The San Ramon City Council met Tuesday evening for a discussion of the influx of applications for small cell wireless facilities, as council members and residents debated the city’s next steps with regard to processing applications via an outside contractor.
In response to new rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the public hearing presented a resolution to allocate funds for a contract with First Carbon Solutions to assist the city in processing the applications of small cell wireless facilities in a timely manner, which was approved in a 5-0 vote.
Mayor Bill Clarkson said, “It’s very bothersome that they (the FCC) would have a mandate to force us to do this and make us do it sort of cost per year. In fact if they were to have several hundred of these applications or more, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars that are not currently in the budget.”
This sentiment was echoed by the three residents who spoke: Greg Carr, Jim Blickenstaff and Danny Keller.
Carr stated, “They are dictating to us that they don’t care if there is a potential health risk long-term.... Why aren’t we taking action against them, at least on the basis that this doesn’t pay the way? What it is doing is just having us, all of us in the room who live here, pay for their right to put up their equipment when some of us don’t want to have it or question it. So, it seems to me that it would be right for some legal action to try to take them on.”
The issue at hand during the meeting was a request for the city to reallocate $140,000 from the general fund to the Community Development Department, in order for the process small cell wireless facilities applications within the time-frame mandated by the FCC.
Last year, the FCC adopted new rules limiting local authority to regulate small wireless facilities. The rules went into effect at the start of 2019 and required cities to process applications more quickly, in line with national standards.
The City Council adopted a new policy at the end of last month and is now expecting a large number of small cell applications to be filed by Verizon and Extenet. In anticipation of these applications, city staff proposed contracting with First Carbon Solutions to assist with processing.
The council members seemed to be in agreement with the residents, acknowledging their concerns about the health and safety of small cell wireless facilities backed by the federal government and stating their exasperation with the requirement that the city pay to meet federal demands. However, the council members ruled in favor of the resolution in question, tabling the conflict between the city and the FCC for a later time.
“It is in our best interest to have the city work through these 70-plus applications and without the staff to do that work, this company can provide that expertise that we may not have on hand at the time we need it. And so in the absence of a contract with a group like this, we are at risk of effectively having applications approved without our consent,” Vice Mayor Scott Perkins said.
In other business
* The council welcomed five new city employees: administrative analyst Anita Watanuki, public works employees Darin Fitzpatrick and Brandon Thompson, building inspector Josh DeMello and communications and engagement analyst Simone Finney.
* All five council members voted to approve the resolution to change the street name from Purdue Road to Faria Preserve Parkway.
* The resolution to execute an agreement with O’Grady Paving, Inc. to carry out the Crow Canyon Road pavement rehabilitation project for at most $1,489,175 was also approved unanimously by the council, along with a reallocation of $50,000 from the aforementioned project to the pavement management 2019 project.
* City Manager Joe Gorton gave an overview of upcoming events, including active shooter training with the police department and the fire district at California High School next Tuesday (July 30) and a National Night Out on Aug. 6.
Gorton also acknowledged the police department for making a hate crime arrest, identifying the suspect through social media outreach.
* Valarie Lee, intern for Councilmember Sabina Zafar, proposed the implementation of a “Youth Week,” in accordance with the national celebration traditionally taking place in May, and was referred to the Teen Council.
Angelica Armesto, another intern for Zafar, proposed the implementation of a multicultural film festival in San Ramon and was referred to the inclusiveness committee.