Despite recent federal restrictions that prevent local jurisdictions from regulating the deployment of 5G technology, Marin has drafted an ordinance to exercise as much aesthetic and procedural control as possible for the unincorporated area of the county—a response to hundreds of residents who voiced concerns about health effects earlier this year.  

The public has the rest of June to review and comment on the draft, which the Board of Supervisors plans to review on July 9. 

A collaborative effort between Supervisors Damon Connolly and Dennis Rodoni, county counsel and Community Development Agency staff, the ordinance foremost establishes location preferences and design standards. It tasks the C.D.A. with overseeing implementation, determines application procedures, and covers the appeal process. 

5G, the fifth generation of mobile networks rolling out worldwide, presents an entirely new set of challenges, including that its limited-coverage antennas must be established close to users in a dense network. Marin’s draft rules select industrial, commercial or agricultural sites, or sites near public facilities, as preferred locations for the antennas; residential and mixed-use sites and areas within 1,500 feet of schools and daycare centers are the least-preferred locations.

The draft favors placing antennas on existing street poles or traffic lights, versus new poles or small cell facilities. It limits antennas to one per pole and stipulates they must be at least 1,000 feet apart. It also includes aesthetic requirements that aim to blend equipment, and prohibits equipment on historic buildings. 

The director of the C.D.A. will be responsible for issuing small cell wireless permits. All applications for attachment to existing support structures must be authorized by property owners and, in most cases, include an encroachment permit. The draft defers appeals directly to the Board of Supervisors. 

The draft is a response to rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last September that establish stringent deadlines for local governments to process small wireless applications, largely prevent them from requiring the equipment to be routed underground, and limit the amount of fees they can charge for the use of public utility poles or for installation. 

At a workshop in February held to discuss 5G, nearly 200 residents urged supervisors to do everything within their power to push back. The overwhelming majority expressed concerns over health impacts, citing a range of studies that outline risks from electromagnetic fields and radio-frequency radiation.

“We have tried to address as many community concerns as we could within the legal requirements of the F.C.C.,” Supervisor Rodoni told the Light this week. “Unfortunately, health issues could not be considered under federal regulations.”


Find the draft on the Community Development Agency’s page on the county’s website under “Next Generation (5G) Communications.”