Wireless Communication Facilities (WCFs) are the antennas, support structures and other equipment or apparatus necessary for providing personal wireless services and information services. While these are an important part of communications infrastructure and networks, they are the most visible. Careful planning of WCF is essential to ensuring aesthetic compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods.
The City of Palo Alto received many new applications for WCF in recent years. Examples of WCF include wireless carrier antenna and equipment installations on top of private building rooftops or on freestanding poles located in private parking lots. These sites are usually called macrosite wireless facilities. Some WCF are installed on wood utility poles or streetlights in the public right-of-way and are commonly referred to as small cell wireless facilities. WCF applications are reviewed according to the regulations of the City, but it is also necessary to process applications in accordance with the evolving regulations in State and Federal law. To be consistent with these changes, the City needs to regularly update local regulations and has created this webpage to inform the public of these update efforts.
The City has embarked upon a work plan to return to City Council with proposed updates to the Wireless Communications Facilities ordinance (Palo Alto Municipal Code Section 18.42.110) and an accompanying Resolution for the City's Wireless Aesthetic Design Standards.
Currently, Palo Alto Municipal Code (PAMC) Section 18.42.110 contains the local regulations for Wireless Communications Facilities (WCF). Any proposed amendments to PAMC Section 18.42.110 must receive the Planning & Transportation Commission (PTC)’s review and recommendation prior to City Council adoption.
Cities were required to adopt reasonable and objective aesthetic administrative standards for small wireless facilities under the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s September 2018 Order. These aesthetic standards are contained in a stand-alone Resolution that supplements the wireless ordinance. The Council can update the standards in by adopting a replacement Resolution.
Visit our Intergovernmental Affairs webpage to find City of Palo Alto letters pertaining to state and federal Wireless Communications Facilities policies. For example, the City sent an opposition letter regarding SB 556 related to wireless broadband infrastructure deployment.
Visit our Planning & Development Services Department Pending Wireless Communication Facility (WCF) Permit Applications webpage to learn more about WCF applications that are under review by staff.
Visit our Planning & Development Services Department Forms and Applications webpage to find the application forms and checklists utilized in the submittal of Wireless Communication Facility (WCF) Permit applications.
Sign up to receive email updates regarding forthcoming City Council consideration and discussion of Wireless Communications Facilities topics.
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Last updated on April 25, 2022