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Final Draft Small Wireless Facilities Ordinance

On July 1, 2021 the City of Santa Barbara released the final draft of the Small Wireless Facilities Ordinance, which will be presented to the Ordinance Committee on July 27, 2021 for review and approval and then forward to the City Council. The Ordinance upholds the community’s interest in protecting the City of Santa Barbara’s visual character and contains safety considerations, while at the same time, follows Federal Communications Commission regulations that preempts local zoning discretion.

 The first draft of the Ordinance was released on December 1, 2020, for public review and comment. The City received dozens of comments proposing some changes to the Ordinance. Most of the public comment received has been listed in an attached matrix chart that also provides information on whether the changes were adopted and a brief description as to the basis for the determination.

This Ordinance regulates the placement of Small Wireless Facilities in the public rights-of-way and establishes reasonable and comprehensive standards and procedures as to aesthetics, construction, operation, modification, and removal, for small cell permitting within the City. The regulations also outline the requirements for Small Wireless Facilities application and installation procedures, establishes the City’s location preferences and design standards, and lays out the public notification procedures and appeal process.

PDF Icon Santa Barbara Small Wireless Facilities Draft Ordinance Final Version (4,766 KB)

PDF Icon Santa Barbara Small Wireless Facilities Ord Comment Matrix Final (136 KB)

Public Comment Invited On Draft Small Wireless Facilities Ordinance

On December 1, 2020, the City released the Draft Small Wireless Facilities Ordinance for public comment.  Written comments are invited and will be accepted through January 15, 2021.  Please direct written comments or questions to Assistant City Attorney John Doimas at

A copy of the proposed ordinance is available for download HERE.

The purpose of this Ordinance is to regulate the installation, operation, and maintenance of small wireless telecommunication facilities (“SWF”) on property or structures owned or controlled by the City.  This Ordinance does not regulate SWF installations on private property.  The City recognizes that the unrestricted installation of redundant wireless telecommunication facilities is contrary to the City’s efforts to stabilize to promote safety and aesthetic considerations and a basic residential character within the city.

The following is a brief description of some major provisions contained in the Ordinance:

  • Preferred Location and Discouraged Location provisions that require SWFs to be installed in locations, ordered from most preferred to least preferred located. In addition, SWFs cannot be installed in a Discouraged Location unless no alternative site in a Preferred Location would be technically feasible. These provisions encourage the installation and operation of wireless telecommunication facilities where they are needed, while reducing, to the greatest extent feasible, adverse safety and aesthetic impacts on nearby properties and the community as a whole.
  • The proposed Ordinance also contains a Support Structure Preference, which requires SWFs in the public rights-of-way to be installed on support structures, ordered from most preferred to least preferred.  For example, existing streetlights would be fall under most preferred while decorative poles would be least preferred.
  • All SWFs installed on City property/structures require a permit issued by the Public Works Department.  As part of the Permit application process, the Ordinance contains provisions for a Voluntary Pre-Submittal Conference with City staff to discuss concerns involving the proposed SWF, such as compliance with generally applicable rules for public health and safety and potential concealment issues.  The Ordinance also encourages applicants to notice and schedule Community Meetings.  This voluntary pre-submittal public meeting is intended to give applicants the opportunity to hear from members of the public regarding any proposed deployment of a SWF.
  • The proposed Ordinance contains specific findings the Public Works Department must make in approving a permit application such as:  Complying with all applicable design standards and compatibility with the character of the area; Compliance with all applicable location standards; That the proposed SWF is consistent with the General Plan; and that the proposed SWF is in compliance with all applicable FCC regulations and guidelines for human exposure to RF emissions.
  • The proposed Ordinance also contains design standards that focus on concealment and finishes in order to blend in with the surrounding area and that the SWF must be compliant with City noise regulations.
  • In order to expedite the review process and encourage collaborative designs among applicants, the proposed Ordinance contains a preapproved design standard that the City will develop.  The City also has the ability to repeal a preapproved design and substitute a new one in the future as the technology changes.
  • The proposed Ordinance contains an Indemnification provision and Insurance requirement for all applicants that holds the City harmless and requires the maintenance of insurance on an occurrence basis, with limits set at no less than $1,000,000 per occurrence or $2,000,000 in the aggregate.
  • The proposed Ordinance contains the ability for interested persons(s) to appeal the issuance of a permit for a SWF to City Council.  The issues on appeal are strictly limited, for example, an individual can only appeal that the radio frequency emissions do not comply with the standards under FCC order or can only appeal if the aesthetics of the design do not meet the standards under the ordinance.

Commercial Temporary Eviction Moratorium to End December 31, 2020

On November 17, 2020, the Santa Barbara City Council amended the City's Commercial TEMO to terminate the program on December 31, 2020.  Repayment of deferred rent is required to begin on January 1, 2021, unless other arrangements have been made between landlord and tenant.

A copy of Ordinance No. 5976 is available for download HERE.

CEQA Guidelines Ordinance Proposal

On August 11, 2020, the City Council Ordinance Committee will consider an update to the City's 1991 CEQA Guidelines.  This update includes nearly thirty years of new information, and is  intended to streamline the City's CEQA process.  Please feel free to comment on the Public Review Draft Ordinance Committee Agenda Report, which you will find HERE

Police Civilian Review Systems

On June 9, 2020, the Santa Barbara City Council directed this office to prepare a report explaining Civilian Police Review Systems.  The City Council will discuss this report on July 21, 2020.  Please send comments to the City Council via this EMAIL ADDRESS.

July 3, 2020:  Public Review Draft Report on Civilian Police Review Systems is HERE.

2019 New Legislation Reports

Last Updated: Jul 1, 2021
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