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Mill Valley City Hall

Mill Valley Council Adopts Wireless Telecommunications Facility Ordinance & Protects Community

On Thursday, September 6th, the Mill Valley City Council voted 5-0 to pass an Urgency Ordinance, amending the Mill Valley Municipal Code and establishing "Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Regulations". The new ordinance prohibits Wireless Facilities (including Small Cell Towers) in residential zoning districts and thereby protects the majority of Mill Valley residents from potentially harmful microwave radiation. The City couldn't prohibit the facilities in all zoning districts because this would constitute a "general ban" and would not comply with Federal law. Although the ordinance still allows wireless facilities in Commercial and Mixed-Use areas, any telecommunications corporation that wants to install a new Small Cell Tower will have to go through a discretionary, conditional use permit process, which will include thorough vetting and public review. Furthermore, the wireless facilities must be 1500 feet apart.


Cancer and Health Effects

Residents are concerned about the serious adverse health effects that may result from the round-the-clock millimeter microwave radiation of these small cell antennae. Such millimeter microwave radiation is far more potent than anything previously experienced from the electromagnetic spectrum.

In a manifesto entitled “5G Appeal”[1], 180 esteemed scientists and doctors from 35 countries appeal to the European Union and recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation (5G) for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry. They emphasize that 5G will substantially increase exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on top of the 2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, ect. for telecommunications already in place and that RF-EMF has already been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment.

Excerpt from the “5G Appeal”:

“More than 230 scientists from 41 countries have expressed their “serious concerns” regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices already before the additional 5G roll-out. They refer to the fact that ‘numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines’. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plants and animals.”

Furthermore, the World Health Organization classified microwave radiation from wireless devices as a possible human carcinogen in 2011.In 2016, the US National Toxicology Program released results of the world’s largest study on wireless health risks, finding a significant increase in the incidence of brain and heart cancer in rats exposed to EMF. [2] [3] (Rats are the preferred animal model for studies of carcinogenicity in humans.)

Preserving Community Character and Property Values and Preventing Fire Hazards

Residents are also concerned about preserving the traditional aesthetic character of their neighborhoods, maintaining property values, and preventing an increase in fire risks.

Wireless carriers have the right, under Section 6409(a) of the “Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act”, to expand their equipment and expand it an unlimited number of times, thereby potentially creating a huge unattractive industrial mess.

A peer-reviewed study published in the 2005 Appraisal Journal, found that homes near cell towers were devalued by 20% to 25%.

The heavy and bulky “Small Cell Facilities” could overload telephone poles, leading to increased fire hazards. For example, Edison and four telecommunication companies were fined for overloading utility poles with antennas and equipment, which caused the poles to collapse and spark the 2007 Malibu Canyon wildfire.[4]


A phenomenal array of eloquent speakers made persuasive public comments. They came from near (City of Mill Valley & Unincorporated Mill Valley) and far (Petaluma, San Rafael, Fairfax, other parts of Unincorporated Marin) to help protect Mill Valley residents from harmful microwave radiation exposure. Some spoke about their personal trials and tribulations with cancer and other health problems attributed to exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Other topics included: Peer-reviewed scientific studies proving that exposure to RF-EMF results in serious adverse health and environmental effects; Tools that allow local governments to control Small Cell Facilities and abide by State and Federal laws; Limitations of the 5G technology (it won't help improve coverage to those who have poor or no coverage now); and the Superiority of Fiber Optic Cable. They also played a video of Verizon executives touting that they do not need to install Small Cell Facilities near residences in order to provide coverage for 5G technology. Instead, the 4G and 5G Wireless Telecommunications Facilities can be placed 3000 feet away on Macro Towers.

Due to AT&T and Verizon preparing for the imminent installment of the Small Cell Towers in the City of Mill Valley, City Staff acted swiftly to compose the proposed Urgency Ordinance and the City Council promptly approved the ordinance (with amendments) during the first public hearing addressing it. It is the Council's intent that this ordinance will be temporary. Next year, after there has been time for more research, they plan to make amendments to the Urgency Ordinance and adopt a Regular Ordinance.

Please click HERE to view the ordinance. (Scroll down to Agenda Item #8 to view "Wireless Telecoms Facilities Regulations 180906")

Amendments to the Urgency Ordinance are:

1. They corrected the ordinance so that wireless facilities can NOT be installed in residential zones. In the first version of the ordinance, a chart showed that Small Cell Facilities would be allowed in public right-of-ways in All Zoning Districts, including those in residential zones. They changed the chart to show that the facilities would be allowed in public right-of-ways in only Non-Residential Zoning Districts.

They also deleted the following underlined phrase: "The order of preference for the location of wireless telecommunications facilities from most preferred to least preferred is... 9. In the public right-of-way with the closest adjacent district being the RM District."

2. They added the following provision regarding annual testing (wording is not exact): 'On issuance of a permit and every year thereafter, the permittee shall pay for a contractor, chosen by the City, to provide test results that demonstrate whether or not the facility complies with current regulations.'

Potential amendments that the Council plans to look into for the future Regular Ordinance include:

Mayor Stephanie Moulton-Peters also indicated that, further down the line, she would like to look into municipal wireline broadband over fiber optic cables, whereby the City would lay fiber optic cable and lease it out to the telecommunication corporations.

Every time a City or County adopts an ordinance that protects residents from the potentially harmful microwave radiation emitted by Small Cell Towers, it makes it that much easier for another City or County to adopt one too. So, this is great news for those of us who live in other parts of Marin (or other Counties) because we can use the City of Mill Valley's ordinance as an example of what our County or City can do. Federal telecommunications laws are complicated, and jurisdictions are reticent to assert their authority for fear of being sued based on the Federal laws. When they know that another municipality found a way to do so legally, they can more confidently take similar actions.

Please click HERE to view a video of the Mill Valley City Council Meeting.

Many MANY thanks to all those who sent in letters/emails, met with City officials, and spoke at the September 6th Mill Valley Council meeting. And many MANY thanks to the Mill Valley City Council for protecting their constituents and preserving the residential character of Mill Valley neighborhoods.


[2] Wyde, M et al. Report of Partial Findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley SD rats (Whole Body Exposures). February 2018.

[3] Environmental Health Trust. Myths and facts about the National Toxicology Program cell phone radiation cancer study: correcting the misinformation.