Small Cells

Image of three small cell towers

What's a Small Cell Wireless Facility?

Small Cell facilities are low-powered antennas that provide cellular and data coverage to smaller geographic areas, supplementing the larger cellular network and improving service for wireless customers. Traditionally, wireless antennas and equipment were primarily installed on large towers located on the rooftops of private and public buildings.  In recent years, wireless services companies increasingly seek to install small wireless facilities in the public rights-of-way on wooden utility poles, streetlights, and new poles. Current predictions indicate that the next wave of wireless facility deployment (5G) will involve as much as $275 billion in investment over the next decade, with the vast majority of these new facilities anticipated to be placed in the public right-of-way. 

Proposed City of Santa Rosa Small Cell Development Standards Ordinance 

The City of Santa Rosa is currently in the process of developing a comprehensive set of codes, standards and submittal requirements associated with the placement of wireless facilities in the public right-of-way. A proposed resolution and ordinance, amending Santa Rosa City Code Title 13 and adopting development standards, will be presented to City Council on June 29, 2021.

The proposed ordinance will focus on the placement, design, installation, construction, maintenance and operation of wireless facilities in the City’s rights-of-way in a manner that considers the aesthetic and public health and safety requirements of the City.  The ordinance will also address the type of wireless facilities that are exempt, permitted, conditionally permitted and prohibited within the City’s public right-of-way and place a specific focus on the following areas:

Ability to amend requirements efficiently. 

State and Federal law associated with wireless infrastructure can change fairly rapidly and it is critical for local agencies to maintain flexibility and ensure that they are receiving the most useful and appropriate information available through the permitting process.  The proposed ordinance will authorize the City to publish permit application requirements on a separate form that can be amended administratively, as well as update from time to time its design and location standards for such deployments. The application information collected can include demonstrating compliance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards and fire safety standards.

Transparency and notice. 

The proposed ordinance will contain public notice requirements to maintain transparency and provide residents and property owners with notice of pending wireless encroachment permit decisions, as well as the opportunity to appeal such decisions.

Compliance with shot clocks. 

The FCC has created shot clocks that specify the maximum number of days that a City can take to act on an application for a new wireless facility. The proposed ordinance will establish an administrative process for taking action on small cell applications in order to ensure that the review process can be completed within the 60 or 90 day shot clock.   Generally, the proposed review process will be limited to ensuring that applications for new wireless facilities are consistent with the City’s wireless facility regulations, design and location standards, and any applicable state and federal laws.


The proposed ordinance will create an expedited administrative appeal process in order to maintain consistency with Federal Law.  The appeal process must operate within the applicable FCC shot clock periods, which as noted above are quite short.

During the Council meeting on the 29th, the Planning and Economic Development Department will also be presenting a recommended resolution to establish specific design and development standards for the placement of wireless facilities within the public right-of-way. The design and development standards will set forth specific construction and placement requirements that will attempt to balance the deployment of wireless facilities and associated wireless support structures in the public right-of-way to protect fast reliable cellular coverage and capacity, while preserving the character, safety and aesthetics of the City’s streetscape.  Although local agencies are responsible for siting wireless facilities, their authority is limited by various State and Federal laws.  The presentation on the 29th will focus on the major relevant State and Federal laws associated with wireless facilities and identify the areas where local authority over wireless siting is limited.

Learn More, Ask Questions

In order to learn more about the future City Council items related to wireless facilities in the public right-of-way or to provide any initial questions or comments to staff regarding wireless facility deployments, contact Gabe Osburn at (707) 543-3853 or

View Map of Locations of Small Cell Towers that are Permitted or In-Review

A map of City of Santa Rosa Encroachment Permits that are in review, issued or completed for small cellular towers is available for public viewing. Small cell sites located in county islands or otherwise outside of City limits are not included with this map. VIEW MAP

Past and Upcoming Meetings

Meeting Date
Type of Meeting / Resources
June 29, 2021Public Hearing: Ordinance regulating wireless facilities in the public right-of-way and resolution adopting design and development standards for such facilities
Agenda Information and related documents will be published in the legislative portal prior to the hearing
December 10, 2019
Study Session: Small Cell Deployments (Street Lights & Joint Utility Poles)
City Council Video
Small Cell Presentation 
Small Cell Staff Report
March 6, 2018
Study Session: Small Cell Cellular Network Deployment 
City Council Video 
February 14, 2017
City Council: Amendment to Council Policy 300-04 Telecom Facilities in City Right of Way
City Council Video
Verizon Informational Brochure - Santa Rosa