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  • Reinette Senum

How a Telecom Bill is About to Strip Local Authority

On March 17th, the City of Nevada City received an alarming letter from the League of California Cities (LCC). The League, a consortium of California cities that influence policy decisions, sent an Action Alert putting all cities on notice about a bill that would ultimately usurp all local control in regard to wireless and small cell telecommunications. i.e. cell towers and antennas installations.

As stated in the letter, “This proposal would prohibit local discretionary review of “small cell” wireless antennas, including equipment, located on existing structures, located on new poles, structures, or non-poll structures. The proposal preempts adopted local land use plans by mandating that “small cells” be allowed in all zones as the use by right, including all residential zones.”

This bill also includes a de facto exemption of CEQA, California Environmental Quality Act, precluding all public consideration “such as aesthetics, nuisance, and environmental impacts of these facilities, all of which are particularly important.”


Don’t even THINK for a second that you will be able to bring up health concerns to our elected officials: whether they human or animal. Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that prohibits state and local governments from denying permit applications for cellular towers based upon the environmental effects of RFR (radiofrequency radiation including microwave radiation).

The FCC then issued a rule consistent with the Telecommunications Act: “No State or local government… may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the regulations contained in this chapter concerning the environmental effects of such emissions.”

That’s right. Since 1996, when this telecommunications bill was enacted, a gag order has been placed upon the American people regarding negative health impacts and safety concerns due to cell towers. This is why we have seen such an incredible proliferation of cell towers throughout the American landscape; not because they are safe and do no harm, but because we legally can’t discuss or make decisions based upon the negative health impacts even though The World Health Organization officially classifies electromagnetic radiation a possible 2B carcinogen: The same category as lead, DDT, and styrene.

Studies have shown that individuals living near these cell towers have measured reductions in serotonin and melatonin levels, threefold increase in cancer, fatigue, sleep disturbance, headaches, concentration problems, depression, memory problems, durability, cardiovascular problems, hearing disruption, skin problems, dizziness, etc.


It was after the City of Nevada City and City Councilman Duane Strawser (who is our city’s LCC representative) received the LLC’s Action Alert that Strawser called Senator Bill Dodd (co-author of the bill), Senator Ted Gaines, and other representatives. For some of these representatives, Strawser’s phone call was the moment they were first informed about SB 649. They had no idea that this bill had been quietly tucked within the other 135 bills the California legislature is considering.

If SB 649 goes through nearly every single lamppost and telephone pole along your street is going to be strapped with a 5G antenna and nobody will have any say about this. It is the actual intention of the telecom industry to install these “small cells” along all of our roads and on structures including commercial and even residential buildings. With the passing of SB 649 you and I will have no choice in having one of these cell antennas attached to the exterior of our very homes, possibly right next to our beds, and without our consent.

This bill is a Pandora's box for local authority. This sets a very dangerous precedent that opens the door for any other corporation to come into our California communities and squash local government control in order to deploy any kind of corporate undertaking without the public's or elected official’s consent.


We can’t be a surprise that one of the largest (if not the) recipient of telecommunication industry is Senator Ben Hueso, San Diego (D), who is responsible for proposing SB 649 as well as slipping it quietly among the other proposed legislation. The bill is co-authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D), San Francisco Bay and Delta regions, and I would imagine he too is a large recipient of the telecommunication lobbyists.

Ultimately, Hueso and Dodd are throwing every man, woman, and child (and even our bees) under the bus for unabated control of our communities by the telecommunications industry.

This proposal is unconstitutional. It prohibits all local authority to deny the leasing or licensing of publicly owned property except for a few sites such as fire stations.

The LCC also noted “this bill strips local government of the authority to protect the quality of life for residents to protect public property in the public right-of-way from relatively unconstrained access by small cells.”

The League concluded, “under this proposal, local governments would be required to give preferential treatment to one industry that has received the “most favored nation” status under the state law (Note: A “most favored nation” clause is a level of status given to one country (or corporation) by another and enforced by the World Trade Organization. ... Countries achieving most favored nation status are given specific trade advantages, such as reduced tariffs on imported goods.). No justification is provided for why this is necessary. This bill strips local government of the authority to protect the quality of life of our residents, and to protect public property and the public right-of-way from relatively unconstrained access by small cells.

Local governments typically encourage new technology into their boundaries because of its potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for the residents. However, this proposal goes too far by requiring local governments to approve “small cells” in all land-use zones, including residential zones, to a ministerial permit, thereby shutting the public out of decisions that could affect the aesthetics of the community and the quality of their environment.”


I know we don't need another fight on our plate, but this is one of those Pandora Boxes that we must do everything in our power to keep closed. I cannot stress how important it is that each and every single one of us pick up the phone and, at the very least, call the following numbers. Call them every day if you can.

On Tuesday, April 4th at 9am, the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Commerce will be holding a public hearing on SB 649. Nevada City city staff, councilmembers and I intend to testify at this hearing to protect Nevada City’s historic district because it is completely under threat.

Here's your call list to ask our representatives to kill SB 649

Before April 4th, we need a massive phone, text & email campaign to ward off this bill. We must bombard our elected officials’ efforts and let them know that this is a massive property rights violation, threatens our historic district, our right to privacy, as well as destroys local control over our cities and counties.

When communicating to our representatives do not talk about negative health impacts. There's a good chance they may hang up on you…. And I wish I were kidding.

Here are the LCC Talking Points:

  • This proposal shifts local land-use authority away from local governments and puts it squarely into the hands of private interests with complete disregard for any public input.

  • Governments have a responsibility to protect the quality of life for residents and to protect public property in the public right-of-way.

  • Local governments typically encourage new technology into the communities, but this proposal goes too far, shutting the public out of decisions that can affect their daily quality-of-life.

We weren’t supposed to see this bill, but miraculously, it was uncovered by the League of California Cities. It’s now our responsibility to stop it!

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