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Glendale Unified stands firm on solar panel placement

Homeowners say concessions are not enough to alleviate their concerns.

July 15, 2012|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Melody McCormick stands in her neighbor's yard at 2320 El Moreno St. where a good look at the solar panel structure being erected can be seen on the campus of Mountain Avenue Elementary School in La Crescenta.
Melody McCormick stands in her neighbor's yard… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Glendale Unified officials this week said they will take steps to reduce the visual impact of solar panels being installed at seven local schools, but will not relocate them, as requested by some neighbors.

The district broke ground last month on the $7.2-million project, which includes installing solar panels at Clark Magnet and Crescenta Valley high schools, Rosemont Middle School and Keppel, Columbus, Mountain Avenue and Monte Vista elementary schools. It is being paid for with funds from Measure S, a $270-million school bond passed by voters in April 2011.

The solar panels are projected to save the district $543,000 in their first year of operation. The estimated cost savings during the next three decades is $18 million.

But what is being touted by Glendale Unified as an environmentally friendly and economically savvy move has rankled some homeowners near the schools because they say the solar structures impede their backyard views. School projects are approved by the California Division of State Architect, and so aren't bound by city codes that require public notices and hearings.

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Residents in the 4900 block of Vickwood Avenue in La Crescenta say they stand to lose more than 10 feet of skyline once the installations — mounted on 14-foot posts — on the Monte Vista Elementary School playground are complete.

“Our property values are going to be lowered 3% to 5%, and that is going to effect the entire surrounding area of the school,” homeowner Herb Poppe said Thursday.

Melody McCormick, whose backyard abuts the Mountain Avenue Elementary School playground, said she and several neighbors were dismayed to see the installations creep up in front of them. She supports solar energy in concept, but would like to see the panels relocated to the south side of the field.

“We just don't want the heat and glare bearing down on us; and how frightening it looks that close to any potential buyer of these homes in the future,” McCormick said.

Glendale Unified spokesman Steven Frasher said that the exact locations for the installations were selected in order to maximize power generation. Officials are taking steps to respond to concerns, hosting a series of meetings to gather feedback, he added.

“We are working on some mitigation measures to make them less visible from the neighboring residences,” Frasher said. “We have identified some preliminary small trees and things that should fill in for a nice, natural screen at the sites where there is most concern.”

But Poppe and others said the meeting, and the concessions by the district, fall short.

“We don't think it is good enough,” Poppe said. “What we propose is to move the structures 10 to 15 feet inward on the school grounds. That would totally alleviate the problem.”

With workers several weeks into the installation process, moving the panels at this juncture would be impossible, officials said.

“We are really sympathetic to what they are saying, but it is simply not effective to incur what has been estimated up to $100,000 to move them,” Frasher said.

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