Solar supporters ask for more flexibility

CITY HALL — The City Council is poised to loosen regulations on solar energy systems, but Mayor Ara Najarian and a group of residents say the move doesn't go far enough.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider adopting new zoning regulations intended to ease restrictions on building a new structure or addition to support solar panels. Council members last week endorsed the proposal, which would allow taller, larger panel structures.

The new rules would provide more flexibility in an effort to ease restrictions on installing the solar energy equipment, city planner Chris Baghdikian said.

But last week Mayor Ara Najarian said the proposal wouldn't go far enough in making sure Glendale codes don't conflict with state law, which states that cities are only allowed to deny solar project applications for health or safety concerns.

"This government code passed by our state legislature ties our hands," he said.

Scott Peer — whose lengthy battle with city officials over his solar system instigated the changes in the first place — argued that the city should eliminate all zoning standards.

"I am not alone in having to fight the city to get a solar system installed," Peer said. "Glendale's policies have been clearly ineffective at promoting solar energy."

Peer's fight drew the support of California Deputy Atty. Gen. Deborah Slon, who last year issued a letter arguing that by blocking his project, the city was violating state law.

City officials have countered that it's unclear whether structures built to support solar panels fall under state law.

Last week, the majority of the council said they were concerned with the unintended effects of eliminating all zoning standards, and indicated they would likely support the looser regulations.

"I don't care to see solar panels on front lawns. I don't care to see them on hillsides," said Councilman Dave Weaver, who installed solar panels on his roof several decades ago.

The city will also seek an official legal opinion from the state attorney general's office.

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