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SF Approves Law to Restrict Owners’ Control of Access to Communications Providers

Restrict Owners’ Control

In December, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved legislation by a 10-0 vote that requires owners to grant building access to communications service providers when a resident requests such services. As drafted, the ordinance does not permit owners to reasonably cap the number of providers that can serve their buildings or to exercise reasonable discretion in refusing entry to providers that they may know provide poor service or for any reason other than those outlined in the proposal.

The San Francisco Apartment Association (SFAA), along with a coalition of stakeholders, engaged the Board in ongoing discussions to address a variety of concerns. (The coalition developed a summary of their concerns that was included in the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s letter found here.) The coalition was successful in getting the proposed ordinance amended, in part, to address some of these issues.

The coalition was granted amendments to the following provisions:

  • Extends the timelines for correspondence related to requests for inspection and requests for installation,
  • Provides for basic indemnification of the property related to inspection, installation, removal of communication service provider (CSP) wiring and infrastructure,
  • Clarifies the language requiring just and reasonable compensation for the property owner,
  • Includes a clearer description from the CSP on the equipment needed for installation, how much space and electrical demand is required, the unit number of the resident requesting the new service, the owner’s right to see the full set of plans related to installation or work to be performed,
  • The right for a property owner to say no to a CSP if:
    • The installation has an adverse effect on historically or architecturally significant parts of the property (many of our buildings are older)
    • If the work to be performed disturbs asbestos or lead based paint
    • If the work to be performed would cause damage to the property or impact existing services, and
  • Delineates what the property owner can require from the CSP.

While many of the amendments move the ordinance in the right direction, the coalition remains concerned that the ordinance could have gone further to address the needs and concerns of property owners. The ordinance could affect or potentially invalidate pre-existing contracts, such as exclusive or bulk-service agreements, between owners and service providers. In line with these concerns, the ordinance includes a “cautionary note” from the City Attorney’s office. This note often signals that the City Attorney believes a part of an ordinance is illegal or unconstitutional.

NAA continues to monitor this issue and anticipates that this approach to access may spread to other localities. For more information or to discuss next steps by the apartment industry to address this ordinance, please contact Nicole Upano, Manager of Government Affairs, NAA.