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Sounding Off: Blight vs. boon in coastal communities

August 17, 2010|By Marilyn Beck

The issue is not whether these solar panels are in compliance ("Corona del Mar Today: Solar panels in compliance," Aug. 15). Clearly the contractor and the solar company who installed them would not have done so if they did not comply with the city's code. The city of Newport Beach should not simply wash their hands of the matter because the panels are in compliance with the code.

This is a much broader issue that cities need to address at the state level. (As mentioned in an earlier OC Now article, Laguna Beach is facing a similar issue where a neighbor destroyed another's view with his solar panels.) I am very much in favor of energy conservation and alternative sources such as solar panels. I think the owners of the house on Dolphin Terrace should be praised for all the innovative ways they are attempting to control energy consumption.

But removing all vegetation is sort of like robbing Peter to pay Paul. If every home on Dolphin Terrace removed all vegetation and put up solar panels, we would be losing significant environmental resources, denuding the natural bluffs and slopes in order to "conserve" energy.

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This cannot be what the state Legislature intended by promoting solar energy. Likewise, cities need to be able to control height restrictions in neighborhoods for the benefit of all who live there. Allowing residents to install solar panels on rooftops and block neighbor views in doing so (and thereby devaluing their property) is not the right approach. There must be a balance between promoting clean energy and being considerate of the needs of all who live in neighborhoods.

Our City Council and city attorney should take the lead in approaching the Legislature about some of these difficult issues caused by Assembly Bill 2473. Perhaps the city of Laguna Beach will join in this effort. Other coastal cities where homes are built on native slopes and where views are an important element of property value should be approached as well. This is an important issue because solar energy is finally becoming affordable and extremely valuable to our communities. It ought to be encouraged, but not at the cost of all our natural vegetation. And people shouldn't be allowed to build solar fields on top of houses to whatever height they like without any regard for current code restrictions.

Our city governments should be taking the lead in addressing this issue at the state level, and they need to do so sooner than later before more damage is done to the community as a whole.

MARILYN BECK owns a house in Corona del Mar.

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