Cell phone trees may soon become a thing of the past, if the Ninth Circuit has anything to say about it. The Court issued an opinion yesterday reversing a decision of the La Cañada Flintridge City Council. The City denied two of Sprint's applications to install cell phone towers because of the aesthetics of the structure.
The Court ruled that the City's attempt to regulate cell phone towers was preempted by federal and California's telecommunications and utilities acts The City found that the proposed towers would "significantly alter the character of the neighborhood ...", "negatively impact the resident's views.." and are "unsightly." The Court overturned the decision, saying the City has to defer to the standards set by the state government because the federal government passed that authority off. In this instance the authority grant in the federal act was to either the state or local governments.
The state took the charge and enacted legislation about installing telephone utilities. Essentially, the state thinks it is more important to have telephone services than to have telephone poles look good. The state act contains no references to aesthetics, and therefore, the Court ruled that City has no basis to deny a permit application because a telephone company (Sprint or otherwise) wants to put up something that looks like a stick.