Cities are bound by state and federal laws to allow small cell installations; thus San Mateo staff developed an ordinance to govern small cell installations to the extent possible. According to California’s Public Utilities Code (PUC 7901), companies defined as telephone corporations can have installations in the public right-of-way, but municipalities "shall have the right to exercise reasonable control as to the time, place, and manner in which roads, highways, and waterways are accessed."
Radio frequency emissions levels are currently preemptively regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Cities can require applicants to meet the FCC standards, but cannot require lower radio frequency emission.
A license agreement - and annual fee - will be required for installations on City-owned structures. The City aims for a common aesthetic and encourages approved installations to maintain a standardized look within the City.
The Public Works Commission considered the draft ordinance during public hearings on October 11, 2017 and March 14, 2018 and discussed the City’s ability to enact a moratorium on small cell applications on April 11, 2018. A study session was held on May 9, 2018 to answer questions from the public. On May 30, 2018, the Commission held a final public hearing and voted to recommend that the City Council enact the draft ordinance. Council conducted the first reading of the ordinance on June 8, 2018, and after minor revisions, approved the ordinance on July 16, 2018.