures, and cover the appeal process. By law, at least four of the five Board members must vote in favor in order to pass the urgency ordinance establishing the new standards.
Unlike the network of microwave dish and panel antennas for the current 4G technology, 5G requires the installation of a greater number of smaller antennas because they have shorter range compared with existing 4G antennas. Smaller, more closely spaced 5G devices would be installed closer to cell phone users, often affixed to existing light poles, utility poles, and traffic light poles within the public right-of-way, including in residential districts.
Two prevailing concerns have surfaced in Marin since the installation of 5G devices was first discussed: local government control on policies, and the health aspects of 5G.
Regarding control, the County joined a court action in 2018 to take a stand with other public agencies against the Federal Communications Commission’s seizure of local control on the deployment of 5G and its limitations on how implementation costs can be recovered by local government agencies.
Regarding health, the County looks to the California Department of Public Health about cell phone technology’s effects on living things. The state agency has shared information about cell phone technology and included links to other key sources such as the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Earlier this year, the Supervisors created a Board subcommittee to investigate ways that the County could retain maximum regulatory control over new wireless facilities in unincorporated Marin. Appointee Supervisors Damon Connolly and Dennis Rodoni have worked with County attorneys and CDA staff to identify potential amendments to 5G policies. To ensure community engagement, CDA created an online survey in December 2018 to measure support and concerns about 5G. In the finally tally, 733 people took the survey (which is now closed) and the feedback was considered when the new policies were drafted.
The Supervisors hosted a public workshop in February 2019 to hear resident suggestions and concerns and shared a report about federal-level intentions on 5G facilities. County officials have met with representatives from AT&T and Verizon, independent wireless permitting firms, health experts, and concerned residents before collaborating on the draft ordinance.
Residents may send an email, mail a letter or attend a public meeting to share thoughts about 5G with County officials. Emails may be sent to Immanuel (Manny) Bereket, Senior Planner. Mail letters to him at Community Development Agency, Marin County Civic Center, Suite 308, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903.
All public meetings and events sponsored or conducted by the County of Marin are held at accessible sites. If you are a person with a disability and require information or materials in alternative formats – or if you require accommodation to participate in a county program, service or activity – please contact department staff by email or at (415) 473-7331 or (415) 473-4381 (voice/TTY).