City Council Hears Public’s Concerns Over Wireless Facility Installations - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

City Council Hears Public’s Concerns Over Wireless Facility Installations

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 2:46 pm | Updated: 3:01 pm, Thu Jun 13, 2019.

Several facets of the telecommunications issues facing the City of Coronado were heard, reviewed and discussed during the City Council meeting of June 4, 2019. Half of the four-hour meeting dealt with the issue, via a unique two-part contrasting presentation, sprinkled with input from concerned residents.

The topic kicked off with brief remarks and then a question-and-answer session with Kevin McGee, AT&T Mobility Area Manager for New Site Builds in San Diego, Los Angeles and Hawaii. He was accompanied by Richard Porras, AT&T Assistant Vice President of External Affairs. McGee opened his remarks by apologizing for not being in attendance at the May 21, 2019, meeting when the topic of four cell tower sites was approved by the City Council.

McGee reported there are currently four AT&T macro-cell sites in the city, located on top of Sharp Hospital, the Rite Aid store on Orange Avenue, the Fire Station tower and one of top of the Coronado Beach Resort Hotel. Short-term, AT&T has plans to add 10 small cell sites in the city, with three locations previously approved, the four from the May 21st meeting and three site requests that have not been presented to the city for review. There are also two cell sites being installed at North Island, and one at the Naval Amphibious Base. One additional small cell site is proposed on Port of San Diego property at Tidelands Park. All of the applications noted above are for 4G transmissions and McGee said there were no 5G sites proposed for now.

When asked about future plans for 5G sites, McGee said, “We will require additional equipment and we may use the 4G sites we have today, or we may have to go to other locations. Generally speaking, we’ll use the same location. We don’t know how many sites will be needed until we know the use. It depends on the amount of users, and how much our users use their phones, download movies and are on Facebook. That eats a lot of data.”

McGee described the process of determining where cell sites would be added. “About three times a year, engineers do a scrub of usage on the network, determining how much usage there is, whether it is trending up, is stable or going down. They make an estimate of where the usage will be two years out, because it takes us 18 months to obtain permits.”

Seven citizens spoke to the possible medical ramifications of cellphone towers or related issues. Mayor Richard Bailey acted as the moderator, taking notes of specific points raised by the residents and then asking questions of the AT&T reps. Questions from the public regarding cell site issues can be directed to Porras at RP3124@att.com.

The other side of the telecommunications equation was represented by Dr. Jonathan L. Kramer, Senior Partner, Telecom Law Firm P.C., which is located in San Diego and Los Angeles. Kramer, in addition to holding a PhD in Public Policy, is also an attorney who represents municipalities for telecom issues. He is also an engineer who is conversant with the technology of cell sites.

During the course of his presentation and subsequent follow-up questions from the city council and the public, Kramer said the Federal Communications Commission, is a strong advocate for the telecommunications industry and does not serve as a traditional government regulatory body. If you understand that concept, you begin to understand the heavy-handed regulations emanating from Washington, D.C. on this topic.

Kramer said due to FCC regulations, cities can only be plaid $270 per year for the use of a small cell site; only $100 to process all applications; the ‘shot clock’ governing the amount of time a city has to review an application has dropped from 30 days to 10; and new height limits for cell sites has increased to 50 feet. Essentially city staffs throughout the country have to do more work in less time, creating a form of public-private unfunded mandate.

Kramer said of Coronado City Ordinance 29, which was passed March 14, 2019, “Coronado is way ahead of the game on this. Through the ordinance we have location standards, discouraged locations and design standards. You have a well-crafted set of policies that doesn’t invite litigation because you have gone too far (in crafting the ordinance). It’s a fair policy that works.”

Later in the discussion, City Manager Blair King asked Kramer if Ordinance 29 reached the level of a Best Industry Practice. Kramer replied, “You have a strong and defensible approach for this that doesn’t trigger the (legal) tripwire. Some municipalities have gone further, and we will see how they survive after being sued. Within Ordinance 29 we have the ability to modify standards if they change. I don’t want to see you in litigation that doesn’t have a likelihood of success because we have gone too far.”

Councilmembers Marvin Heinze and Mike Donovan asked numerous questions of Kramer. The City Council accepted Kramer’s presentation by a 3-0 vote (Councilmembers Bill Sandke and Whitney Benzian were not in attendance) and added they would follow up with Dr. Kramer regarding future policies.

Due to the length of the meeting, we’ll go to a bullet point format to cover the other main topics of the meeting. Council actions included:

• Ceremonial presentations aren’t typically covered in City Council columns, but one of note occurred at the June 4, 2019 meeting. That was a Mayoral Proclamation and Key to the City Presentation to retiring Assistant City Manager Tom Ritter. June 4, 2019 was also proclaimed Tom Ritter Day in Coronado. Ritter, who has an aridly dry sense of humor, began his remarks by wishing those in attendance Happy Tom Ritter Day. He acknowledged the contributions of three senior staff members who had served with Ritter during his 10 years in Coronado, City Clerk Mary Clifford, Recreation and Golf Services Director Roger Miller and City Engineer Ed Walton. Ritter is concluding a 32-year career in municipal government.

• By moving the item to the Consent Calendar, the City Council approved the FY 2019-20 Annual Budget; set the Annual Appropriations Limit; and approved both the Policy on Fund Balance and Size, and the Use of the Committed Fund Balance.

• City Manager King called the Council’s and the Public’s attention to a four and one-half page letter sent to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority regarding the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan that unless changed, will negatively impact the City of Coronado. The letter said in part, “The adoption of the ALUCP would make the city’s General Plan, and applicable specific plans inconsistent with the ALUCP. The city is a built-out community that is consistent with the underlying General Plan. The city’s exiting land uses have not changed in decades and are not planned to change. The ALUCP has a planning horizon of 2020 only and is not an appropriate ‘long range master plan’ to serve as the foundation for the ALUCP. As such, the project description is flawed from the outset.” The balance of the letter challenges the Airport Authority in eight separate areas, including ‘Environmental impacts associated with limiting development of single family and multiple family residential units within ALUCP safety zones.’ The complete text of King’s letter can be found online on the city’s website, under Agenda Item 7, City Manager Report.

• By an unanimous 3-0 vote, the Council approved a resolution revising the greens fee schedule at the Coronado Municipal Golf Course. The concept was supported by the City’s Golf Course Advisory Commission.

• The council voted to fill one at-large vacancy on the Discover Coronado (CTID) Board. Local restaurateur David Spatafore won the nomination.

• The final agenda item of the meeting was supposed to be the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process that could see the City of Coronado responsible and legally bound to create between 1,000 and 1,800 new housing units in the city over an eight-year span. At the suggestion of Bailey, the council continued the item to the June 18, 2019, meeting. The feeling was the full council should be in attendance when the issue was discussed. Donovan said, “This item will have a devastating impact on the city. In my view, this is the biggest thing on our plate right now.” Bailey said, “I agree, and we’ll include this on the agenda for our next meeting.”

The next meeting of the Coronado City Council will be held June 18, 2019, at 4 pm. City Council meetings are held at City Hall, located at 1825 Strand Way in Coronado.

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