Thu11272014

Editorials

Considerations over going solar

Los Altos Hills officials have bent over backwards to push solar energy on residents. They have an extensive solar system installed at the new Town Hall. They offer incentives for residents who go solar.

So it’s curious that the town faced legal action recently over - of all things - restricting solar equipment installations.

Facing such action from Akeena Solar, a solar installation company, city councilmembers agreed to waive a costly variance fee until the town could find middle ground with regulations that restrict such equipment within property setbacks. Solar applicants had to pay a stiff variance fee if their equipment was outside setback limits.

We understand the town's perspective that setback restrictions are in place so that one resident's solar installation doesn't create an eyesore for his neighbors.

"We want to make sure someone doesn't put a 27-foot something right next to their neighbor's fence," said Mayor Jean Mordo. "It's to avoid the look of a dense community."

Town attorney Steven Mattes pointed out than more than 100 solar installations over the past two years have taken place without incident, and indicated the town's setback restrictions – side and backyard 30-foot setbacks and 40 feet in the front yard – are reasonable. Akeena Solar representatives argued to the contrary, and noted a state solar law could trump town setback restrictions.

Residents shouldn't go through needless red tape to install a system, and if the town sees a pattern of people canceling solar installations, then there's something wrong. But what about applicants opting for less obtrusive panels that are effective for the energy-saving residents and easy on the eyes for their view-loving neighbors? For instance, there already are photovoltaic panel designs that look like regular roof tiles, but have the functionality of a solar panel.

Perhaps the town can consider changes to current regulations. But this seems to us a problem that better – and evolving – solar technology can solve.

Congrats on a great town picnic

Amid dealing with solar setbacks and balancing budgets, Los Altos Hills leaders deserve a terrific salute for the successful Town Picnic served up last Sunday to local residents. The crowd estimated at 1,900 enjoyed a perfect summer afternoon of music, free food and beverages, a 52 rare cars display and best of all, very short speeches.  Sponsored by the town's Community Relations Committee chaired by Roy Woolsley, the event at the new Purissima Park came off without a hitch. Congrats.

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