Tuffree Park Mono-Pine Cell Tower
In response to ever increasing consumer demand for wireless technology, to include increased use of cell phones and heavier reliance on smart phones with data and video capability, wireless carriers are proposing to build more wireless facilities (cell towers). In Placentia, where almost 70% of our land use is residential, City leaders desire to maintain the high quality residential character that makes Placentia such a pleasant place to live.
When siting a new location, wireless carriers respond to consumer complaints about coverage as well as conduct a review of present and future demand. The goal is to handle the level of wireless traffic and provide consistent coverage to users. An additional need is to ensure adequate 911 emergency capability as required by the federal government. The City will work with a carrier to identify a site that meets these needs as well as one that does not degrade our residential quality of life. Sites in commercial or manufacturing zones are strongly encouraged; however, sites within the residential areas are also required to provide adequate coverage.
The City allows wireless sites on public property within the residential zones. Allowing such prevents carriers from erecting cell towers in highly visible areas and in street right-of-ways. Proposed sites are reviewed by staff and, if proposed at a park site, the Parks and Recreation Commission prior to a noticed public hearing before the Planning Commission. In order to reduce the amount of wireless sites, the City encourages co-locating carriers on one site. Additionally, the sites must meet high aesthetic standards in order to better blend antennas into the natural environment. A great example of this is the current wireless tower at Tuffree Park which was designed to resemble a pine tree.
Resident concerns about radio frequency (RF) emissions have been expressed during meetings. RF emissions are essentially radio waves. In technical terms, RF emissions can be described as the electromagnetic field created by a transmitting antenna. RF emissions come from all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and are used to transmit all forms of communication wirelessly: AM and FM radio, television broadcasts, baby monitors, cordless phones, blue tooth sets and, of course, cell phones. The Federal Communications Commission regulates RF emissions and, through the Telecom Act of 1996, prohibits local governments from regulating the placement of wireless facilities based on RF emissions as long as those facilities comply with FCC guidelines. Accordingly, when reviewing a wireless facility, the City’s Planning Commission may only determine whether a wireless facility demonstrates planned compliance with FCC regulations. City code requires that a wireless facility be at least 100 feet away from a residential structure. When possible, more distance is planned by staff. Staff require wireless carriers to stealth, or blend, the proposed facility into the surrounding in which it is proposed. That is, staff may require a pine tree, palm tree or eucalyptus tree-like tower or require that antenna panels match existing building features.