FROM: Planning Staff
SUBJECT: Appeal 05-012 of the Zoning Administrator’s Denial of Use Permit 05-001
Applicant: MMi Titans, Inc. representing Cingular Wireless
Property Owner: Steve and Aryet Demircift
Appellant: Cingular Wireless
Action: Appeal of the Zoning Administrator’s denial of Use Permit 05-001 to construct an unmanned wireless telecommunication facility on a 50-foot tall monopole adjacent to an existing one-story building which would house the associated mechanical equipment.
Recommendation: Deny the appeal and uphold the Zoning Administrator’s determination.
Permit Streamlining Act: Not applicable to an appeal.
subject property is a 2,875 square foot parcel located on the southwest corner
District: CM2 (
Land Use District: Service and Specialty Commercial
Parcel Area: Irregular shaped parcel approximately 32.32’ wide x 80’ length = 2,875 square feet
The applicant seeks a Use Permit to allow the installation of an unmanned wireless telecommunication facility on a 50-foot monopole adjacent to an existing one-story building. The proposed facility consists of three sectors of four antennas each located inside a 16 inch diameter faux flag pole; one GPS antenna and the associated mechanical equipment are proposed within an existing 283 square foot lower roof section of the adjacent building.
The project does not comply with the height, location, or freestanding antenna requirements of Santa Monica Municipal Code (SMMC) Section 9.04.10.06.110(a)(1)-(6). Specifically, although this section of the code permits non-parabolic commercial antennas, it provides for certain regulations and design standards including subsection (2) which prohibits freestanding antennas, i.e. monopoles, in the Main Street Commercial (CM) District; subsection (3) which limits the total number of antennas; and subsection (4) which limits the height of the freestanding antennas to no more that 15’ above the height of the district. Pursuant to SMMC Section 9.04.10.06.110(b), the Zoning Administrator may approve a Use Permit for modifications to the regulations and design standards for non-parabolic commercial antennas.
On August 11, 2005 the Zoning Administrator denied the Use Permit application. On August 24, 2005 the applicant appealed the Zoning Administrator’s determination.
The proposed project is inconsistent with the provisions of the Municipal Code, but is in conformity with the General Plan.
The subject parcel contains a one-story building constructed in 1913 with thirteen surface parking spaces behind the building off the rear alley. The building is listed on the City’s Historic Resources Inventory as a contributor to a potential historic district (5D Main Street District).
The project is categorically exempt from the provisions of CEQA pursuant to Class 3, Section 15303 of the State Implementation Guidelines, in that the project involves installation of telecommunications equipment and facilities. The proposed project was reviewed by the City’s historic resources consultant who concluded that no significant adverse impacts to a historic resource would result from the proposed project because the project was redesigned such that the proposed antennas were no longer located on the building.
The proposed project also complies with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations with respect to RF emissions.
The commercial property is exempt from Rent Control.
The project is not subject to any special Planning related fees.
to SMMC Section 9.04.20.22.050, notice of the public hearing was mailed to all
owners and residential and commercial tenants of property within a 300-foot
radius of the project and was published in the “
The applicant/appellant was informed of the hearing date in writing on October 28, 2005 and again on November 28, 2005.
On March 8, 2005, the Zoning Administrator conducted a public hearing to consider a request to modify Section 9.04.10.06.110(a) of the Zoning Ordinance to allow Cingular Wireless to install a wireless telephone communication facility on the roof of the subject building which consisted of two antenna structures, each with three sectors attached to an eight-inch diameter pole rising 15-feet above the building’s roof parapet and approximately 23.5-feet above the building’s roofline. In addition, the proposed telecommunication facility included four mechanical cabinets located on a lower roof section of the building and one GPS antenna mounted to the south side parapet wall next to an adjoining commercial building. The project was continued by the Zoning Administrator for re-design based upon a conclusion by the City’s historic resources consultant that the proposed project would negatively impact the building which is included in the City’s Historic Resources Inventory.
On May 10, 2005 the Zoning Administrator conducted a second public hearing on a revised project which proposed a wireless telecommunications facility consisting of three sectors of four antennas each located inside a 16-inch diameter, 50-foot faux flag pole to the rear of the building with the GPS antenna and the associated mechanical equipment proposed within an existing 283 square foot lower roof section of the adjacent building.
On August 11, 2004 the Zoning Administrator denied the applicant’s request. The applicant appealed the Zoning Administrator’s denial on August 25, 2005. The appeal is based on the applicant/appellant’s belief that the proposed antennas and related equipment is the least intrusive design that effectively allows transmission and reception for the proposed wireless facility (Attachment A).
The Zoning Administrator found that the proposed 50-foot, 16-inch
diameter monopole was of poor design and did not resemble a flag pole which tapers
at the top. The monopole would detract from the existing
character of the pedestrian-oriented Main Street Commercial District and create
a negative aesthetic impact within the neighborhood.
The Zoning Administrator also found that the applicant/appellant failed to provide sufficient evidence to show that the site is necessary to close a significant gap in coverage or that alternative facilities or sites were infeasible. The applicant/appellant did not demonstrate the hardship necessary to make findings related to topographical conditions, nearby tall structures or other factors that unreasonably obstruct or interfere with effective transmission or reception that would warrant overriding the current design standards within the Main Street Commercial District that limit the height, number and type of antennae proposed. Although the proposed cell site would increase the capacity of the existing telecommunications system, the site would not add coverage to a location that is currently lacking Cingular phone service. As such, the Zoning Administrator determined that the applicant/appellant did not demonstrate a need for the proposed modification and denied the Use Permit request on August 11, 2005. The Zoning Administrator’s Determination is contained in Attachment B.
The appeal is based on the applicant’s claim that the proposed wireless communications facility is of good design, replaces an existing flag pole of the same height with a monopole, and is the least obtrusive means to increase cell capacity in the area (Appeal statement - Attachment A).
to the applicant/appellant, the proposed site was specifically chosen because
the proposed monopole could replace an existing 50-foot flag pole on the site
and the height and transmission capabilities of the proposed design at 50-feet
in height would enhance signal propagation, provide better reception and
increase service capacity along this block of
The applicant/appellant provided staff with a detailed radio frequency (RF) safety compliance study to demonstrate compliance with FCC regulations (Attachment G). Staff commissioned Jonathan Kramer, Kramer.Firm, Inc., a specialized telecommunications technology and policy guidance consultant, to review the RF report and the technological requirements of the project’s design and provide staff with an assessment of the issues raised in the appeal (Attachment F). The Kramer.Firm report concludes that:
· The proposed site will increase the overall network signal strength and in so doing, enhance in-building wireless coverage.
· There is no significant coverage gap at this location.
· A viable and preferable alternative to the single cell site is “cell splitting”, which creates smaller sites (i.e. closer to the ground), but a greater number of cell sites.
· The proposed antennas, although camouflaged, would create a negative aesthetic as sited in a bulky, non-tapering pole of uniform diameter.
· The applicant (Cingular) has met its burden under the FCC rules to demonstrate planned compliance with the Commission’s OET 65 RF safety rules.
The Kramer.Firm report concludes that there is no RF safety concerns upon which the City can or should deny the project as proposed by the applicant; however, with regard to the central issue of compatibility with the Main Street District, the proposed antennas would create a negative aesthetic impact from the poorly designed simulated flag pole.
The KramerFirm also reviewed the proposed project was respect to the height and mass of the proposed antennas. The consultant concluded a minimum height of approximately 35-feet is necessary for adequate transmission and reception of the wireless signals at the subject site, with at least a six to eight foot clear area above the existing obstructions which include buildings, trees, and other objects in the antennas line of sight. However, a reduction in the height of the proposed monopole from 50-feet to 35-feet will require an increase in its diameter from 16-inches to 24-26 inches, making the bulk and mass even greater.
The consultant report also suggests a viable alternative approach to the single-site location which is used for cell service expansion in other mature markets. The alternative would employ two (or more) smaller cell sites to serve the desired coverage area, with each of the multiple sites using antennas much closer to ground level. This type of application typically uses either a distributed antenna system (DAS) or a cell repeater system. This alternative is preferable in that these sites would not create the same negative aesthetic impact as the proposed single site 50-foot monopole.
Staff believes the project would create a negative aesthetic impact in the area since the monopole towers above the existing one-story, 18-foot high building and does not adequately resemble a flag pole. Although the applicant/appellant proposes to replace an existing 50-foot flag pole, 10-inches in diameter with a 16-inch, 50-foot high monopole the monopole does not taper and resemble the proportions of a typical flag pole. In addition, the existing flag pole is legal, non-conforming and the Zoning Ordinance does not authorize the replacement of a legal, non-conforming structure with a new non-conforming structure. The proposed monopole is not the least intrusive means referred to in the FCC regulations in the siting of the antennas.
The proposed monopole/flag
pole is located at a visually prominent corner in the City’s pedestrian
oriented Main Street District, and this location requires a sensitive solution
when locating an unmanned wireless telecommunications facility. As depicted in the photographs in Attachment D
and photo simulations in Attachment G, the monopole would be visible from all
directions including sidewalks, streets, neighboring buildings, the public
metered parking area and most prominently, along a public pedestrian path near
the proposed site that leads to the beach from
The unique character and aesthetics of the district is also acknowledged
by the City’s adoption of the Main Street Master Plan. This document was adopted in November 1991 and
called for special design and streetscape standards to preserve its pedestrian
friendly “village-like” atmosphere, including the removal of utility poles and
the under-grounding of utilities within the
The Zoning Ordinance
permits monopoles by-right in all commercial districts except the Main Street
Commercial District, the RVC Residential-Visitor Commercial District and the C2
Neighborhood Commercial District where a Use Permit is required. The Use Permit requirement affords the
project a discretionary review by the Zoning Administrator and Planning
Commission on appeal and is a reflection of the unique aesthetic character of
Staff supports the Zoning
Administrator’s determination that the proposed design would create a
negative aesthetic impact in the area and that the applicant/appellant has not
sufficiently demonstrated the need for the wireless communications facility as
designed and proposed. The proposed 50-foot monopole would negatively impact
the area’s aesthetic character due to the monopole’s height, mass and bulk,
especially considering the building’s visually prominent location at the corner
Other than the recommended action, the Planning Commission may:
· Deny Appeal 05-012 based on revised findings and or conditions or,
· Approve Appeal 05-012 based upon revised findings.
It is recommended that the Planning Commission deny Appeal 05-012 and uphold the Zoning Administrator’s denial of Use Permit 05-001 based upon the following findings:
USE PERMIT FINDINGS
physical location or placement of the use on the site is not compatible with
and does not relate harmoniously to the surrounding neighborhood. Specifically,
the proposed monopole is not consistent with the character and aesthetic of
The subject site is within the CM-2
Main Street Commercial district, which has a maximum building height of 27
feet. The monopole would extend to a height of 50 feet, 23 feet higher than the
allowable height of the district and, therefore, is not consistent with the
height standards prescribed for monopoles. The proposed monopole is
freestanding and visible in part from
Non-parabolic Antenna Findings
(b) Section 9.04.10.06.110 of the Santa Monica Municipal Code (SMMC) permits non-parabolic commercial antennas but provides for certain regulations and design standards including subsection (2) which prohibits freestanding antennas, i.e. monopoles, in the Main Street Commercial (CM) District; subsection (3) which limits the total number of antennas; and subsection (4) which limits the height of the freestanding antennas to no more than 15’ above the height of the district. The applicant can request under subsection (b), to modify all of the above conditions if nearby tall structures or other factors unreasonably obstruct or otherwise interfere with effective transmission or reception of the type desired and the case of such obstruction or interference was not created by the applicant. Therefore, the applicant has the burden of proof for such hardship and it is incumbent upon them to document with substantive findings of fact that an alternate proposal would not meet the intended need for service. The applicant’s proposal includes a request to modify three of the design standards submitted with a proposal for a 50 foot monopole, sixteen inches in diameter mounted with panel antennas inside, four per sector, 3 sectors total. The first standard prohibits freestanding antennas in the CM2 District. In addition to the monopole, one global positioning system (GPS) antenna would be mounted on the building adjacent to the associated equipment cabinets, therefore the total number of antennas exceed the number allowed under the above noted non-parabolic commercial antennae requirements. The applicant has not demonstrated the hardship necessary to make the findings overriding the current design standards within the Main Street Commercial District that limit the height, number and type of antennae proposed. The applicant has also provided insufficient evidence to show that the site is necessary to close a significant gap or those alternative facilities or sites are infeasible. Therefore they have failed to demonstrate the necessity of locating the commercial antennas at the proposed site.
The antenna structure is not
consistent with the overall height, aesthetics, and designs typical of
Prepared by: Gina Szilak, Assistant Planner
A. Appellant’s Statement of Appeal
B. Zoning Administrator’s Determination
C. Notice of Public Hearing, and Radius and Location Map
D. Consultant’s Report dated February 28, 2005 (Secretary of the Interior’s Standards)
E. Historic Resources Inventory (DPR) Main Street District
F. Consultant’s analysis of the RF report dated December 17, 2005
G. Photographs of the Subject Property, Photo Simulation, Project Plans and Cingular’s radio frequency (RF) report