Santa Monica’s New Solar Design Ordinance Does Two Things Right

by Robin Yeager on 07/13/2009

in California Solar Law, Renewable Energy

Santa Monica has provided several models for encouraging energy efficiency and the installation of solar systems that California cities that are going green or have not yet focused on going green would do well to consider in their own planning.

Overlooked amidst the criticism of its limits on the rooftop location of commercial and multi-family solar systems (see previous post) are two elements of the City of Santa Monica’s new solar design ordinance that other California cities should emulate.

The city will allow solar energy systems (1) to encroach into setback areas and (2) to extend above current height limits. It achieves these goals by amending the solar energy design standards of its Zoning Ordinance and making minor modifications to other sections of the Zoning Ordinance.

Santa Monica was ahead of the green curve when its City Council approved a permit fee waiver for solar energy systems – way back in 2002. Four years later, it set a goal of meeting all citywide electric needs through a combination of solar energy and energy efficiency by 2020. Two years ago, it granted expedited status to solar applications.

Now, with the exception of the visibility provision described in the previous post, it has increased the flexibility of those interested in installing solar systems on commercial and multi-family buildings.

Details on the amendments to Santa Monica’s zoning ordinance are set forth in the Planning and Community Development department’s memo to the City Council.


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