Summary of the Federal Law
Federal law requires local government approval of any eligible facilities request for modification of an existing wireless tower or base station.* An eligible facilities request is any request for modification of an existing tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station, involving:
1. Collocation of new transmission equipment;
2. Removal of transmission equipment; or
3. Replacement of transmission equipment.
A modification substantially changes the physical dimensions of an eligible support structure if it meets any of the following criteria:
A. For towers other than towers in the public rights-of-way, it increases the height of the tower by more than 10% or by the height of one additional antenna array with separation from the nearest existing antenna not to exceed twenty feet, whichever is greater; for other eligible support structures, it increases the height of the structure by more than 10% or more than ten feet, whichever is greater.
Changes in height should be measured from the original support structure in cases where deployments are or will be separated horizontally, such as on buildings’ rooftops; in other circumstances, changes in height should be measured from the dimensions of the tower or base station, inclusive of originally approved appurtenances and any modifications that were approved prior to February 22, 2012.
B. For towers other than towers in the public rights-of-way, it involves adding an appurtenance to the body of the tower that would protrude from the edge of the tower more than twenty feet, or more than the width of the tower structure at the level of the appurtenance, whichever is greater; for other eligible support structures, it involves adding an appurtenance to the body of the structure that would protrude from the edge of the structure by more than six feet;
C. For any eligible support structure, it involves installation of more than the standard number of new equipment cabinets for the technology involved, but not to exceed four cabinets; or, for towers in the public rights-of-way and base stations, it involves installation of any new equipment cabinets on the ground if there are no pre-existing ground cabinets associated with the structure, or else involves installation of ground cabinets that are more than 10%larger in height or overall volume than any other ground cabinets associated with the structure;
D. It entails any excavation or deployment outside the current site;
E. It would defeat the concealment elements of the eligible support structure; or
F. It does not comply with conditions associated with the siting approval of the construction or modification of the eligible support structure or base station equipment, provided however that this limitation does not apply to any modification that is non-compliant only in a manner that would not exceed the thresholds identified in (A) through (D) above.
The application provided at the bottom of this page may be completed and submitted to the Planning Division for authorization of modifications to an existing wireless communication facility, if the modifications would not substantially change the physical dimensions as described in the preceding section. Upon determination that the modification is not a substantial change, a Zoning Clearance will be issued by the Planning Division. After authorization from the Planning Division, the applicant is also responsible for obtaining authorization from one or more of the following Ventura County departments. (Please note that additional fees may be requested from other departments. Click on the links below.)
- Building and Safety Division
Click here for Permit Application
- Fire Department
Click here for Permit Application
- Watershed Protection District
Click here for Grading Permit Application, or
Click here to learn when is a grading permit required?
Modifications to Facilities Located in the Non-Coastal Zone
If the wireless communication facility is located in the Non-Coastal Zone and is not located in the public right-of-way, the applicant should review the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance, including but not limited to, Section 8107-45.4—Wireless Communication Facilities. Prior to proposing any Section 6409(a) Modifications, the applicant should evaluate the modification for consistency with Section 8107-45.4(h) to determine whether it will retain the facility’s concealment elements. This section is copied below:
"Retention of Concealment Elements: No modification to an existing wireless communication facility shall defeat concealment elements of the permitted facility. Concealment elements are defeated if any of the following occur:
(1) A stealth facility is modified to such a degree that it results in a non-stealth facility; or
(2) The stealth facility no longer meets the applicable development standards for stealth facilities in Sec. 8107-45.4; or
(3) Equipment and antennas are no longer concealed by the permitted stealth design features; or
(4) Proposed modifications to a stealth facility, designed to represent a commonly found element in the environment or community (such as a tree, rock, or building), result in a facility that no longer resembles the commonly found element due to its modified height, size, or design.”
The entire Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance can be accessed by clicking here.
Modifications to Facilities in the Coastal Zone
If the wireless communication facility is located in the Coastal Zone, the applicant should review the Local Coastal Program and Coastal Zone Ordinance for regulations pertaining to Communications Facilities to determine whether a Coastal Development Permit will be required from the Coastal Commission. The Local Coastal Program and Coastal Zoning ordinance are available by clicking the links below:
Findings for Authorization of a Section 6409(a) Modification Zoning Clearance
In your application, please provide a complete project description explaining in explicit factual detail why Section 6409(a) governs the proposed change permit request. The narrative should identify each required finding of approval and explain the facts that allow the Planning Director designee to affirmatively make each finding. The following items will be considered in a determination that a proposed modification is not a substantial change pursuant to Section 6409(a) and, therefore, eligible for a Zoning Clearance.
A. The proposed change to an eligible facility is not a substantial change pursuant to the federal standards described in the “Summary of the Federal Law” above.
B. The existing permits for the wireless communication facility support structure, including buildings that currently support existing wireless transmission equipment, are in good standing.
C. The proposed modifications are within the lease or license area.
D. The modifications are not proposed on a building or other resource regulated by the National Environmental Preservation Act.
E. The height increase is not a substantial change as measured from the dimensions of the tower or base station (as it had been previously modified) on February 22, 2012, except for deployments separated horizontally, for which height is measured from the original support structure only.
The Planning Division may deny without prejudice a Section 6409 Modification when:
A. Based on the materials submitted by the applicant, the Director’s appointee cannot make all findings required for the type of proposed change;
B. The proposed change would violate an objective, generally applicable law related to health a safety;
C. The proposed change involves the replacement of the entire support structure; or
D. The proposed change would result in a substantial change in the physical dimensions pursuant to federal law.
When an application for a Section 6409(a) Modification is submitted, a non-refundable flat fee is due. The fee is set by the Board of Supervisors in the approved Planning Division Fee Schedule. It can be accessed by clicking here.
If the modification is proposed for one or more facilities authorized with a Master Conditional Use Permit, a separate Section 6409(a) Modification application and fee is required for each facility.
Any denial of a Section 6409(a) Modification shall be in written form and state that the Planning Director denies the permit without prejudice. The applicant may submit another permit application for a Section 6409(a) Modification or for another type of authorization to modify a facility. A brief statement with the basis for denial will also be included.
Prior to submittal of a Section 6409(a) Modification Zoning Clearance request, it is advisable that the applicant consult with the wireless communication facility owner and site owner regarding whether the modification will cause the facility to be non-conforming with applicable zoning and development standards. A Section 6409(a) Modification may result in a non-conforming wireless communication facility, and pursuant to applicable zoning standards, the permit for a non-conforming facility may not be renewed.
If there are any modifications to hazardous materials storage, the facility operator may be required within 30 days of completing the modification to update the California Environmental Reporting System (CERS). For more information, please see the Environmental Health Division Hazardous Materials Business Plan here, the Hazardous Material Reporting Chart here, and click here to update CERS information.
Application and References
Section 6409(a) Modification Application for Zoning Clearance Authorization from the Planning Division
* Section 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (see 47 U.S.C. § 1455(a) (2013)) includes key terms defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on October 22, 2014 and became effective on April 9, 2015. The FCC codified its rules to interpret Section 6409(a) at 47 C.F.R §§ 1.40001 et seq.