Santa Clarita City Council members expressed outrage and frustration at being unable to do anything about the solar panels that have been erected behind Canyon View Estates. They see it as Sacramento taking away local control and trying to find a way to reassert some jurisdiction.
“I am disgusted with what they have done with the hillside, in complete disregard of the people of Canyon View Estates and the people of Santa Clarita,” Councilmember Bob Kellar said.
“It’s not just Councilmember Kellar’s outrage,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said. “It’s an eyesore for many residents. I certainly share the outrage.”
Without its knowledge, the owners of the manufactured home park started putting up the first phase of what will become 6,000 solar panels on the hill overlooking the property — after removing the vegetation.
Because Canyon View Estates is classified as a manufactured home-planned unit development, the owners needed only approval from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which they received.
Community activist Alan Ferdman looked into the HCD permitting process and found a booklet that said that a person seeking an HCD-approved permit should first “obtain approval and signature from the local planning department.” Ferdman spoke to Tom Cole, head of the city’s Community Development department, to find out who signed off on the solar-panel project. Cole told him the local planning department referred to the closest HCD office.
According to the HCD website, there are no regional offices in Los Angeles County. The closest two are in Riverside and San Luis Obispo.
“I got the impression from Tom Cole that he’s not going to do anything else because he doesn’t have jurisdiction,” Ferdman said.
Calls to Cole went unreturned, but city spokesperson Carrie Lujan emailed to say, “In regards to the solar panels the City has no jurisdiction over the project. The City has no jurisdiction over zoning or building at a mobile home park. Therefore no one at the City would sign off on this project.”
In a separate email, Lujan wrote, “(To) be clear HCD confirmed we do not have local planning control.”
Smyth said the city is trying to find some local control. It has joined with the League of California Cities to advocate against bills currently sitting on the governor’s desk that Smyth said would cede more local control to Sacramento. As an example, he mentioned a bill (Senate Bill 649), which he said would limit cities’ abilities to regulate where cell-phone towers could be located.
“That should outrage everybody,” Smyth said. “We hope the governor will hear our concerns. He’s a former mayor of Oakland.”
As a former Assemblyman, Smyth has friends in Sacramento, and he said he has called on several, including Assemblypersons Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) and Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), as well as former county supervisors now serving in the Legislature.
The League of California Cities has requested that Gov. Jerry Brown veto the bill.
Smyth said he expects Brown to sign SB 649 and others, and if that happens, legal action could be explored.
“If the governor signs the bill, the League of Cities will come together and decide what action to take,” Smyth said.