October 20, 2009
Hating On Solar Panels In The Upper Haight
Four excerpts from the San Francisco Examiner:
"After installation of the [solar] panels for the three-unit building [in the Upper Haight]…nearby homeowners filed an appeal with The City against the plans. The neighbors are arguing that the panels are dangerous and could harm the character of and property values in the neighborhood."
"The solar panels erected ... are egregiously not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and are now embarrassingly visible landmarks to pedestrians,” [the neighbors] wrote in the appeal. “This significantly detracts from the character of the neighborhood."
"[The neighbors] have urged the Board of Appeals — which rules on filings against permits or licenses issued, revoked or suspended by The City — to order the panels to face more directly upward. The couple says that change would protect passers-by from falling panels in strong winds or during an earthquake."
"Tilting the panels would also improve the view for the objecting pair."
And suddenly the Haighting all makes sense.
∙ Solar array causes conflict with neighbors [San Francisco Examiner]
First Published: October 20, 2009 7:45 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Nattering NIMBYS unite!
Welcome to SF, now please think, act, breath, and live like we do.
Posted by: craeg at October 20, 2009 9:02 AM
The neighbors are going too far, and who's to say what the "character" of the Haight is? It was built before electricity, phones or cars. Does that mean that electrical wires and paved streets go against its character? I doubt anyone whined about those elements when they came to be. Solar panels and decentralized energy are, hopefully, another step in human progress. If not, and we continue the fossil addiction, then it's unlikely any of us will be around to enjoy the pretty views of the city for very much longer. Rooftop solar is the best, most efficient, and least impactful form of renewable energy technology. The City should approve the panels, and while they're at it, give these pioneers a special commendation for forking over their own cash to go solar.
Posted by: solar_fan at October 20, 2009 10:06 AM
On previous socketsite threads, when someone pointed out that a remodel or improvement was going to invariably raise the ire of the neighbors, we were told that blocking someone's view was/is never a valid reason to deny a project. While that technically is true, it doesn't stop objecting neighbors from pursuing an objection on other grounds and I'm guessing that this case will probably serve as an excellent case study in how it's done.
From the article:
Verma told The Examiner that view impacts from the panels are important, but the issues outlined in the appeal are equally or more important.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at October 20, 2009 10:10 AM
While views are not protected, you can pay the city about $400.00 for an appeal and it just pisses your neighbor off because they can't finish the job and buys you a little bit of time. Great tools for helping everyone get along and spread the love.
Posted by: viewlover at October 20, 2009 12:09 PM
amazing. i hope that 90k they dropped on the system won't be going to waste. ridiculous.
Posted by: mr. weeny at October 20, 2009 12:22 PM
Wow, SF neighbors are even worse busybodies than the stereotypical HOA. Add that to the "historical" preservation folks, and I don't know how any building gets done here.
Posted by: sfrenegade at October 20, 2009 12:28 PM
For those of you who are interested, the subject property is at 1219-1223 Page, and the incensed neighbors appear to be at 1144 Haight (which somewhat surprised me, but makes sense as they look down to the bay). When all is said and done, I can't blame them for trying , but I think they are delaying the inevitable. At any rate, you can get a pretty good lay of the land from Google Maps and make your own armchair judgments. The installation appears to be at a fairly low tilt angle, IMHO, so they are already giving up some efficiency (I'd hate to see them have to flatten it). The Page Street property is gorgeous; I'd be more worried about the faux stone work on the neighbors to the left "destroying the character of the neighborhood".
Rooftop solar is the best, most efficient, and least impactful form of renewable energy technology.
I'll be sure to send you my panels after they're spent. And I imagine the solar thermal folks might have some words for you; I remember talking to an advocate from TURN who was not happy about how the "tax" on electric ratepayers was being spent (million solar roofs).
Posted by: EBGuy at October 20, 2009 12:46 PM
California state law trumps local law on this (thank god Sacramento sometimes saves us from the SF supes and agencies). Section 65850.5 of the Government Code and Section 17959.1 of the Health and Safety Code control here. Under those statutes, a solar energy system must be approved with the only permissible review being limited to "whether it meets all health and safety requirements of local, state, and federal law." Moreover, "the requirements of local law shall be limited to those standards and regulations necessary to ensure that the solar energy system will not have a specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety." No aesthetic issues can be considered.
Even more -- if a use permit is denied for public health and safety reasons, the local agency must make "written findings based upon substantial evidence in the record that the proposed installation would have a specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety, and there is no feasible method to satisfactorily mitigate or avoid the specific, adverse impact. The findings shall include the basis for the rejection of potential feasible alternatives of preventing the adverse impact."
This appeal is a joke. If I were these homeowners, I'd lawyer up and run to court and get a writ directing the city to let them connect it all -- now. And I'd get an abuse of process complaint drafted to file against the neighbors as soon as this ridiculous appeal is over seeking losses from the loss of electrical generation and legal fees.
Posted by: Trip at October 20, 2009 12:47 PM
It will be interesting how this fight between what seems like the two largest constituencies in the city, NIMBYs vs. environmentalists, will turn out, and which side the city sides with.
Posted by: g at October 20, 2009 1:39 PM
UPDATE: "The five-member Board of Appeals unanimously dismissed the appeal on Nov. 5, with board members saying that they rejected the appellants’ arguments....On Monday morning, Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. electricians...connected the panels to the grid."
Posted by: SocketSite at December 2, 2009 8:57 AM