Sounding Off: Here are the missing Dwyer solar facts

Huntington Beach City School District board member Celia Jaffe's letter to the Independent titled "More information about Dwyer's solar arrays" (Community Commentary, Feb. 10) failed to include some very important facts the community should know about the solar panel project at Dwyer Middle School.

Fact: Prior to making the decision to place two photovoltaic solar panel structures, which are 138 feet long, 32 feet deep and 13 feet tall, directly in front of Dwyer, a local historic landmark, the district did not actively seek community input or validation for its solar panel placement ideas. The district did not issue a single press release, contact the local newspapers, contact the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn., contact the HB Neighbors, post a photograph of the plans on the district website, use its automated phone system, send an e-mail blast to the PTSA, or survey the students or the school staff.

Because of the lack of effort by the district to get the community involved, most people did not find out about the solar panel placement at Dwyer before it was too late, and purportedly too expensive to change the plans to a different location.

Fact: Community members attempted to get the board to delay the project so we could raise funds, or work with the board to find other ways to move the solar panels to a more suitable location than our grassy open field in the front of Dwyer. On Jan. 11, the board voted 4 to 1 to ignore hundreds of school board meeting attendees and more than two hours of public comment specifically requesting the panels to be moved from the front of the school to another location.

Fact: The photovoltaic assessment, a study performed in 2009 by Chevron for the district, did not include results for any front-of-school location for the solar panels at Dwyer. Front-of-school locations were simply not studied in the assessment.

Fact: The photovoltaic assessment rated the bus lot at Dwyer with a 99% rating, which is tied for the highest rating of any location at any school listed in the entire study.

Fact: The district used a loophole in the law specifically for solar projects to award a no-bid contract to Chevron in the amount of almost $8 million.

The placement of the large solar panel structures directly in front of Dwyer is an inappropriate location and treatment of our 1933 Art Deco, historic landmark school building and site. The district has ignored the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), failing to recognize the fact that Dwyer is a local historic landmark and that it has been determined by the city of Huntington Beach in the general plan as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Because of this designation, any project that might alter the historic school and site requires more careful consideration under CEQA.

For the next 25 years, those of us who live near Dwyer will be reminded every time we look at our school sitting behind these large out-of-place structures that we must be vigilant citizens. We must keep a closer eye on the school board and public officials to make sure something like this does not happen ever again.

STEVE WEST is a Huntington Beach resident and member of the Dwyer Solar Group.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World