Wireless Communication Facilities

Wireless Communication Facilities (WCF) are governed by Division 17.46 of the Piedmont City Code, as well as state and federal law. This division is a part of Chapter 17 of the City Code (PDF) which expresses the belief of Piedmont residents that it is in the welfare of all residents to preserve the beauty and architectural heritage of the City's housing stock, the mature vegetation, and the tranquility and privacy which now exist. The City's Planning & Building Department is responsible for processing applications for wireless communication facilities and working directly with the Planning Commission and City Council regarding review and consideration of the applications. 

Wireless Communication Facility permits ______________________________________________________________________________________________
Draft Wireless Communication Facilities Design Standards

City staff has prepared draft amendments to the Piedmont Design Guidelines to create a new Chapter 8, entitled "Wireless Communication Facilities." The draft WCF Design Standards are available here: Piedmont WCF Draft Design Standards.pdf

The September 13, 2021 Planning Commission staff report is here: Staff Report for WCF Design Standards - 9-13-2021.pdf

The staff report presented to the Planning Commission May 10, 2021 introducing the format and public engagement for the WCF Design Standards is available here:
WCF Update - Staff Report May 2021.pdf

GST Macrocell Tower 2021

On February 1, 2021, Rick Hirsch, on behalf of Gulf South Towers (GST), filed a WCF Permit application to replace the existing T-Mobile telecommunications tower at 898 Red Rock Road, site of the Piedmont Corporation Yard, with a new 95-foot-tall telecommunications tower. Pursuant to Chapter 17 of the City Code, proposed telecommunications towers must be reviewed by both the Planning Commission and City Council at public hearings. The proposed replacement tower application under review by the City includes the following plans and materials: 

 For more information, please contact Applicant Rick Hirsch, at [email protected] or Piedmont Senior Planner Pierce Macdonald-Powell at [email protected].


On November 18, 2019, the City approved 17 small wireless facilities in the public right-of-way (see more information in the Crown Castle section, below). The following FAQs were developed from the questions raised in correspondence received by staff about the Crown Castle small cell wireless facilities. The FAQs are intended to clarify some of the concerns in the Piedmont community.

FAQs about the 2019 Crown Castle WCF Permit Applications

Learn more about the City's policies and procedures regarding Wireless Communications Facilities:

Distributed Antenna System Applications in the Public Right-of-Way

Federal Communications Commission Action

On September 26, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved sweeping new rules that require cities and local jurisdictions across the U.S.A. to allow small cell and distributed antenna system (DAS) wireless communication facilities on streets, roadways, sidewalks, landscape strips, and the public right-of-way, near homes, parks, and schools. The approved FCC rules will require cities to accept any number of small cell antennas, so long as they are 3 cubic feet each, and equipment, so long as it is 28 cubic feet or less. Under the approved rules, cities and local jurisdictions must make publically-owned structures available for small cell and DAS installations and approved FCC rules limit the amounts that local jurisdictions can charge for leases and fees. The newly approved rules apply to the City of Piedmont. The FCC webpage provides information about the approved rules at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-353962A1.pdf. Click to read the City of Piedmont's September 17, 2018 letter opposing the proposed rules.

The City of Piedmont joined a coalition of dozens of local governments across the nation that are appealing these new rules. Click to read the October 16, 2018 Press Release Anncouncing Piedmont's Appeal of FCC Rules as well as the October 24, 2018 Filed Appeal Document.

City Council Study Session

The City Council held a study session on the legal constraints and best practices for wireless communication facilities in the public right-of-way on April 17, 2018.

At the study session, Council received detailed descriptions of federal and state restrictions on the City’s authority to regulate wireless facilities, particularly those located in the public rights-of-way as well as information on the types of technology and services expected in the near future. Presentations were received from independent technical consultant Lee Afflerbach of CTC Technology and Energy and Harriet Steiner of the Law Firm of Best, Best, and Krieger.

Study Session Documents & Information

To receive updates about wireless communication facilities, please send an email to [email protected] and reference WCF in the subject line.

Many Piedmonters addressed the City Council, shared information, and asked questions directed toward staff and the City’s consultants. At the conclusion of the study session, the City Council directed staff to prepare draft changes to the Wireless Communication Facilities Ordinance with continued public participation. The City Council encouraged Piedmonters to also express their concerns regarding wireless communication facilities to state and federal elected officials. To contact your state and federal legislators, please visit see the Federal, State, & County Officials & Representatives Page.

Wireless Communication Facilities Open House

On October 17, 2018, the City of Piedmont hosted a community open house for the Wireless Communication Facilities Code Revisions project. Approximately 30 people attended. Participants were asked to “gallery walk” and comment on photos of a variety of wireless communication facilities in Piedmont, Oakland, San Francisco, and in other communities. Some of the facilities received positive comments and some received only negative comments. Participants were asked to provide feedback to the City in the form of a resident survey.

Information about the FCC small wireless facilities order on September 26, 2018 and the City Council’s decision to appeal the order were provided to participants. Information about regulations used by other cities, such as Concord, Rancho Palos Verdes, and San Francisco, was provided. Before the open house, staff held presentations and discussions about the project and open house at public meetings with the Planning Commission, Park Commission, Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee, and PUSD Board of Education. In addition, staff made announcements at the Public Safety Commission and Recreation Commission, informed residents through emails and flyers, and staffed a table at the Harvest Festival.

The gallery walk posters are posted below to continue to ask for feedback from the Piedmont community. All of the responses and comments will reported back to the City Council and Planning Commission and used as staff prepares draft amendments to the Wireless Communication Facilities Ordinance which will be presented to the Planning Commission and the Council.

Reference Documents

The American Planning Association offered a training on the basics of wireless communication facilities and recent case law on July 27, 2017. The training was recorded and is available at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WsOnJyCxHI

On August 21, 2017, the City Council received a presentation from the Jonathan Kramer of the Telecom Law Firm, entitled "Wireless Technology and Regulatory Setting Update." Presentation from Telecom Law Firm to Piedmont City Council on August 21, 2017.

Crown Castle NG West Law Suit

On December 2, 2019, Crown Castle filed to dismiss its lawsuit, per the terms of the settlement agreement, described below. On November 18, 2019, the City approved 17 wireless facilities in the public right-of-way.

At its December 17, 2018 regular meeting, the Piedmont City Council approved a proposed settlement in the law suit filed against the City by Crown Castle NG West LLC challenging the Council’s denial of applications for five wireless communication facility (WCF) sites and conditional approval of three other sites. A ninth site, which was conditionally approved by the Council, was not included in the suit.

The approved settlement agreement, which is the product of over eight months of mediation between Crown Castle and the City of Piedmont, provides that Crown Castle will file new applications for the eight original sites and ten additional sites. The additional sites are included because the applications will be deleting the 700 MHz radios for which they previously applied. Instead they will use only 1900 and 2100 MHz bandwidths which would serve the same area as the original proposal. Elimination of the 700 MHz radios allows for smaller antennas and radios. Fifteen of the sites are proposed for existing utility pole sites. Antennas will be located at the top of the pole and will be three feet in height. The radios will be mounted on the poles. The antennas and the radios will be concealed within shrouds. There are a few utility poles with different designs to address site specific site issues and to eliminate or reduce impacts on City trees. Three sites will be on City light poles with two foot antennas and above ground mounted cabinets.

The approved settlement agreement provides for smaller antennas and radios, be mounted higher on poles, reducing visual clutter, and have less or no impact on City trees. These applications will go through the normal City hearing process applicable to the particular site. If approved, Crown Castle will dismiss its lawsuit against the City. If not approved, the lawsuit will proceed.

It is important to note that the settlement agreement does not approve the installation of any new wireless sites in Piedmont. Crown Castle must submit applications for a Wireless Communication Facilities Permit for all the sites included in the settlement agreement. The Planning Commission reviews and makes a recommendation to the City Council regarding approval or denial of applications for all new sites. The City Council then considers all applications and make a final decision.

Crown Castle 2017 and 2019 Wireless Distributed Antenna System Applications

Crown Castle NG West LLC filed applications in November 2016 for nine proposed Verizon distributed antenna system wireless communication facilities, located generally around Piedmont Park and Piedmont High School. Crown Castle NG West LLC is a company that builds wireless communication facilities and then leases them to wireless service providers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. The applications were reviewed by the Planning Commission, Park Commission, and City staff for conformance with City of Piedmont regulations. Crown Castle amended the plans in response to criticisms expressed by members of the Commissions and from Piedmont residents. A detailed history of the project review is provided in the October 16 and October 30, 2017 staff reports at the links below. The City Council considered the amended applications at meetings on October 2, 2017, October 16, 2017, October 30, 2017, and November 20, 2017. At these meetings, the Council denied five applications and approved four others with conditions.

On July 9, 2019, Crown Castle NG West LLC submitted applications to build 19 small wireless communication facilities within the public right-of-way on utility poles and street lights and one facility within Piedmont Park near the entrance on Wildwood Avenue. The proposals include antennas and telecommunications equipment mounted on poles and inside ground-mounted cabinets along residential streets. Crown Castle responded to the City's determination on October 3, 2019. The applications have been scheduled for hearing at a Special Planning Commission Meeting on October 29th and by the City Council at its meeting on November 18th. 

Placement of wireless communication facilities is governed by state and federal law, including the requirement that cities allow certain wireless communications facilities in the public right-of-way. Under the Federal Telecommunications Act, the federal government and FCC decide what is a safe level of EMF radiation. In addition, under these laws, cities cannot place conditions on, deny, or approve a proposed wireless facility based upon the health effects if the applicant demonstrates that the project meets federal safety requirements.

On October 29, 2019, the Planning Commission held a special meeting to consider applications filed by Crown Castle for sites 10 to 18. The Planning Commission took public testimony and discussed the applications. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Planning Commission recommended City Council approval of the design and location of site PHS14 (96 Fairview Avenue), recommended approval of the designs of sites PHS10 to PHS13 and PHS15 to PHS18, and recommended denial of these locations.

On November 18, 2019, the City Council held a special meeting to consider applications filed by Crown Castle for sites PHS01 to PHS08 and PHS10 to PHS18. The City Council took public testimony and discussed the applications and the Planning Commission's recommendation. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the City Council voted to approve the 17 small wireless facilities in the public right-of-way.

Agenda, October 29, 2019, Special Meeting of the Planning Commission

Staff Report to the Planning Commission, October 29, 2019

View the Public Notice for the hearings.


Application Materials

Maps of Proposed Crown Castle WCF Sites

Application materials for each of the proposed installations are below. 

1. 340 - 370 Highland Avenue

2. 150 Highland Avenue

3. 799 Magnolia Avenue

4. 740 Magnolia Avenue

5. 303 Hillside Avenue

6. 428 El Cerrito Avenue

7. 355 Jerome Avenue (Formerly 352 Jerome Avenue)

8. 1166 WInsor Avenue (Formerly 1159 Winsor Avenue)

9. 314 Wildwood Avenue 

10. 201 Hillside Avenue

11. 237 El Cerrito Avenue

12. 410 Hillside Court

13. 338 Magnolia Avenue

14. 96 Fairview Avenue

15. 108 MacKinnon Place

16. 100 Palm Drive

17. 185 Wildwood Avenue

18. 523 Boulevard Way

19. 44 Wildwood Avenue (This application was withdrawn by Crown Castle on October 3rd and will not be considered

2017 Application Agenda Reports

Other Documents

Residents with questions regarding the application are welcome to contact Senior Planner Pierce Macdonald Powell via email or via telephone at (510) 420-3050.