Frequently Asked Questions
Where can new small cell antennas be installed?
Small cell wireless antennas and associated equipment can be installed on utility poles within the public right-of-way.
Who owns the utility poles?
The majority of the utility poles, including street lights, in the City of Pacific Grove are owned by Pacific Gas and Electric. The City of Pacific Grove owns street light poles located downtown and in the Candy Cane Lane neighborhood.
Can the City prohibit the installation of wireless facilities on utility poles?
No. Under State law, telecommunications carriers have a right to install wireless facilities on utility poles in the public right-of-way. The City, however, regulated the design, location, and placement of those facilities through Municipal Code Chapter 15.26 (Telecommunications facilities in public rights-of-way). Small cell facilities and antennas are typically placed either midway up the utility pole (side-arm configuration) or on top of a pole (top-mount).
Does the City’s review process address health concerns?
Only in part. Under federal law (1996 Telecommunications Act), the City is prohibited from denying a permit to construct a wireless facility based on health concerns over Radio Frequency (RF) emissions, provided that the emissions from the facility comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards. To assure compliance with FCC standards, the City of Pacific Grove’s Planning Division reviews every application for a wireless facility and requires an RF emissions study for each facility. If the facility is approved and installed, then field testing is required to ensure the facility meets the FCC’s standards. Testing is also required every time a permit is renewed, and every time the site is modified (replacing/adding antennas or equipment) to ensure those modifications will not exceed FCC’s standards.
When an RF report is prepared, it takes into account the location, orientation, and output of the antenna, relative to the nearest publicly-accessible areas, such as balconies, roof decks, and nearby dwellings (including upper stories). If the RF report includes a site where more than one facility is located, the RF report includes output analysis for both. Additionally, the RF emissions at any publicly-accessible area must also comply with standards set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Does the City’s process address the design of the facility?
Yes. The Planning Division works with each applicant for a wireless facility to consider a design that is appropriate for the proposed location. While most of these are co-located with public utilities, each design has its own challenges, such as the overall height of the pole, the amount of utility equipment on the poles and the existing condition of the pole. City staff continually engages with wireless carriers and equipment manufacturers to seek designs that are less intrusive in an effort to better integrate these facilities within the surrounding environment.
Who do these facilities serve and what companies operate them?
The wireless facilities installed on utility poles are primarily intended to serve customers of wireless carriers licensed by the FCC to operate in the City of Pacific Grove including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. You may see signs on the utility poles that identify companies such as Crown Castle (NextG) as the owners of the facilities. These companies are authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to install and operate the wireless facilities on utility poles on behalf of their wireless carrier customers. The CPUC is a distinct State agency which regulates various utilities throughout California but these companies must obtain permits from the City of Pacific Grove.
Do the antennas generate noise?
Generally, no. Some wireless facilities incorporate cooling fans within the equipment cabinets in order to regulate the temperature for the wireless equipment inside. As such, some of the cooling fans may generate a small amount of noise. If an existing system seems to be generating excessive noise, please contact the City’s Community Development Department at 831-648-3183. In some instances, steps can be taken to reduce noise from cooling fans.
What equipment do wireless carriers typically install on utility poles?
A typical wireless facility on a utility pole consists of one or more antennas and one or more equipment boxes. The equipment boxes are usually attached to the pole. While every system varies, the equipment boxes typically included an electric meter, a disconnect switch, and computers to control the antennas. Some wireless facilities also feature an equipment box on the same pole or nearby pole, that contains batteries used to provide temporary emergency power to the facility in case of power outage.
If I have questions about these facilities in my neighborhood, who should I contact?
For general questions about wireless facilities, please contact the counter planner in the City’s Planning Division at 831-648-3183.