Corona del Mar Today: Planners complain about solar panel law

February 26, 2011|By Amy Senk
  • Beach Candy is coming to Corona Del Mar.
Beach Candy is coming to Corona Del Mar. (Courtesy Amy Senk )

Newport Beach should let California officials know that a state law limiting local control over solar panel installations has negative consequences, the city's Planning Commission decided Thursday night.

"Maybe we can't be successful," Commissioner Michael Toerge of Corona del Mar said. "We can't be if we don't try."

Toerge said that Newport Beach could work with other cities, or work alone, to let state leaders know that a bill passed in 2004 fails to protect views and could have other "unintended consequences."

The commissioners took to heart testimony from Bayside Drive resident John Petry, who lives across from a solar installation belonging to a new Irvine Terrace home. That home's hillside solar panels triggered neighbor complaints that led to a City Council study session and a directive to staff to research how the city could regain some local control.

"Just because it's a state law doesn't make it a sacred cow," Petry said. "It's not something that's an inalienable right to anyone."


Toerge said that unlimited solar installations in Corona del Mar one day could block public views along Ocean Boulevard, as well as in the Cameo neighborhoods and in Irvine Terrace, where adding 3-foot installations on flat rooftops could wipe out ocean views for the public as well as neighboring homeowners.

"Whether we like it or not, this is a sleeping giant," he said. "We're not taking it lying down."

Petry acknowledged that he and other critics of the 168 panels above Bayside Drive can do nothing about that solar installation. But the Irvine Terrace home was used as an example several times during the two-hour hearing.

"It's a black eye for the entire industry," said Matt Stoutenburg, owner of Stout & Burg Electric. "We don't want to see eyesores everywhere."

That home's panels, he said, generate far more power that likely are needed — maybe as much as double the home's needs. Stoutenburg also said that unlike computer technology, which led to smaller computers over the years, solar panels grow larger as technology advances and could lead to more and bigger installations.

In the end, the Planning Commission voted 6-0 to pass a code amendment with voluntary guidelines and incentives for installation of solar energy systems with the provision that staff be directed to research working with state lawmakers. They also asked that the amendment require solar systems to be large enough only to power a home's needs based on yearly usage.

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