Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Oct 11

Weekly Recap - October 11, 2019

Posted on October 11, 2019 at 5:03 PM by Elena Domingo

This was a short week for council which only met once on Wednesday.

The first topic was a continued discussion of a proposed increase in the System Development Charges (SDCs) that are charged on new construction to support improvements in our parks and recreation system.  SDC’s are specifically directed at helping the city meet the needs of population growth that is reflected in new construction; in other words, new housing that increases the demand for parks helps pay for the cost of creating and maintaining those parks.

This is one of three overlapping decisions related to park improvements.

1)   1) The public approved a bond in 2018 that will cover costs of a specific list of park improvements over a ten year cycle. 

2)  2) In 2018 Council also adopted a 30-year vision, “Picture. Plan. Play,” that encompasses a farther-reaching plan to expand and improve the entire parks system, beyond the property and facilities currently in operation and expected upgrades funded by the 2018 bond.

3)  3) In the SDC conversation, council is discussing a 20-year window of funding that excludes the $53.3 million in projects already funded by the 2018 bond and includes additional priority projects encompassed in the 2018 30-year plan.

Council will have another work session to discuss this before directing staff to create an ordinance that will go to a public hearing. There are many ways to slice and modify these charges – including the amount of increase, the method of calculating the appropriate increase based on the size of a building or number of people housed, and the length of the period to phase in the additional cost to the developer.

The second topic on Wednesday was small cell technology – specifically 5G or Fifth Generation cell technology (not to be confused with 5 Gigahertz Wifi through Comcast) .  Cell providers including Verizon and AT&T have installed 33 antennas so far, of which 13 are operational. At this point, these antennas are transmitting 4G and are located in areas to improve connectivity and speed.  We expect that the cell providers will ultimately seek permits to upgrade these new antennas to transmit 5G. 

As the new 5G technology rolls out, a group of citizens is raising serious concerns about the possible health impacts of the shorter but more intense frequency in 5G.  Council received a briefing on the permitting process and explored our legal avenues to more tightly regulate the placement of these antennas.  Federal laws restrict our authority to regulate, only allowing regulation based on aesthetics; not on health. We are prevented by federal law from creating standards that impede the new technology from functioning.   In response, Public Works has developed a hierarchy of streets to prioritize antenna placement on existing poles on larger streets to reduce the presence of these antennas on small residential streets.

This is a moving target.  Staff is continually revising administrative rules over siting as new options become available.  This will come back to council for more discussion of specific aesthetic standards we might apply.