Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Small Cells, Big Loss

The District is preparing for new 5th Generation (5G) infrastructure. With this infrastructure, D.C. is hoping to provide more reliable wireless telecommunications to our communities. The equipment that will provide these services, called small cells, will be installed in the public right-of-way on new or existing street poles. As a clear line of sight is required between small cells for clear transmissions, this new infrastructure could have long-lasting impacts on our city’s street trees and trees located on adjacent private lots.

A small cell facility in the Central Park Heights neighborhood of Baltimore. A small cell antenna is attached to the top of an existing streetlight, along with an equipment box in the middle. (N/A/Crown Castle)

To minimize the impact on public space, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) released Draft Small Cell Design Guidelines. Though these guidelines state that small cells will not require “the removal of an existing street tree or prevent the planting of a street tree in the future,” trees may need to be heavily pruned to accommodate sightlines. This pruning could result in poor street tree health, and significant canopy loss.

We’re hitting the ground running. The DC Council is soliciting comments from the public. We’re requesting that the city complete a full assessment of the potential impacts these cells may have on D.C.’s trees.

Will you join us? D.C.’s trees need your voice on this potentially drastic change to our city’s streetscape. We hope you will.

We have a handy comments template for you to customize so you can easily submit them by December 3. This is your opportunity to ask the city to complete a study of potential impacts these cells may have on D.C.’s trees.  

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