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Green shouldn't trump views, resident claims

Solar panels obstruct ocean view at Caribbean Way home, and city has no jurisdiction over installations.

August 11, 2010|By Barbara Diamond, coastlinepilot@latimes.com

The obliteration of a second story ocean view from a Mystic Hills home has the property owner and the city asking if energy conservation holds all the trumps.

Unlike view obstructions from architectural elements, neighbors have no say in the installation of solar panels on rooftops, regardless of the effect on their property or lives. Under a state law, the installations are exempt from the usual design review required for building alterations and the City Council wants to know what can be done to make the installations less upsetting to neighbors.

"I don't think anyone would appreciate the devaluation of their home and the loss of quality of life looking at a metal platform 24 to 30 inches high that can prop up 30 to 50 solar panels," said Lea Eastman, who brought the issue to the attention of the City Council at the July 20 meeting. "It has turned a home into a power plant."

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Although the ocean view from her downstairs living room has not been affected, Eastman is furious that she no longer can see the ocean from second-story master suite and a deck. The view is blocked by of the installation of solar panels on the roof of a home which sits in front of hers, without her approval or the city's.

Neither approval was needed and it certainly wouldn't have been forthcoming from Eastman.

The city's Design Review Board specifically asked if the platform that holds the panels itself is exempt when the project came before it for a building permit, which is required. The question has been referred to City Atty. Philip Kohn for review.

"I have written to the governor and Senator Dianne Feinstein asking them to empower city officials to intervene to preserve the harmony, esthetics of the community and the ocean views," Eastman said.

James Mouradick, owner of the Caribbean Way home on which the panels were installed, said the solar system conserves energy and help clean up the environment and the installation complies with all applicable laws.

"The system reduces CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions by more than one-half million over the life of the system, estimated to be 15 years," Mouradick said.

"If the state didn't think it was a good idea, why would they give a rebate to the installing company — $7,500 for our job. And the federal government gives a $12,000 tax credit to the system owner. We just lease the system."

If excess energy is generated, at the end of the year, Southern California Edison writes the user a check.

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