San Marcos Cell Tower Ordinance Update

Here is an update San Elijo Life received from a group of San Elijo Hills and Questhaven Hills Residents working with the City of San Marcos on a new cell tower ordinance. We share this update to keep you informed on this issue. San Elijo Life

The San Marcos City Council approved a watered down wireless communications Moratorium.

After San Elijo and Questhaven Hills residents objected to a twenty 24 antenna Cell Farm just 350 feet from homes in San Elijo Hills the City agreed to strengthen their ordinance to prevent even more micro wave antennas from being added to this site.

At the January 14 City Council Meeting, Mayor Desmond changed his position on Cell Farms by not allowing a vote on a Cell Ordinance that would cap the San Elijo Cell Farm at 24 micro wave antennas. The Mayor directed staff to develop a new ordinance “which he could approve” that included “clustering” and multiple towers on one property (aka larger Cell Farms).

Since the City recognizes their lack of a Cell Ordinance was the reason for the San Elijo Cell Farm, the Council discussed a temporary moratorium on cell tower permits to give them time to develop a second ordinance. At last Tuesdays meeting the Council voted to limit the moratorium to just residential/agricultural areas and with, no public notice, the City Attorney changed wording to allow the acceptance and processing of applications during the moratorium.

Over the last six months AT&T has consistently used the threat of litigation to the City, and misrepresentations to the public to get their way.

At this meeting John Osborne of AT&T overtly threatened the City saying “We have a whole host of telecom attorneys who look at these things. I don’t think that the Council should put something into place that could invite litigation…. If you cap at 45 days it would eliminate a lot of problems with the moratorium, if you go beyond 45 days, our telecom attorneys advise us…..”

San Elijo and Questhaven Hills residents met with two council members this past week to discuss the ordinance. Again, the threat of litigation was brought up. One Council member commented that funding for litigation is not a part of the annual budget and would require the Council allocate funds from the City’s general fund, something they certainly don’t want.

It is our understanding the City receives indemnification from AT&T so litigation brought by the residents against the City is paid by AT&T; however, if AT&T brings suit against the City, the City will have to pay for legal expenses and any resulting settlement. Under these circumstances who do you think the City will represent and appease?

AT&T again tied the need for the San Elijo Cell Tower Farm to public safety concerns, specifically 911 calls. The fact is “The FCC’s basic 911 rules require wireless service providers to transmit 911 calls to a Public Safety Answering Point, regardless of whether the caller subscribes to the provider’s service” (

The truth is the existing San Elijo Hills T-Mobile tower would pick up all 911 calls. This means adding this second AT&T tower at this San Elijo site is not needed for 911 coverage. The City Council has allowed AT&T to repeatedly make such misrepresentation as a rationale for this Cell Farm.

AT&T has also ignored repeated residents request to use less invasive, small cell technology at the San Elijo site. Yet, AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, states in their Annual Report:

“We plan to expand our … network… To deliver an even better experience, we plan to make this network more dense through extensive use of innovative small cells…..

“Our investment in a denser wireless grid through new cell sites and small-cell technology will… allow better…more consistent coverage as well as additional capacity…Through 2015, we plan to deploy more than 40,000 small cells and more than 1,000 additional distributed antenna systems across our network”.

AT&T never made the City Council aware less invasive technology was even a possibility for San Elijo–it took the San Elijo/Queshaven Hills Citizen group to bring this forward. The City of Delmar only allows small cell systems within their community.

AT&T has been bullying and deceiving the public rather than doing the right thing and being a community partner. Twenty 24 cell antennas just 350 feet from homes in San Elijo is not necessary or right.



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