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The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s recent case Don’t Cell Our Parks v. City of San Diego/Verizon upholds application of the Class 3 categorical exemption under CEQA Guidelines 15303 to a new wireless telecommunications pole in a city-owned park.

This case adds to existing case law that applies Class 3 to other telecommunications equipment (Aptos Residents and Robinson (antennas on poles) and San Francisco Beautiful (cabinets)). The court noted that while none of the examples included in the Guidelines are directly applicable, the project “is much smaller than a single-family residence, store, motel, office or restaurant.”

The court found that a telecommunications pole in a park was not an “unusual circumstance” and would not cause any “significant environmental effect.” Of note, a special status bird is present in the area (not on site) and a biological report recommended conditioning construction during breeding season. Consistent with existing case law, the court held compliance with this condition was not mitigation that would negate the use of an exemption.

The court also upheld the City’s broad discretion to determine that the project was consistent with the City’s mandate to use parkland only for park purposes.