Marin resident denied solar panels by homeowners association – The Mercury News

Plans to install solar panels on a house in Kentfield are on hold after the Kent Woodlands Property Owners Association said the panels were the wrong colour.

Betty Segars, of Kentfield, said she had been working since July to have solar panels installed on her home by Sunrun Inc., a San Francisco-based residential solar power company. After spending about $500 in deposits and application fees, she said the homeowners association objected to her plan based on aesthetics.

“It’s really not fair and I’m really, really frustrated,” Segars said.

She said the association disapproves of the white backsheet, which encapsulates the back side of solar panels and can be seen outlining each solar cell. She said the association wanted her to use a black backsheet, but the company she contracted with doesn’t source that type of panel.

“I’ve done a lot of research on solar power, and it’s one of the biggest and best companies,” Segars said.

With her project stalled despite receiving a building permit from the county, Segars said she tried to get clarification on the renewable energy rules set by the city’s architectural committee. association. She said committee members were concerned that neighbors might see her roof, despite the lack of objection from surrounding property owners.

“I tried to talk to them to tell them the rules are very arbitrary,” Segars said.

The rules state that the committee has “the right to approve or disapprove of the size, shape, color, materials, construction and location of such equipment. All solar panels should be constructed with the most commonly available non-reflective materials. The location of solar systems should minimize the impact on neighbors’ sense of privacy and isolation and should minimize light reflection into other homes.

Board members of the Kent Woodlands Property Owners Association could not be reached for comment by the Independent Journal.

But in a letter to Segars dated July 23, the architecture committee confirmed that the white backsheet is a problem — among other problems.

“Additionally impacting the decision, the architectural committee was not granted access to your property for the scheduled site visit and your representative did not bring a panel sample as requested,” wrote the former chair of the committee, Jim Schafer.

Anne Barr, acting chair of the architecture committee, said in an email to Segars that the project had indeed been rejected by the committee, but could be appealed to the council. administration of the association.

“You need written approval from KWPOA before installing solar panels on your property (a county permit does not replace approval from KWPOA). At this time, your application to install solar panels was denied, so you do not have KWPOA’s approval. Please follow our appeal procedures if you want your denial to be heard by the KWPOA Board of Directors,” Barr said in an e-mail. -mail.

Dana Armanino, county sustainability planner, said the state’s Solar Rights Act of 1978 limits the ability of homeowners associations and local governments to prevent the installation of solar panels.

“The Solar Rights Act states that homeowner associations cannot prevent homeowners from installing solar panels for aesthetic reasons. They may say ‘move it to a less visible site’, but the change may not have a significant impact on system production,” Armanino said.

Association restrictions cannot increase the cost of solar equipment by more than $2,000 or reduce system efficiency by more than 20%, according to a 2012 review of the law by the Energy Policy Initiative of the University of San Diego School of Law. The review indicates that the association may require that the project be presented to its board of directors for approval. In addition, restrictions may be imposed on the installations of common areas and associations may require the replacement and repair of roofs affected by solar installations.

Regarding the Kent Woodlands Property Owners Association restrictions, Sunrun general secretary Kenneth Ambur said the council could only impose “reasonable restrictions” on solar installations.

“Ms. Segars tells us that the KWPOA has expressed an objection to the color of the solar panels. This is not a legitimate basis for an objection,” Ambur wrote in a letter to the association. “In our experience , the real objection of an HOA is based on the fear that property values ​​will decline as a result of a solar installation.”

Segars said she didn’t want to have to pay more for a different system or hire a new company that provides black backsheets. All she wants is the chance to reduce her family’s impact on the environment and add more than 3,100 solar installations already in use across the county by residents, businesses and municipalities. .

“We want to use what’s available rather than just sticking to a heating system,” she said. “I just can’t stand the waste.”

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