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[TowerTalk] Setback requirements

To: Tower Talk List <>
Subject: [TowerTalk] Setback requirements
From: Jim Lux <>
Date: Sun, 02 Sep 2007 06:42:23 -0700
List-post: <>
Kelly wrote:

These types of set back limits *should* be easy to fight.  How many
ordinances can you name that allow for a 35 foot tall house to be
erected 10 feet from the property line?  How many cities allow 10
story tall buildings to be built right next to someone else's
property?  What about skyscrapers next to public streets?  What if the
skyscraper falls?  They never fall, right?  Remember 9/11?  Remember
San Franciso earthquakes?  If towers must be a distance from the
property line equal to their height, then so should every other
manmade structure.  What about street light poles?  What about utility
poles?  They don't have to meet these requirements.  Why ham and cell
towers?  It's simple.  These types of set back rules are simply
another "back door" way of limiting tower height.  They have nothing
to do with safety.


A couple significant differences..
1) People have been building houses for centuries, so there is extensive 
experience and tradition with allowing small setbacks
2) Houses are typically wider than they are tall, so they tend to fall 
in place because of the internal bracing. Towers are long and skinny
3) Tall Commercial buildings *do* require failure analyses
4) there *are* restrictions on types of construction and design to 
prevent buildings from falling into the street in an earthquake. Heck, 
as far back as the Field Act in California (resulting from the 1933 Long 
Beach earthquake), but also more recently, all the seismic retrofit rules.

towers, chimneys, etc are all regulated pretty much the same and have 
been for decades.

What's different is that hams are no longer getting a free pass on these 
sorts of rules.  And, in general, communities are being stricter in 
general, and ham towers are just getting sucked along for the ride.

Part of the problem is the recent phenomenon of mansionization (building 
a large house (5000 sq ft) on a small lot (5000 sq ft) in a desirable 
older neighborhood with generally smaller houses (1000-1200 sqft). 
Around here, 20-30 years ago, this was a big deal in the beach 
communities (Manhattan, Redondo, etc.) as beach cottages were replaced 
by multistory zero setback things. They got their building permits not 
as new construction, but as a series of remodels. You used to see an old 
foundation with one wall sticking up, around which the new mansion would 
be built.

As a result jurisdictions started really cracking down.  Used to be you 
could put a kid's playhouse in the backyard without hassle. The first 
couple times someone built a 1500 sq ft two story "play house" with 
plumbing and electrical, and bang, playhouses are now regulated.

What relevance does this have for hams? (So Steve doesn't totally yell 
at us)

We need to learn to work with the existing system. The old days of throw 
up a tower in your backyard no longer exist.

We need to educate the cities on what's reasonable (in a 
non-confrontational way).

We need to educate hams on what is reasonable, today. And that's not 
what was reasonable in 1975. I've been to or watched too many planning 
meetings where the ham came off as arrogant (It's my PRB-1 given right 
to do whatever I darn well want. Or: I provide such an essential public 
safety function that you don't matter. ).

We need to develop tower manufacturing, designs, and support paperwork 
to facilitate jumping through the regulatory hoops.

We need to look to newer antenna system designs and technologies that 
are more compatible with the typical scenario of the 50x100 ft lot with 
a 25 foot tall house in the middle of it occupying half the lot in a 
CC&R controlled neighborhood, while still providing good HF performance. 
  Back when everyone had a 30 foot mast with a TV antenna on the top 
sticking out of the top of their house, a 50-60 ft tower with a Yagi 
wasn't that much different. Now, people have little inconspicuous half 
meter dishes on the side of their house, and the ham tower w/Yagi really 
stands out.

Jim, W6RMK

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