New cellphone tower in Signal Hill will expand coverage

Verizon Wireless customers near Hill Street and Orange Avenue will have less calls dropped.

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Courtesy City of SH

A new cellphone tower at 1350 E. Hill St. that the Signal Hill City Council approved on Aug. 11 will increase 4G cell coverage in the vicinity, as shown by the green shading indicating strong coverage. Areas with the lowest coverage are shaded red.

During its Aug. 11 virtual meeting, the Signal Hill City Council agreed to allow a company working for Verizon Wireless to install a new cellphone tower at 1320 E. Hill St. in the parking lot of an office-and-warehouse complex near the intersection of Hill Street and Orange Avenue.

The council conducted a public hearing on the wireless-communications facility (WCF) before granting a conditional-use permit (CUP) to Sequoia Deployment Services to install the tower for Verizon.

Associate Planner Ryan Agbayani said the tower will look like a fake palm tree, or “monopalm,” and will expand Verizon cell service for the surrounding area that includes both Signal Hill and Long Beach.

During its Aug. 11 meeting, the Signal Hill City Council approved a Verizon Wireless company to install a new cellphone tower in the form of a fake palm tree, or “monopalm,” at 1320 E. Hill St. The new monopalm will increase 4G cell coverage in the vicinity. (Courtesy City of SH)

“Nearby uses include the Zinnia workforce housing, Signal Hill Elementary to the east, and Long Beach residential dwellings to the south and west,” Agbayani said.

The area already has two other monopalms across the intersection, owned by AT&T and T-Mobile, Agbayani said.

The new Verizon Wireless facility will have 12 8-foot panel antennas, 12 remote radio units, three surge protectors, a 4-foot microwave dish, three equipment cabinets and a 15-kilowatt standby generator, Agbayani said. All equipment will be contained within a 16-square-foot space enclosed by a guard rail.

The CUP also requires the owner to mark 21 parking stalls near the site, based on the size of the office-and-warehouse property, Agbayani said. The property owner will have to pave and stripe 9 additional stalls than it already has and remove storage that blocks some of them.

The project has been in the works since 2018, when Verizon Wireless saw a need to increase its 4G cellular coverage in the area, Agbayani said. However, its initial proposal to install a WCF at a nearby site was dropped because it couldn’t ensure the required parking.

Vicinity map of a new Verizon Wireless cellphone tower to be installed at 1320 E. Hill St. (Courtesy City of SH)

A year later, Verizon selected the current site for a tower and polled neighbors and made sure its 83-foot tower didn’t obstruct property views, Agbayani said. The Planning Commission conducted a public workshop in November 2019 and public hearing in June 2020 and heard no public concerns.

Sequoia Deployment Services provided the City with a certified report that installing and operating the WCF complies with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards for radio-frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields and limits public exposure to RF energy, according to the staff report.

“Improvements to telecommunications infrastructure are desirable given the common use of cellphones and mobile devices,” the report states. “It also strengthens emergency preparedness and response efforts.

The report notes that infrastructure for 4G is still needed, given that the transition to 5G networks, which will offer greater speed and more bandwidth, is anticipated to take many years.

“Despite the emergence of 5G, 4G will continue to grow over the coming years, increasing to account for 56% of connections by 2025,” industry trade-group GSMA said in a March report.

GSMA estimates that one in five mobile connections is forecast to be running on 5G networks by 2025.

In January, the FCC chairman announced a “5G FAST Plan” to ensure a US lead in 5G technology that would enhance activities like telehealth and virtual-reality games. Link:

The FCC had already imposed a national policy to bypass local review of small wireless facilities (SWF) and thereby speed up 5G rollout with less “barriers.”

Coverage before the new monopalm is installed. (Courtesy City of SH)

That policy removes the usual reviews of view-obstruction and environmental impact that the Planning Commission assessed before the City Council approved Verizon’s new 4G tower on Aug. 11.

California Senate Bill 649 had intended to do the same within the state in 2017 but failed to pass.

See related story: SH, LB stand with other CA cities, communities and business groups opposing SB 649

Just before the 2018 FCC policy became effective last year, the city had to adopt an urgent ordinance in April 2019 to allow companies to install SWFs in Signal Hill public right-of-way areas– such as on streetlights and power poles– without City approval.

See related: SH City Council adopts urgent ordinance regulating small wireless facilities

Unlike the large towers deployed for 4G technology, SWFs are installed closer together, with 10 to 100 times more antenna locations, Deputy City Attorney Danny Aleshire had said during that meeting.

The new monopalm will increase 4G cell coverage in the vicinity, as shown by the additional green shading indicating strong coverage. Areas with the lowest coverage are shaded red. (Courtesy City of SH)

“5G is going to be extremely faster than existing 4G or LTE technology– up to 200 times faster,” he said. “While 4G can accommodate 2,000 devices per square kilometer, 5G can accommodate 1 to 2 million devices.”

“It sounds like the ‘wild west’ to me,” Councilmember Edward Wilson had said of deregulated SWF installation to allow faster 5G rollout in the near future.​

In the meantime, Councilmember Lori Woods commended the new Verizon 4G tower the council approved Tuesday, saying it will prevent her calls from dropping as she drives up Cherry Avenue.

The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 7pm. To access and participate in the virtual meeting, visit the council’s webpage at www.cityofsignalhill.org/79/City-Council