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Corona del Mar Today: Solar panels officially in compliance

August 14, 2010
  • Men work around the edge of a large group of solar panels on the hillside above Bayside Drive.
Men work around the edge of a large group of solar panels… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

City officials have "signed off completely" on a house being built on Dolphin Terrace that incorporates 168 solar panels that some neighbors claim are ugly and glaring.

"It is now a fully approved, inspected, completed project, as is the house," owner Steve Rizzone said in an e-mail. "All of the setbacks, height requirements, etc., were checked and found to be completely according to plans and building codes. Hopefully, we all can move forward now."

The three-story home on Dolphin Terrace in the Irvine Terrace neighborhood not only uses solar energy but has glazed windows to filter the sun, windows and skylights to reduce the need for artificial lights, and it uses low-voltage LED lights, and has a system to reuse runoff water for irrigation and more.

Yet some neighbors say the solar panels are "ridiculous," according to comments on the Corona del Mar Today website.

"It's pretty arrogant to just sort of run in the face of all the neighbors," said Robert Olson of Balboa Island, who said the panels' glare is "obnoxious."

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Olson thinks that city staff had some options that would have still satisfied the state solar laws but reduced the impact on other homes, including asking the panels to be placed on the roof. (Rizzone has said there was no room on the roof because of the home's extensive use of skylights.)

"What we want is our city to take a better planning approach on these solar panel projects," he said. "They are basically hiding behind (the state law)."

City Councilman Ed Selich said in a July meeting that he had received many complaints, and he asked city staff to investigate and bring back a report for a future study session meeting.

However, city staff confirmed that the building permit for the solar system was "finaled" by the building inspector after he verified it complied with the approved plans, according to Tara Finnigan, a city spokeswoman.

She added that the Planning and Building departments' ability to regulate placement or aesthetics, which might otherwise be allowed within the city Zoning Code, is pre-empted by the passage of Assembly Bill 2473, which limits cities' regulatory ability over solar installations to simple health and safety considerations.

"The section of State Gov. Code (65850.5.) that relates to this issue makes it clear that the State wants to encourage the use of solar energy and limit any obstacles that local agencies, and even homeowner associations, could put in place that would restrict its use," she said.

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