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ABC Solar Wins Exemption From Planning For All Solar

by Staff Writers
Torrance CA (SPX) Jun 05, 2009
Bradley Bartz and ABC Solar are proud to announce the decision of the City of Torrance to exempt solar installations from planning review. In April of this year ABC Solar took the extraordinary step of suing the City of Torrance asking the local superior court to rule that design review is against the Solar Rights Act.

Bartz and ABC Solar asked the court for an injunction against the City of Torrance for the city's practice of requiring an aesthetic review of solar energy system installations enforced via Article 41 - R-H Hillside and Local Coastal Overlay Zone of the Torrance Municipal Code. He opined that the California Legislature passed the Solar Rights Act to help speed the adoption of solar and prevent needless red-tape.

"The Solar Rights Act clearly makes a path for cities to make it easy to go solar. The intent of the act is to fast-track solar," Said Bradley Bartz, president of ABC Solar Inc. He continued with, "Solar photovoltaic and thermal systems are rapidly being adopted by Californians. The faster we can get permits, the faster we can send the state tax revenue, hire great crews and spin another meter backwards."

The California code is section 65850.5 states: "It is the intent of the Legislature that local agencies not adopt ordinances that create unreasonable barriers to the installation of solar energy systems, including, but not limited to, design review for aesthetic purposes, and not unreasonably restrict the ability of homeowners and agricultural and business concerns to install solar energy systems."

At the start of pulling a permit for a solar client in the Hillside overlay section of Torrance, California, ABC Solar was forced to meet very strict neighborhood compatibility rules for the passing of the Planning Department's Review. Mr. Bartz objected at the Planning counter that the review was unnecessary and against the intent of the Solar Rights Act. The counter staff checked with bosses who returned the verdict that they had the right to make solar projects go through the City of Torrance's design plan review via their neighborhood compatibility process.

Mr. Bartz pursued two paths from that moment, one being the gathering of signatures of 4 neighbors, 3 of which would not likely be able to see the solar array, and two being the seeking of injunctive relief via the court system.

The planning process of signatures took up 6 weeks of time. 4 weeks went by as Mr. Bartz made half-a-dozen attempts to get signatures, only to get two. And then 2 weeks by the City of Torrance in sending letters to get the other signatures, which they did not get. After the six week gauntlet, Building and Safety was next. This is when dealing with the city started to turn surreal for Mr. Bartz. The BS department said it will take two more weeks of review.

Mr. Bartz asked to see the supervisor, at the recommendation from a phone call from the city attorney that morning, and the staff made him appear. He smiled and said we have no problem with your project... oh.. just that one of your copies is faint and ... oh yea, you need to see the fire department and get their approval.

Mr. Bartz then walked to the fire department to submit plans for fire review. They said, we have 10 days, and took almost all of it. Then we sat in hand-me-down chairs in the fire department's meeting room. They ended up being great guys and we came to a quick conclusion that Torrance Fire is all for solar. The Torrance Fire department agreed to a 6 inch set back from the ridge of the roof. This will allow a firefighter the footing needed to whack the roof with an axe.

On Wednesday, May 27, Bartz and the City of Torrance came to a simple agreement. Bartz drops his claim and the City of Torrance exempt solar projects from design and planning review. All solar projects will only be subjected to review by the Building and Safety department and the Fire department. In addition Bartz asked the City of Torrance to post on its website a note that says, "Going Solar is Easy in the City of Torrance" or something to that effect. With that Bartz signed a letter to the court requesting dismissal with the city of Torrance attorney promising not to send unless these terms were met.

"For the solar industry this is a big victory," said Mr. Bartz.

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