Cell Towers to Create Revenue for Sacramento Parks
Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation has proposed a city code amendment that encourages telecommunication companies to lease cell towers on city owned property as parks face severe financial cuts to services and programs.
The new proposal advises the city to generate revenue through damage to public property and contract benefits for private telecommunication corporations.
The proposal for increased private-public partnerships with companies such as At&t Wireless Services Inc., American Towers Inc., Sprint Spectrum, LP, Pacific Bell Wireless, Verizon Wireless and numerous others is an example of the efforts Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation has taken to sustain parks on a limited budget.
“Our budget is just decimated. It’s been cut 62 percent over the last four years,” Recreation Superintendent Greg Narramore said. “Mowing of park grass, which was once done once a week, is now done once every 14 days. There is no more trash pick-up on weekends, one of the most popular times for park use, and 13 operating swimming pools have been reduced to just three this season. We just don’t have the resources.”
At the September monthly meeting of Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation, the commission signed a proposal to amend City Code Section 3.76.050.
The proposal could potentially reduce fees and restrictions for private telecommunication companies leasing city property.
Park Planning and Development Manager J.P Tindell, who signed the new proposal, declined to comment over the phone.
In late April, Jonathan Rewers, Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, asked Jay Schenirer, Chair for the City of Sacramento Law and Legislation Committee, that all revenues generated through operations and leases in parks be placed in a fund for parks and recreation use only, in a letter.
Budget challenges forced the City Council to change policy with regard to cell tower funds this year, Lisa Nava, District Four Director, said in an email. The council voted to move revenue generated from cell towers back to the General Fund in May.
“We do the best we can but things take a little longer and we just can’t do some of the extra things that we have been able to do in the past,” Nava said in the email.
Before May, cell site revenue would be allocated to a Neighborhood Enhancement Fund, where a city council member could allocate the money back to park improvement within the district.
The proposed amendment recommends eliminating the current revocable permit for wireless telecommunication facilities, WTFs.
The Revocable Permit allows the city of Sacramento to terminate an agreement at any time, while the lease holder may not terminate an agreement until after the first five years.
“Nextel Wireless made it a policy not to do business with the City of Sacramento at all because of the
one-sided nature of the Revocable Permit,” read the Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation meeting minutes in September.
The company purchasing the lease is responsible for all costs of installation, maintenance, removal and damage to both the telecommunication equipment and city property.
The Revocable Permit has a 10 year initial term and one 10 year renewal option. The fees stack up for the lease holders starting with a $5,000 application fee, $30,000 removable bond deposit, $30,000 one-time initial fee, a $150 inspection fee per hour that cannot exceed $10,000, along with the annual Permit fee.
The cost of the annual fee is dependent on equipment and space utilized for wireless telecommunication
Since August of 1997, the city classified WTFs into three categories: microcells, minicells and
macrocells. They create a starting annual revenue of $15,000, $18,000 or $21,000, depending on cell
The new proposal increases the initial fee to $24,000, $28,000 and $32,000. The proposal includes a
3.5 percent adjustment rate on that fee for the first five years. By 2015, costs for cell sites could jump to
approximately $27,541, $32,131, and $36, 721.
After the first five years, annual fee rates will be based on the Consumer Price Index.
Sacramento Dept. of Parks and Recreation conducted a survey that averaged out costs of other large urban
areas with similar demographics to adjust the outdated fee schedule.
The new fair market rental rates will factor in cost of living, inflation, location value and other fluctuating
The proposed adjusted rates also take into account health of the telecom industry. As new devices and
mobile gadgets develop wireless service providers face increased service demands from their customers.
The amendment proposes implementation of a 5-year fixed-term lease, two-time renewal options and
an administrative amendment fee that eliminates the removal bond and inspection fee.
One-time initial fees could potentially be based on accrued benefits and adverse impacts of the leased
One-time fees are packed in contract benefits such as low cost construction, unique location, extended
term limits, and simultaneous location approvals.
Other benefits include simplified and expedited processes for company approval requests like co-location
or increased antenna height.
The lease holder’s cost can rise with adverse effects to property as well. Adverse effects include lost
abilities to use the city property for intended purposes or reduced visual attraction and esthetics of the
“I don’t think I would mind it (a cell tower) if I couldn’t notice it, but if it was really noticeable and
ugly I don’t think I would want that,” Andrew Kruschel said, a frequent visitor of Portugese Park in
Sacramento’s Greenhaven District.
While the city’s general fund temporarily collects cell tower revenue from leased towers on city
property, uncertainty remains for the level of cell tower encroachment Sacramento parks will face.
“We are confident in our Park and Recreation Commission’s ability to address the encroachment issue to
the benefit of the City and the surrounding Neighborhoods,” Director of Sacramento Parks and Recreation
Department Jim Combs said.