Wireless Communication Facilities

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April 19, 2019 Update:

Small Cell Wireless Facilities Administrative Standards and Wireless Ordinance Update: 
Cities are required to adopt reasonable and objective aesthetic administrative standards for small wireless facilities under the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s September 2018 Order. 

The Architectural Review Board (ARB) discussed draft administrative standards for facilities proposed on streetlight poles and wood utility poles at the March 21, 2019 (video) and April 4, 2019 (video) ARB meetings. The ARB agendas and staff reports are published on the ARB webpage. The Planning & Transportation Commission (PTC) recommended the associated ordinance referencing these standards on March 27, 2019. The PTC had also reviewed an initial draft of the ordinance on December 12, 2018. The PTC agendas and staff reports are published on the PTC webpage.

On April 15, 2019, the City Council adopted a Resolution referencing use of these administrative standards, and adopted an ordinance updating the Palo Alto Municipal Code Section 18.42.110.  The ordinance will become effective 30 days after the second reading, currently scheduled for May 6, 2019.  The Council will be able to modify the administrative standards in the future by adopting a Resolution. The City Council agenda and City Manager’s report containing the standards, resolution and ordinance were published on the Council Agendas/Minutes webpage. Videos of the City Council hearing can be accessed at the Midpen Media Center website.

Along with adoption of the recommended resolution and ordinance on a 6-0 vote without modification, the City Council directed staff to engage in federal legislative advocacy, and to return to City Council in a year with a review of the ordinance’s effectiveness and with an updated Ordinance/Resolution that:

  • considers explicit hierarchies of preferred location and preferred type of installation with clarification that applicants must use most preferred solution unless demonstrated to be infeasible, where preferred hierarchies are by zoning type, by local context including characteristics such as visibility, street size and type, and existing foliage, and by installation type; and 
  • provides a clear definition infeasibility as suggested in staff report.  

Additionally, Council directed staff to create a list of city-owned buildings that would be appropriate sites, propose recommended distances from homes and schools and between installations to preserve aesthetics, and return to Council within one year with best practices regarding inspections of antennas.

Updates to the FAQs and other content for this webpage are underway. An archived version of the previous Wireless Communications Facilities webpage is available in the meantime.

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