Corona del Mar Today: Planners complain about solar panel law

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.

The proposed code amendment will go before the City Council at a future meeting.


NBFD Joins Facebook

Joining the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, the Newport Beach Police Department, the Newport Beach mayor and the city of Newport Beach, the Newport Beach Fire Department has joined Facebook, officials said last week.

Visit and follow the NBFD to keep up to date on safety tips, upcoming events and any interesting incidents they may be responding to, said spokeswoman Jennifer Schulz.


Firefighter's Olympics headed for Newport

The Newport Beach Firefighters Assn. will host the 2011 California Firefighter's Olympics this summer.

More than 4,000 firefighters and family members are expected to attend the event scheduled for July 10 to 15, fire officials said.

Fire stations throughout Newport Beach, including the Corona del Mar station on Marigold Avenue, announced the Olympics with banners installed last week.

Founded in 1970, the Firefighter Olympics gives state firefighters the chance to come together "in the spirit of friendly competition to promote physical fitness and camaraderie among our brothers and sisters in the Fire Service," according to a Fire Department statement.

The games, held annually, comprise 30 events including softball, basketball, surfing, golf and dodgeball.

The Newport Beach Firefighters Assn. Benevolent fund is seeking sponsors for the games with proceeds going to the Children's Hospital of Orange County, Grossman Burn Foundation, the city of Newport's Parks and Recreation Department and the Newport Beach Firefighters Association Benevolent Fund. Donations are tax deductible.

For more information, call Nick Stocks at (949) 887-9723.


Beach Candy to Open (With B.Candy Addition)

Corona del Mar is about to get sparkly and sweet with the grand opening of Beach Candy Swimwear on March 5.

The shop will sell custom swimwear created by owner Brittany Barber, who began sewing when she was 12 years old. Barber, who grew up in the Tustin area, studied fashion and art history in New York at the Pratt Institute.

"Nothing took like swimwear," she said. "I could not stop."

Barber said she went to Brazil to see how they made their famous swimsuits, but she was disappointed in the quality.

"It was the same as here but skimpier," she said. "They slapped it together. I try to fight against that with each swimsuit."

Barber's suits are not only high-quality with a custom fit, but also have bead crystal "candy" attached.

She will spend as much as five hours attaching "light candy" to suit straps, with suit tops starting at about $80 and V.I.P suits with lots of beadwork priced as high as $2,000.

Barber said she first began working on the Beach Candy line in 2008 and spent a year in production before selling suits throughout the world at shows and online. Beach Candy in Corona del Mar will be her first retail space and her flagship store.

The shop also will feature a partnership with B.Candy, owned by Corona del Mar resident Brandy Valdez, who will have a small stand in the store at 2824 E. Coast Hwy.

B.Candy, which has a space at the OC Mart MIX, hopes to open a shop at 3617 E. Coast Hwy. in mid-March. City parking requirements have held up the opening.

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