Solar Hillside LA

Along the Arroyo Seco between Los Angeles and Pasadena (and visible from the 110), a nursing home has installed a hillside 80-array photovoltaic system on their 11-acre property in the fall of 2010 and ignited a fracas of NIMBYism. The project produces approximately 93% of the facilities net energy needs and is expected to pay for it’s $1.6m price tag in 12 years.


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Check out the news report from abc 7 about the controversy over the project.

The discussion and knee-jerk NIMBY reaction is pretty interested to parse, especially the perception of the political intervention to temporarily halt the project on ‘safety’ grounds (which didn’t halt getting the project built). The owner’s legal response to the city council two-week injunction is here [pdf].

“Folks, I am all for solar energy – but this appears highly excessive. The panel will stand out like a sore thumb for the foreseeable future – there is no way to mitigate the visual blight of something that will be a monstrous carbuncle on the face of our community. Can you imagine this happening with no community input in the Hollywood Hills, the Sta Monica Mountains? It should not happen to our neighborhood.”

-‘clare’ via eastsidela from nelalist

What I like about this comment is the intentional echoing of Prince Charles’ reaction to the modernist addition to the National Gallery in London by Peter Ahrends as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”. There is so much that can be read into her choice of words as to the socioeconomic status, political orientation, and agenda of the commenter.

Here are posts and articles about the project with the range of comments if you want to read more of the vitriol and antagonism raised when there is the perception that their home’s property values will be threatened:

http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2010/09/city-council-takes-up-montecito-heights-solar-panels/

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=7680076

http://laist.com/2010/11/02/the_rise_of_shiny_solar_project.php

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/21/local/la-me-montecito-solar-20100921&site=

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nelalist/message/29534

There is probably a master thesis in analyzing the various antagonistic and supportive comments here. In fact, the project is rather quite striking and elegant when viewed from the 110 freeway heading north – it subtly hugs the curve of the hillside and accentuates the slope. The photos of it’s construction don’t do justice – but there aren’t any recent pics to share.

Nearby, Occidental College has proposed a 1.1 megawatt project (designed by Lettuce Office) nearby that seems to be avoiding much of the political backlash – perhaps this is a case of being good neighbors or just having a location that isn’t quite so prominent. I can’t figure out if they have built it or not – I visited friends who live nearby this past summer and didn’t see it.

http://eaglerock.patch.com/articles/nelas-2-megawatt-solar-challenge#comments_list

Not mentioned by any of the opponents in the fracas is the legal right to install solar energy systems via the CA Solar Access Laws and in LA Municipal Code .

Full disclosure – Cal Poly MLA students proposed a River Improvement Overlay district for the Arroyo Seco in 2009 – but I had nothing to do with that project (though I may in the future).

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