Meet Your New Neighbor – a Solar Farm

VOICES-Thanks to the LADWP in their quest to meet a year 2020 goal of having 33% of its electricity created by renewable energy sources, this is now the case for everyone living in Los Angeles in a residential neighborhood.  You won’t have noticed its coming – nor will you have anything to say about it. 

In another case of the tail wagging the dog, the DWP has put the Planning Department in a stranglehold by using a strict interpretation of the California Solar Act to allow a solar-for-profit business to be built in a residential zone without going through the variance process which would apply to any other business. 

DWP’s new FiT (Feed-in-Tariff) Program, exists to encourage businesses with sufficient roof space to install more solar panels than they need for their own electrical needs, with any excess being sold directly to DWP. Other sources include parking lots and open land. 

One such open land project is planned to be built on 2 1/2 acres of Foothill Blvd. in Lake View Terrace. This is in a rural area in the NE Valley where land is the cheapest per square foot in the City. 

It is surrounded by single family homes and ranches. It has been an agricultural community for as long as anyone can remember. It is also on a Designated Scenic Highway running along the north side of the Big Tujunga Wash that heads downstream to Hansen Dam. 

Open Space and recreational activities are protected here by 3 governmental agencies. Now, the neighbors will live among 3000 solar panels side-by-side running from one end of the property to the other. The panels will be visible from the street by the neighbors on both sides and behind, the 210 freeway, the trails along the Wash, and by all the neighbors going up to the top of the hills on the other side. Not going to be a pretty site and certainly not consistent with the rest of the community. 

Had this site not been in a Specific Plan and on a Scenic Highway the community would never have had notice it was coming. Even so, they have no choice in the matter and can’t even mitigate for any community benefits like a continuation of a horse trail, or heaven forbid – a chance to receive a small reduction in their electric bills. 

LADWP is in the 3rd round of selecting sites of solar generation. The contracts are generally for 20-plus years and the suppliers can lease the property from other owners – could be a sweetheart deal for all except the neighbors who are impacted. Within the 2nd round of choices; 39 of 64 large projects are in the Valley as are 28 of 55 small projects, totaling out at 56%. Are you living next to a vacant lot? 

Mayor Garcetti is awarding a $50,000 contract to create a feasibility study to construct solar panels on 35 acres of the nearby Lopez Canyon Landfill. 

This closed landfill, towering above Sylmar, Kagel Canyon and Lake View Terrace was dedicated by Council action to be reverted to Open Space, trails and recreational uses as a benefit to the many neighbors who put up with the smell of trash, dump truck emissions, and the accompanying noise for many years. It has since become the venue for political pet projects including a truck driving school that the community had to hire legal representation to stop after the City Council backed its fellow member who promoted it for Union benefits. 

People in the community wonder when ‘excess’ park lands will be converted to solar panels and if eminent domain is far behind. The City needs to move forward as other municipalities have done to develop a thoughtful long-term solution to this misuse of authority.

 

(Nancy Woodruff is a Los Angeles resident. She can be reached at: [email protected]

-cw

 

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 12 Issue 24

Pub: Mar 21, 2014