Neighbors squabble over solar project

After a lengthy bureaucratic battle, a Glendale resident has finally built a structure to hold solar panels that will reduce his reliance on other sources for electricity. But his next-door neighbors say the structure impedes the view from their hillside home and may reduce their property’s value.

Scott Peer’s solar structure basically serves as a canopy over the patio above his garage, with the panels on top of it.

His neighbors, Bruce and Connie Meisner, argue that the structure diminishes the view from their patio. One side of their patio’s floor lines up with the top of the structure.

The Meisners also think the structure will negatively impact the value of their property.

As state officials press ahead with programs to drastically reduce California’s carbon footprint, they have set laws in place to promote the effort. But Peer’s case highlights the potential visual side effects for residents whose neighbors embrace the initiative.

Peer battled the city for years to get the metal structure built. Initially the project was denied in 2008 because of its height and proximity to Marion Drive, where Peer and the Meisners live.

In 2010, however, the California Attorney General’s Office stepped in and pointed to the state’s Solar Energy Act, which states a city can only use health and safety concerns when blocking a residential solar project. Issues such as set-back from the street and aesthetics cannot be factored into those decisions.

After a letter from the state attorney general’s office, the city loosened its regulations regarding solar energy projects and Peer’s plans to build a solar structure moved forward.

The Meisners said they aren’t opposed to solar energy, but they don’t want a large structure that appears to jut out from the side of their patio.

“Not there,” Bruce Meisner said. “It’s ridiculous.”

The Meisners would prefer Peer’s solar panels be placed on his roof or in his backyard.

Peer said his original plans were to install the panels on his roof. When the plans were drawn up, though, it became apparent that because of the roof’s configuration, that wasn’t practical. And his backyard, he added, has too much shade.

“I would have saved a lot of money if I’d put them on the roof,” Peer said.

If the table were turned, Peer said he would support a solar structure adjacent to his home.

“As long as it’s for solar energy,” he said. “We need more solar energy.”

The bigger issue, he contends, is about more than just one neighbor complaining about another.

Using solar energy cuts down on the pollution created by other means of generating electricity. Power-plant emissions can lead to cancer and chronic conditions such as asthma, he said, and those issues should get more attention than a squabble between neighbors.

No one else has complained about the structure, Peer said. In fact, a dozen of his neighbors signed a petition in support of the project when he was fighting the city.

Bruce Meisner has contacted the office of Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) for help.

Liu’s representatives said they are studying the matter, as they do with all concerns raised by constituents.

The state attorney general’s office, meanwhile, stands by its original letter, even if neighbors feel it encroaches on their view or could hurt their property values.

“The job of the attorney general is to uphold state law,” said spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill.

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