T-Mobile W., LLC v. City & Cnty. of. San FranciscoAnnotate this Case
Plaintiffs, “telephone corporations” require installation of wireless facilities, including antennas, transmitters, and power supplies, on existing utility poles in the city’s rights-of-way. In 2011, San Francisco adopted an ordinance, requiring Plaintiffs to obtain a permit before installing or modifying any wireless facility in the public right-of-way, citing the need “to regulate placement … that will diminish the City’s beauty.” The ordinance required a showing of technological or economic necessity and created three “Tiers” of facilities based on equipment size. It conditioned approval for Tiers II and III on aesthetic approval; locations designated “Planning Protected” or “Zoning Protected,” or “Park Protected,” triggered different aesthetic standards. Any Tier III facility required a finding that “a Tier II Facility is insufficient to meet the Applicant’s service needs.” “Any person” could protest tentative approval of a Tier III application. The trial court held that the modification provisions violated the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act; provisions conditioning approval on economic or technological necessity, were preempted by section 7901. The aesthetics-based compatibility standards were not preempted. An amended ordinance, enacted in response, retained the basic permitting structure, but removed the size-based tiers, requiring compliance with aesthetics-based standards based on location. The court of appeal reversed, finding that the ordinance was not preempted.