Solar panels up for council discussion

In light of growing community concern over the use of solar panels on Newport Beach homes, the City Council's agenda for its Tuesday study session will include discussing legal options for regulations, including health and public safety requirements.

State legislation bans restrictions on solar panel projects based on aesthetics. However, Newport Beach may still be able to regulate the use of the panels if it can be shown that the project presents a significant risk to the public, according to the staff report.

In June, the Daily Pilot reported that neighbors near a 3,000 square-foot solar project on the hillside facing Bayside Drive complained that sunlight reflecting off the panels created a glare visible across the water on Balboa Island.

The project, which slopes downward from a newly constructed Dolphin Terrace home, has spurred discussions on whether limitations should be placed on what upset residents referred to as a "visual blight."

While City Atty. David Hunt said no specific home would be the center of Tuesday's discussion, the issue of glare is one that falls under potential risk to public safety.

Other potential health and safety issues that could arise from solar panels are emergency access, water quality, air quality and drainage, according to the staff report.

As for aesthetics, city staff recommends as one example the incentive program set up by Santa Barbara, where residents are awarded public recognition for complying with voluntary design standards.

Other incentives recommended are expedited plan checks and fee waivers.

The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd.

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