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Seeing red in 'green' panels

Newport Beach home's installation of 170 hillside solar panels has some nearby neighbors upset at their glare, appearance.

May 29, 2010|By Sarah Peters
(Ani Yessayan )

To Stephen and Mashid Rizzone, nothing is more beautiful than preserving the planet for future generations.

In about a month, the Rizzones will move into their new "green" home on the bluffs of Corona del Mar. The residence on Dolphin Terrace will be powered almost entirely by solar panels built on the hillside sloping behind it.

Occupying about 3,000 square feet on their property, the panels are expected to cover between 80% and 90% of the their monthly utility bills, Stephen Rizzone said.

"This is something that has evolved for us over the last five years as an outgrowth of having two kids," Rizzone said. "My wife and I asked ourselves what kind of legacy we were leaving and what kind of lessons we wanted to impart to our kids."

Besides being energy-efficient, the home also meets stringent construction standards for environmental friendliness, and is undergoing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, Rizzone said.

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But the mammoth size of the Rizzones' "green" solar field, made up of 170 panels, has left some neighbors seeing red.

"We all want to go green, but this is just too much," said Sheryl Perrin, who lives on Bayside Drive at the foot of the bluff below the Rizzones. "My kitchen windows look out directly onto that thing."

Perrin and her husband have lived in the coastal neighborhood since 1998. The couple was dismayed when the natural landscaping of the bluffs was replaced with the man-made installation.

"My husband said as a joke that he was going to put a giant mirror on our roof and beam the glare right back up at them," Perrin said.

The city has received several similar complaints from neighbors about the panels' glare and appearance; however, federal guidelines do not allow a city to approve or deny construction permits based on cosmetic factors, Newport Beach Building Director Jay Elbettar said.

"I just don't think it is in keeping with our community standards of what is acceptable," neighborhood resident Liz Kennedy said. "I think conservation is great, but I don't want to see the beauty of our community destroyed by no regulation on alternative energy sources."

The homeowners association of the area attempted to prevent the Rizzones from installing the panels, but was advised against it by their attorney, said John Gessford, former board member of the Irvine Terrace association.

"It went totally against our guidelines, but we didn't have the jurisdiction to say no," Gessford said.

According to Rizzone, an agreement has since been worked out with the association.

"Let's face it, looks are relative. I happen to think that it looks great," Rizzone said. "It's a mixed bag here … the vast number of people have been supportive, but some people will never be happy with change."

However, to "soften the look," they plan to add flowering plants and trees around the project site and along the bluff, Rizzone said.

Rizzone, who grew up in Orange County, said that he and his wife moved to Newport in 1995.

"We love this area. The view is simply spectacular."

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