|On September 29, 2020, Governor Newsom approved Assembly Bill (AB) 2421 (Quirk) which requires local agencies to make the installation of an emergency standby generator for cell tower sites on private property a permitted use and require local agencies to review applications for such installations on an administrative, non-discretionary basis. The specific requirements of the law include:
- The emergency standby generator is rated below 50 horsepower, compliant with applicable air quality regulations, has a double-wall fuel storage tank, not to exceed 300-gallons, and is mounted on a concrete pad.
- The macro cell tower site at which the emergency standby generator is proposed to be installed is an existing site that was previously permitted by the applicable local agency. This does not include roof-top mounted wireless facilities.
- The emergency standby generator complies with all applicable state and local laws and regulations, including building and fire safety codes.
- The physical dimensions of the emergency standby generator and storage tank are cumulatively no more than 250 cubic feet in volume.
- The emergency standby generator shall be located not more than 100 feet from the physical structure of the macro cell tower or base station.
AB 2421 specified that a local agency could develop procedures for processing permit applications and also authorized local agencies to impose a fee to cover costs associated with administering the bill’s provisions. Currently, the La Habra Zoning Code does not contain specific language for the installation of emergency standby generators for wireless facilities placed on private property.
In the past, requests to install standby generators for wireless facilities in La Habra were processed through a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). While the City's CUP process will now be replaced by a simplified administrative permitting process, the City will still require that generators be hidden from public view by a masonry enclosure. In addition, generators are required to limit sound while in operation so that noise doesn't exceed the City's noise standards and that routine maintenance is conducted during the day rather than at night.
The draft ordinance implements the State's new requirements and documents the application process for new standby generator installations. The language in Section 18.62 specifies that the code is only applicable to "macro cell tower sites," which means a free-standing wireless facility, such as a mono-tower, mono-palm, mono-pine or mono-eucalyptus. Roof mounted facilities wherein antennas are hidden in existing buildings are not included in the State law and therefore are not included in the proposed draft ordinance. There are currently 13 wireless towers in La Habra that are considered to be macro facilities per the new state law, four of which currently have standby generators installed.
The updated proposed code section specifies the requirements for standby generators that qualify for approval under this ordinance. This includes the specifications that the generator is rated at 50 horsepower or less, that the fuel tank does not exceed 300-gallons, that the generator be mounted on a concrete pad, that the generator be within 100 feet of the wireless tower, and that the size of the generator and fuel tank not exceed 250 cubic feet. Lastly, the generator must comply with local laws and regulations, which would include building, fire, and noise.
The review of a new standby generator application would be processed via the Administrative Adjustment application form. Consistent with existing protocol, staff will require the applicant to submit a sound study to ensure that the installation of equipment conforms to the City's noise standards. Per AB 2421, staff is required to determine that a submittal is complete within 10 days or provide a written correction letter. Once an application is deemed complete, staff must approve the application within 60 days, otherwise the application is deemed approved.
PLANNING COMMISSION ACTION
The Planning Commission considered the request during its meeting on December 14, 2020, and approved the item on a 4-0 vote (Commissioner Bernier was absent).