The City Council voted unanimously this morning to order work stopped on the installation of more than 1,400 solar panels on a Montecito Heights hillside to give the Fire Department time to study safety issues. Councilman Ed Reyes asked for worked to be stopped after residents complained about the safety and aesthetics of the project, which would occupy an area the size of a football field a steep hillside near Debs Park. The property is owned by Broadview, a Christian Science nursing home located near the base of the 11-acre property on Griffin Avenue. Broadview executive director Michael Fisher said the nursing home received all the necessary city building permits for the solar array to supply 93% of its electrical power.
Fisher, who appeared before the City Council this morning along with Broadview’s attorney, said the solar panels do not pose a fire hazard and would also not blind motorists on the nearby 110 Arroyo Seco Parkway or aircraft and helicopter pilots with glare. “There really aren’t safety issues here … but I know there are legitimate concerns that the community has expressed through their councilman,” Fisher (pictured at right) told the council “We’d be happy to meet with his staff and the community to talk these things out.”
But Reyes and fellow council members, many of them supporters of renewable and sustainable energy, voted in favor to stop the Broadview solar panels and study the fire safety issues posed by the project. Several council members and residents had also voiced concern over state laws that had limited the abilities of cities to review and restrict solar panel projects. State for law, for example, prohibits local government from placing restrictions on solar panels based on aesthetic concerns. One resident who spoke before the council on Tuesday said it appeared the state law conflicted with a city ordinance and guidelines to protect the hills of Northeast Los Angeles from improper development.
Reyes spokesman Monica Valencia said by email:
“At the request of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the City Council authorized the work stoppage on the solar panels until the Fire Department can review plans to determine if there are any fire safety issues. In addition, Councilmember Reyes requested a report back from Planning and Building and Safety departments on any other permits that may be in the pipeline. Separately, we have the prior motion asking Planning Department to create an ordinance in light of the state law.”
Photo by Martha Benedict