Montecito Heights solar project leaves some residents feeling blindsided

Last week the Above the City blog posted some photos (pictured above)  of a grid of holes being bored into a steep hillside near Debs Park and asked the question what was going on?   This week residents found out that the holes are for the construction of a large array of solar panels that will be spread across a band of hillside stretching 300 feet wide by 80 feet deep.  The Montecito Heights hillside above Griffin Avenue is owned by the Broadview, a Christian Science nursing home located near the base of the 11-acre  property. When completed, more than 1,000 solar panels – each measuring about 3-feet by 5-feet – mounted on poles will satisfy about 93% of Broadview’s electrical needs, said executive director  Michael Fisher. The combination of Broadview’s solar panels and the adjacent Debs Park Audubon Center – which generates all of its own electricity – could serve as a local showcase for renewable energy, said Fisher, who envisions that local schools might want to organize field trip to visit the installations. But what Fisher views as a shining example of renewable energy others see as a source of glare and blight.  On the NELA List,  a person named Clare said:

“Folks, I am all for solar energy – but this appears highly excessive. The panel will stand out like a sore thumb for the foreseeable future – there is no way to mitigate the visual blight of something that will be a monstrous carbuncle on the face of our community. Can you imagine this happening with no community input in the Hollywood Hills, the Sta Monica Mountains? It should not happen to our neighborhood.”

Fisher said that the city has granted all the necessary permits to install the panels.  The decision to mount the panels on the hill was made after contractors determined that there was not enough room on the roofs of the existing Broadview buildings, many of which were also located in shady locations. The panels will face south, which means that hillside residents to the west in Mount Washington won’t be bothered by the glare, Fisher said. He said the panels were placed as  low on the hillside as possible, keeping them out of view from the homes perches on the hills above the property.  “I don’t think it will look so different,” Fisher said of the hillside once construction is completed and the grass and brush grow back.

Once the solar array is up and running, it is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by seven tons over 25 years.  The 39-room nursing home will recoup the cost of the panels in about 11 years. “The key point is that we are moving towards renewable energy,” Fisher said. “It’s a pretty special project for the community.”

Fisher said he has discussed the project with some of the nearby neighbors, who he said are supportive of the project.

Photo from Above the City


  1. “Folks, I am all for solar energy – but this appears highly excessive.”

    In other words:

    “I’m all for solar panels but NOT IN MY BACKYARD.”

    Do you think people consciously realize the moment they become a NIMBY?

  2. I realized just how easily people disconnect their stated “principles” from what actually benefits them after a large housing development in my community ripped out hundreds of mature trees to build overpriced, gaudy, out-of-scale McMansions. One of the first people to buy into the development then, immediately, wanted to join and gin up the “environment” committee of the larger community’s homeowner’s group, to fight against plans to build a newer single-family home nearby that would block HIS view of the City skyline.

    (translated: “I got mine, now the rest of you GO AWAY!”

  3. “The panel will stand out like a sore thumb for the foreseeable future …”

    There is no foreseeable future without these kinds of projects.

    “It should not happen in our neighborhood.”

    Really? On some days, because of the smog, I can’t even see our neighborhood from the freeway.

    ” … there is no way to mitigate the visual blight of something that will be a monstrous carbuncle on the face of our community.”

    That’s kind of absurd. Montecito Heights is not exactly The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music. I know, I live there.

  4. Clare has a portfolio heavily weighted toward petroleum stocks.

  5. All I have are gangsters running through my hillside. I’d like to replace them with solar panels.

  6. @moniker

    By the time they’re done graffitiying these panels, they won’t catch much sun anyway.

  7. Actually, “Clare” has a long-standing reputation weighted towards meddling in other people’s communities. (She does not live in Montecito Heights; it’s not her “neighborhood” by any reasonable definition).

  8. I live in Montecito Heights, and I think it’s fabulous they’re putting in the solar array. I wish I could afford them on my house. I can’t imagine the reasoning behind any objections. It’s just silly.

  9. Montecito Heights overlooks the Southwest Museum.
    Where once there was open space in Debs Park adjacent MH, observers now perceive visual blight!

  10. I am all for solar panels but don’t know if the empty hillside is the right place for them. Couldn’t they have installed them on all of the Broadview roofs?

    We’ll see how it ends up looking I guess….

  11. I understand those complaining about NIMBY. However, I have been consistent on such matters. I also note, I do not live in that neighborhood.

    I am very much in favor of clean energy, green energy. However, that does not mean is it appropriate in just any old location. Just because it is clean does not mean it is not industrial, it is not blight. Just because it is clean does not mean it is OK any old place.

    That is NOT my neighborhood. And I oppose it being there, most especially the size of a football field! When was that area zoned for industrial use?! Warehouses are clean, too, but you wouldn’t allow them in a residential or park area, would relegate them to an industrial area.

    As an example, I also am in favor of producing energy via clean windmills (although I have had my concerns raised by the apparent SEVERE impact of the windmills on migrating birds). But I very much oppose the plan to put a windmill farm off the New Jersey seashore, something which the governor there just signed off on. That is just the wrong place for such, will destroy the beautiful seashore (watch for lots and lots of dead seagulls washing up on shore), the view that is one of the big reasons to go there to relax! In that case, what they should do is use the lesser known but more appropriate technology that uses wave power to produce energy (booms that go up and down on the waves and swells, and as they do, they turn a generator below, producing energy.) That wave technology would be booms at sea level and so not viewable from the shore, so not a conflict as the blight of the windmills will be.

    I have long considered it a good idea to require that all construction include solar panels on or for the roofs. But a football sized field destroying a hillside and in everyone’s face is a VERY different thing!

    As I said, I do not live in that neighborhood, nor even go there very often. But that is not something that should be allowed there. I would welcome solar panels on the roofs in my neighborhood, but I would not welcome a football sized field — industrial size — blighting a hillside.

    This is just the wrong location for such a large installation. This is shallow minded approval of such.

  12. I’m so glad the majority of comments here are weighted against Clare. She come across as one of those trustfund hillbillies who has nothing better to do than glare out at the world from behind her ill kempt bamboo grove and protect her precious sense of isolation.

  13. Hmmm. Well, Henry brings up some good points.

  14. The amount of renewable energy we need to forestall serious climate disruption demands we use every rooftop and most available vacant space. And quickly.

    Want an idea of the scale we actually need?

  15. 5th-Amendment-Type

    You know what’s interesting about this discussion — mostly because it’s missing from it? It’s the notation that this is on PRIVATE PROPERTY.

    To read through here, you might think folks were talking about parkland or something communally owned. C’mon folks, when did we all join the restrictive HOA that says everyone gets a vote in what happens on a piece of land OWNED by someone else? Maybe just because we can see it, from where we live, walk, work?

    Be careful of engaging in this – the shoe may be on the other foot, at some point.

  16. I must admit, my first reaction to learning about this was pretty NIMBY. I love the idea of solar and wish it was used more, but to sacrifice that pretty hillside! I drive towards it everyday up Fig! My poor eyes! But seriously, I got over that pretty quickly. This will perhaps inspire others to install solar panels.

  17. What everyone seems to have forgotten is that this is HILLSIDE DEVELOPMENT.

    By building solar panels on such a large hillside footprint, how much additional water run-off will there be on the downslope properties? (If the nursing home is downslope – I hope they don’t have 1st floor rooms – sounds like a lawsuit to me.)

    But then Best Management Practices (BMPs) for hillsides are not caculated for the torrential type of rain we get in Los Angeles hills.

    A developement on Allesandro at Baxter & Fargo in Echo Park had to redo their drainage 3 times becuase the BMPs were an inadequate guideline to keep their parking lot from flooding with even light rain.

    There are consequences to this type of hillside development that need to be considered – it’s not just a rooftop apparatus.

  18. I feel that most people complain because they fear change. It’s like the Mad Mob mentality we see all the time on The Simpsons. Oh no!!! look change…everyone grab a pitch fork. I think thats the core issue most people have.

    The hillside probably didn’t do much for anyone, but now it will provide clean renewable energy for Broadview and the excess will most likely help power some of the local homes and business in the community.

  19. I live in MH just a 5 minute walk from the Broadview. I think this solar array will be much welcomed by both the MH enviromentalist and taggers in our neighborhood. We can barely keep up with removing graffiti from all over our walls. Hollywood has their sign….we’ll have our “AVENUES” sign.

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