Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

City Council is set to introduce rules governing historic buildings and cell antennas that will affect the appearance of Santa Monica neighborhoods.

The Council will vote at its Nov. 13 meeting on new rules regulating the demolition of historic buildings and a separate discussion on installation of cell antennas. The City has identified preserving the aesthetic character of Santa Monica as a major priority and is seeking to prevent the demolition of potential landmarks and reduce the impacts of cell antennas on public space.

Due to a recent court case, local government bodies can no longer submit applications to themselves for review and the Landmarks Commission has had to forgo automatic reviews of demolition permits since June of this year.

In the absence of an automatic review by the Landmarks Commission, individual citizens have had to file applications for review and conduct research themselves to determine a property’s eligibility for landmark status. Under the proposed ordinance, anyone applying to demolish a building more than 40 years old would also have to file an application to the Landmarks Commission to determine if their property is of historic value.

In another effort to regulate the aesthetic character of the city, the Council is planning to establish standards for how cell antennas should look and ensure they comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s radio frequency emissions benchmarks.

The City has received an increased number for applications for “small cell sites,” which can be installed on existing infrastructure such as streetlights and wooden utility poles, as telecommunication companies have upgraded their wireless networks in the past few years. At the same time, the FCC has limited the authority of local jurisdictions to regulate the antennas.

In August, three residents appealed plans to install antennas on street poles near their homes because they believe their appearance will impact property values and the radio frequencies they emit could create health risks. City Council rejected the appeals.

Under the new rules, the city would have stricter objective design standards for wireless facilities, more clearly defined minimum application, stronger site justification requirements, a construction notice requirement, more notice of construction hours and standard conditions of approval.

Part of the new rules would require companies to show their equipment complies with radio frequency rules at the time of construction, 30 days after construction and on an annual basis thereafter.

The Council will also hear recommendations from the Recreation and Parks Commission that address the recent uptick in crime in Santa Monica’s parks and beach. The Commission is asking the Council to install cameras and additional lighting, as well as increase daily police patrols in the parks and beach. It is also recommending the Council consider reinstituting park rangers, closing the beach during certain hours and enforcing laws related to food distribution and camping.

Recent murders on the beach and in Tongva Park, as well as the growing problem of lewd acts at Christine Emerson Reed Park, have sparked concerns about safety among residents, who have also complained about a local church hosting a meal on Sundays for homeless individuals in Reed Park.

“The Recreation and Parks Commission finds that the safety situation in the parks and at the beach has reached a crisis point and that further action can not be delayed,” Chair John C. Smith wrote in a letter to the Council.

The Council will meet in its chambers at City Hall, 1685 Main St, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13.


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