California senate votes for quicker wireless permit decisions

by Steve Blum • , , ,

A fast track for wireless facilities permits is one step closer to reality in California. Assembly bill 57 was approved by the state senate and sent back to the assembly, which needs to either agree with senate amendments or work out compromise language in order for it to be sent on to Governor Jerry Brown.

The senate vote was lopsided and bipartisan – 28 yes, 6 no and 6 abstentions. All of the noes and abstention were on the democratic side of the aisle

If approved, the bill would put teeth in the Federal Communications Commission’s shot clock rules, which essentially give local governments 90 days to approve or deny applications for co-location of additional equipment on existing cellular sites and other wireless facilities, and 150 days for new ones. There are provisions for stopping the clock temporarily, for example while an applicant responds to a request for more information, but once it ticks down, wireless permit applications are deemed approved unless a city or county has taken final action. There’s also a 30 day window for local governments to go to court, in order to make a case that an application shouldn’t be automatically granted.

The most recent legislative analysis points out that the bill doesn’t say that the clock stops if an application gets bogged down in environmental reviews, a popular tool of both nimbys and local governments that are intent on stalling or stopping projects. It’s also silent on the effect of open meeting notice periods and appeals processes. The analysis concludes that local governments…

Face the difficult choice of cutting short these important processes, reducing the time that they have to review applications, or denying permits and facing litigation.

One might say, though, that’s the whole point of the bill.