San Marcos Cell Tower Ordinance – What You Need to Know

Cell Towers San Marcos

*7/23/14 UPDATE*

The Cell Tower Ordinance passed, 4-1. Read more.


City Council Hearing: July 22 @ 6:00PM

The City Council Hearing to determine the outcome of the Telecommunications Ordinance is 6:00pm, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at 1 Civic Center Drive.

Info from the City’s Website regarding hearing:

On June 30, 2014, the San Marcos Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that City Council approve the draft revision to the Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance to further define the City’s rules for cell towers in San Marcos.

The new changes would encourage wireless telecommunications facilities (WTFs) to locate outside residential and other sensitive areas. Camouflaged designs and the use of compact cell facilities would also be promoted. Finally, the revised ordinance would limit the number of WTFs per site and encourage clustering of WTFs with the fewest number of towers to complete a network.

After prompting from City Council late last year, City staff gathered and incorporated public input to craft the new rules. If approved, the revised ordinance would identify how WTF applications are processed. After discussion on the modifications, City Council asked staff to further revise the draft wireless telecommunications facilities ordinance (Chapter 20.465 of the San Marcos Municipal Code) during the January 14, 2014 City Council meeting.

The Planning Commission recommendation submitted includes related zoning ordinance section revisions and environmental document and will be presented to the San Marcos City Council on Tuesday, July 22.

Click here to review the June 30 Planning Commission documents, including the City staff PowerPoint presented during the meeting.

For more information, please contact Principal Planner Karen Brindley in the City’s Planning Division at (760) 744-1050, ext. 3220, [email protected] or visit the development services counter Monday through Thursday (and alternate Fridays) between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm.

San Marcos Cell Tower Controversy Background

Relevant Cell Tower History:

Union Tribune, Jun 15, 2007: Appeals court won’t hear cell-phone ordinance case

Union Tribune, Feb 11, 2011: Wireless advances could mean no more cell towers

Timeline of Current San Marcos Cell Tower Controversy:

Union Tribune, Oct 22, 2013: Large cell towers sparking debate – San Marcos approves new antennas despite resident concerns about visual impact, property values

Union Tribune, Dec 11, 2013: City unveils strict cell tower rules – Proposed San Marcos ordinance would limit ‘eyesore’ antenna farms

Union Tribune, Dec 19, 2013: Planners OK new cell tower law – San Marcos will have among strictest rules in county if City Council follows suit

Union Tribune, Mar 9, 2014: Technology may curb cell tower angst – San Marcos may give incentives to providers who use new, smaller antennas


Union Tribune April 8, 2014: More Static Over SM Cell Tower Rules –City staff returns with new changes after initial rejection in Jan; Residents say proposal doesn’t go far enough

The Opposition:

Petition: Replace Large Cell Towers by homes and schools in San Elijo and San Marcos with Safer Small Cell sites and implement an enforceable cell ordinance.

Facebook page:  Citizens of San Marcos for Responsible New Cell Technology

May 28, 2014 Letter of Opposition + Requests to Mayor Jim Desmond:

Mayor Desmond,

The residents of San Elijo Hills/San Marcos have worked hard to preserve the unique character of our community, this should be respected.  Allowing our community character and environment to be degraded by large (macro) cell towers next to our homes and schools is irresponsible government.

The City’s proposed May Cell Tower Ordinance will ruin our community character and create more visual blight. Take San Elijo Hills for example. This ordinance allows three macro cell towers virtually in the back yards of homes on Antilla Way and Orion Way. Why doesn’t the Ordinance provide reasonable distance requirement between such large cell towers and homes? These towers and the failed attempt to camouflage them with trees only adds to the fire threat in what is already designated a severe wildfire area.

These macro cell towers are not necessary for coverage in our community; they provide cell service to Carlsbad, Encinitas and Oceanside at our expense.  This is why they are so profitable for the cell companies.

On a per capita basis, San Marcos already has 19% more cell towers than the rest of the country.  Mayor Desmond, you should protect our community and not the cell company’s profits.  What we need to fill voids left in San Marcos is safe small cell technology, (DAS).   The City ordinance does not mandate this.

DAS antennas are safer and are hardly visible.  These systems do not create visual blight, safety concerns and lower property values and these systems can fill cell phone voids in a fraction of the time a large macro cell tower can be approved and erected.

To have an ordinance that is enforceable and protects San Marcos, it must include:

  1. Enforceable third party independent site analysis if a cell tower is next to homes or schools
  2. Mandate use of safe small cell technology (faster, safer cell service, no visual blight)
  3. Citizen Cell Review Council and an Integrated San Marcos City Cell Tower Plan
  4. Maintain the residents protections in the January Cell Ordinance (which you would not allow the City Council to vote on)

Strong neighborhoods and communities stand up for each other and demand responsible governance. The City Council must stop this ordinance and demand an ordinance that protects us from Macro Cell Tower visual blight and the associated decrease in property values, community safety and security.

Mayor Desmond, do what you said to the residents and the UT after you approved the second macro cell tower in San Elijo Hills.  Do what is right for San Marcos residents and stand up to the cell companies

Please also reverse your position to not meet with San Marcos residents on the Cell Ordinance.


Responsible Cell of San Marcos

Nearby Cell Tower News (Escondido):
Union Tribune, Oct 22, 2013: Public outcry kills cell tower plan – Proposal for pristine Bernardo Mountain rejected by San Dieguito River Park

How a Church in Iowa Dealt with a Cell Tower:
Union Tribune, Jun 12, 2014: Cross Latest Attempt at Stealth Cell Phone Towers