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Montecito solar panel project sparks debate

September 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A local nursing home is installing a swath of solar panels in an effort to go "green," but it's facing resistance from some residents and officials who have concerns about the project.Broadview Christian Science Nursing Services in Montecito Heights has already started work on the project. Steel posts have been planted along the hillside behind the building near the 110 Freeway, and the first solar panel was installed on Friday.

Officials said the panels will cover 93 percent of the home's electrical needs. While residents in the area appreciate the solar efforts, some residents said the panels are simply ugly.

"The open hillsides are something that we fought so hard to protect in the hillside ordinance a few years ago, and I think this kind of blows a hole in that effort," said Montecito resident Jack Fenn.

State law restricts cities from blocking solar panel installations for aesthetic reasons, but Los Angeles Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents the region, is asking the city council to halt the project because he said it's being built in a fire hazard zone.

Reyes said he wants the city to review some of the safety concerns around the project.

On the other side, the nursing home said it is doing something good by going green. The facility also emphasized that the hillside will be re-seeded to prevent erosion once the project is completed. Facility officials insist that there is nothing wrong with the project.

"We have all the permits that we need. We got through the process. They were actually submitted last February. So it's been a long process to get through that, and we've gotten all the approvals from all of the departments, so there really aren't any safety issues," said Broadview Administrator Michael Fisher.

"Just to say we'll allow it doesn't mean we can't put some restrictions on the amount of grading you do, the angle of the tilt on those panels, whether it goes into someone's back window or yard, and I think those are some really good concerns," said L.A. City Councilman Greig Smith.

The city council is considering issuing a stop-work order on the project until they can review some safety concerns.

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