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Small Cell/Wireless Telecommunications Facilities


What are Small Cell Sites?

As the demand for high-speed wireless networks continues to increase, wireless carriers are working to modernize their networks by installing small cell sites. Cell sites use radio frequencies to connect our technology devices to a wireless network and consist of two cell sizes – macro (traditional) cell sites and small cell sites.

As the names imply, macro sites have a broad coverage area of up to several miles, whereas, small cells can provide additional coverage in smaller geographic areas. Small cells consume less energy than macro sites, and they allow for a more precise installation due to their compact equipment size. Increasing the number of small cells within a community will lead to enhanced data capacity in highly-populated neighborhoods, schools, medical facilities, and improving our emergency communication. As small cells are connected by fiber optics and are able to process large amounts of data – helping to bridge the gap of existing wireless infrastructure that is inadequate, or neighborhoods with high technology usage.

Small cell sites run off independent electrical connections and a network of fiber optic cabling throughout the City. Trenching in the public-right-of-way is needed in order to make the required connection for both power and fiber. These sites have a short-range signal of about 1,000 feet, and may require closer installation to each other for desired network coverage. The cell installation is discreetly placed on existing infrastructure in the public right-of-way (like street lights or utility poles) – allowing for closer installation and stronger signal to our devices.

Who Regulates and Maintains Small Cell Sites?

Wireless networks are a part of a national infrastructure that is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to make data capacity readily available. Therefore, the City shall rely on the FCC to regulate wireless networks’ coverage to assure that wireless providers remain in compliance with federal and state laws.

The City is not responsible for maintaining or funding small cells, as this utility service is provided through network carriers to better provide data capacity citywide. In addition, the City Council approved Long Beach Municipal Code Chapter 15.34, which consists of rules and guidelines regulating the establishment and operation of wireless service facilities within the public right-of-way.

Aesthetic Guidelines

The Department of Public Works prefers the installation of small cell equipment to be on existing or replacement street lights or an existing or replacement structure other than a street light pole or utility pole in the public right-of-way. Installation sites may not be in a center median, obstruct vehicular traffic, or require the removal of a parkway tree. In addition to the City’s aesthetic guidelines, located in the Long Beach Municipal Code Chapter 15.34, an independent study shall be performed from a qualified third party, to ensure the installation site satisfies the Public Health Compliance Standard (set by the FCC).

Appeal Process

Wireless carriers must submit a Tier B Wireless Right-of-Way Facility Permit to the Department of Public Works. Once the department makes their determination to approve a permit, the following steps must occur prior to installation:

  • The applicant must post written notice at the proposed installation site and mail a notice to any person owning property or residing adjacent to or directly across the street from the proposed installation.
  • Any person owning property or residing adjacent to or directly across the street from the proposed installation may appeal the Department of Public Works' decision to approve a permit for the small cell installation.
  • Appellants who wish to appeal must submit a written appeal and a monetary fee of $106.20 to the City Clerk’s office within 10 businesses days from the date the notice was mailed and posted.
  • If an appeal and fee are timely submitted, a public hearing date will be set for the appeal and distributed to the applicant and appellant as well as posted on the City Clerk’s List of Public Notices.
  • Members of the public may attend the hearing and provide public comment.
  • The Hearing Officer shall issue a written resolution containing its determination within 14 business days following the close of evidence of the public hearing on the appeal. The resolution shall include a summary of the evidence and the ultimate determination whether to grant, grant with modifications, or deny the appeal.
  • The City Clerk shall promptly mail a notice of a determination on an appeal to both the applicant and appellant, to any neighborhood association identified by the Department of Development Services for any neighborhood within three hundred (300) feet of the approved wireless telecommunications facility, and to any person who either filed a protest, submitted evidence, or appeared at the hearing, and whose name and address are known to the Department of Public Works.

Please visit the City Clerk's website for a list of public hearings.