Santa Paula Planning Commission: Cuts Red Tape in Permitting Solar Systems

By Sheryl Hamlin 

Solar Permitting Process

At the September 22, 2015 Santa Paula Planning Commission, the agenda included an ordinance to bring the citys permitting process in compliance with AB2188 (Murastachi 2014):

ab2188_summary

A summary and background of the measure can be read here.

red_tape

During the discussion, the commissioners asked several important questions:

Commission Sommer asked to clarify the word ”small” in the phrase ”small residential rooftop solar energy system.” Stratis Perros, Deputy Planning Director, replied that it was not a question of size but electrical capacity. The following text is from the staff report.

small

Commissioner Wacker asked about the timeframe for the approval. Director Perros said that the goal was within 24 hours and eventually the approval would be electronic.

Another question asked about the inspectors observance of other non-compliant issues at the property during the solar inspection. Director Perros said that current code inspection procedures involve looking for code issues like water, RV storage on streets, etc. They may take action on a single house or an entire street based on what is observed.

The question of installations on historic homes was discussed. Director Perros indicated that this may require extra time for review.

Sheryl Hamlin asked if this new policy applied to the new solar systems which are designed to emulate roofs, particularly the solar tiles and solar shingles, which provide aesthetically pleasing solar installations, which would be particularly applicable to historic homes. Director Perros replied affirmatively.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the ordinance, which must now go to council for approval. Note that cities must have this in place by September 30, 2015.

Other Planning Commission Discussion

Director Perros presented a map showing the Santa Paula Sphere of Influence (SOI) which was recently an agenda item at LAFCO. Click here for agenda and minutes.

sp_soi

Director Perros explained that Santa Paula is unique in that its SOI includes the huge areas of Adams Canyon and Fagan Canyon. LAFCO had reviewed the Santa Paula SOI in 2012 and at that time, the city was expecting a review in 5 years or in 2017, but LAFCO decided to review it early. The discussion at LAFCO centered around the fact that nothing had happened in this area since the Adams Canyon project was approved in 2007.

Mr. Perros explained that the property is in bankruptcy now with owner RE Futures. However the Planning Department has had meetings with potential buyers to explain what might be possible in this area. The Planning Department hopes to include a planning document for this area to show to LAFCO, as part of the city’s General Plan Update Process, which has just begun.

He noted that they are trying to encourage development in the flatter areas of the canyons with nothing allowed in grades exceeding 30%.

Commissioner Robison, who spoke at the LAFCO hearing along with several council members, said that the project will bring low density, high income homes and potentially a resort with high aesthetics and add value to the city as well as revenue. He felt LAFCO leaned to a propensity for no development and the vote was 4-3 in favor of allowing Santa Paula to keep the area within its SOI. However, they will review the area again in 2 and 1/2 years, so there is not much time to revive a new project. He also asked Director Perros to clarify the Hageman project’s effect on Adams Canyon. Director Perros said that the Peck/Foothill Project reduces the approved 495 Adams canyon total by 79 homes. Click here for a review of the Peck/Foothill project which still must be approved by council.

Note that Director Perros clarified after the meeting that losing Adams Canyon from the SOI would precipitate another SOAR vote for any project. Also he clarified that keeping Adams in the SOI costs the city nothing.

Commision Chair Ikerd asked about the Sphere of Conflicts which will be presented at the next meeting.

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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