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

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