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."
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.
"I don't want to minimize the frustration felt by many of the neighbors, but in fairness to the property owner, the project is/was what State law allows (actually encourages) folks to do," Finnigan said in an email. "I also realize that residents are upset that the City didn't intervene, but we're following that same section of State law that essentially tells local government not to interfere in these installations."
Staff will provide a report that reviews and explains that section of law, describes how the city's codes comply with the law, and might propose what, if any, potential changes to the city's codes and processes might be acceptable under the law relating to solar installations on a going-forward basis. Members of the public are invited to attend the study session and make comments; we will update with the meeting date when it is made available.
"I hope that none of the neighbors is under the impression that we have or had the right to undo what has been installed — any remedies from here are prospective and challenging to enact," Finnigan said.
Olson, however, said it might not be too late to change the panels above Bayside Drive.
"There are some things we can do," he said, adding that he's hired legal counsel who has advised him not to elaborate.
He also said he's received calls and emails from many people — locally and as from far away as Colorado — who want to help him fight what he sees as the solar industry's chokehold on local development.
"I'm a believer in solar," he said. "I'm also a believer in projects that are in harmony with the surrounding areas."
School district issues statement about Rice
Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials issued the following statement in response to the Monday death of former Corona del Mar High School cheer coach Wendy Rice in a multi-car crash near Bishop:
"The Newport-Mesa school community was saddened to learn of the tragic loss of former Corona del Mar High School Cheer Coach Wendy Rice, who was killed in a car crash while traveling with cross-country team members from California Baptist University in Riverside to a training camp in Mammoth.
"Wendy Rice was the cheerleading director, head coach and choreographer at Corona del Mar High School from 2001 to 2008. During her tenure with CdM, she led the squad to the COA West Coast Open Championship, the U.S. Spirit leaders National Championship, the UCA West coast Championship, a second-place finish at the USA Nationals as well as many regional and state level titles.
"According to comments received from former colleagues and students, while overseeing the cheerleaders at CdM, Wendy always made sure that her squad supported every team at CdM. Whether it was baking goods or painting signs around campus, Wendy ensured that they showed support for all of CdM's athletics teams.
"When the squad wore their cheer uniforms they were representatives of CdMHS and they served as role models to the CdM community. Wendy and her squad inspired many younger students through the 'Little SeaQueen Camp' to aspire to one day wear the uniform and cheer for Corona del Mar High School.
"Wendy was widely known and well respected in cheerleading circles and will be greatly missed. The Corona del Mar community extends our deepest sympathy to Wendy's friends and family. She will be missed but never forgotten," stated Guy Olguin, principal of CdM Middle School."