Commission Meeting: November 5, 2008
Agenda Item: 9-A
To: The Honorable Planning Commission
From: Eileen Fogarty, Director of Planning & Community Development
Subject: Zoning Text Amendment to modify City of Santa Monica Municipal Code as it pertains to Solar Energy Development and Design Standards, including SMMC Section 9.04.10.02.220 [Solar Energy Design Standards], SMMC Section 9.04.10.02.030 [Building Height and Exceptions to Height Limit], SMMC Section 9.04.10.02.070 [Reflective Materials], SMMC Section 9.04.10.02.140 [Screening Mechanical Equipment], and SMMC Section 9.04.10.02.180 [Projections Permitted into Required Yards]
It is recommended that the Planning Commission recommend to the City Council adoption of the proposed Zoning Text Amendment.
This report proposes amendments to SMMC Section 9.04.10.02.220 pertaining to solar energy system design standards, and other related Zoning Code sections in order to facilitate installation of solar energy systems to support the efforts of the Sustainable City Plan and the Solar Santa Monica program. The proposed language would be consistent with California Government Code Section 65850.5, which provides that a city or county shall establish a procedure to administratively approve applications to install solar energy installations. The proposed text amendment has been designed to reflect current installation methods for both solar photovoltaic and solar heating systems and includes minor modifications to four other sections of the Zoning Code whose requirements affect installation of solar energy systems. Applications that meet the new development standards would be exempt from Architectural Review Board (ARB) review. However, the ARB would still review larger structures. Installations on designated historic properties would remain within the purview of the Landmarks Commission. The proposed action has been determined to be categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The City of
The City offers a
program, known as Solar Santa Monica, to assist
The Office of Sustainability and the Environment has worked with the Planning & Community Development Department to propose revised solar energy and other property development standards and to revise the Planning and Building permit processes for review and approval of solar energy systems.
The proposed Zoning Code amendment aims to establish a streamlined, administrative process for most solar installations. The standards are consistent with current installation practices, such that the vast majority of solar energy system applications would comply and require no further review. Installations meeting these standards would be exempt from ARB. Applications to install atypical solar energy systems, such as solar canopies, or other proposals in which the solar energy system’s support structure is used as a building element rather than solely for energy production, would require review and approval of the Architectural Review Board.
Additionally, the standards would clarify that solar energy systems proposed on designated Landmarks and Historic District contributor properties would require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Landmarks Commission liaison. In this way, such installations would be evaluated in terms of compliance with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. By authorizing the liaison to act for the Landmarks Commission on these applications, the hearing process is not required and the review process can be expedited.
The following summarizes the solar energy design standard sub-sections:
· (a) establishes a definition of solar energy systems based on the definition used in Section 801.5 of the California Civil Code.
· (b) minimizes the visual impact as seen from the front of a property, by prohibiting all of the system’s equipment except solar panels and conduits from being visible from the front street elevation.
· (c) establishes the that solar energy systems may be located on any roof, irrespective of its relationship to the underlying district height limit up to five feet above the roof surface. This proposed five-foot exception is consistent with other height limit exceptions in the SMMC and would be adequate for most typical solar energy system installations. Solar energy systems installed more than five feet above the roof surface would be considered to also function as building elements, and thus would be subject to design review.
· (d) establishes that solar energy equipment may project into side and rear yards but no closer than two feet to any property line, in order to permit equipment to be installed adjacent to existing, non-conforming electric meters.
· (e) requires that the visibility of the solar panels and conduits from the public right of way be reduced to the greatest possible extent so long as this does not significantly decrease energy performance or significantly increase cost. This sub-section also sets forth how such determinations are to be made. For example, an applicant may propose to install solar panels towards the front of a building with a flat roof. If those same solar panels could be moved to rear of the flat roof, perhaps this would improve the massing and consistency with the architecture of the neighborhood without significantly decreasing the energy production of the solar panels or unreasonably increasing the cost. Solar energy system placement is also tightly governed by Building and Safety and Fire requirements, which would factor in to the feasibility consideration.
· (f) establishes that any proposed installation that does not comply with the solar energy design standards requires review and approval of the ARB.
· (g) clarifies that any application to install a solar energy system on a property containing a designated landmark or a contributing structure to a designated Historic District would need to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Landmarks Commission liaison for the installation.
It is proposed to define a “reasonable decrease” in energy production as 10%, while a “reasonable cost increase” would be defined as $500 for single-family homes and $2,000 for all other buildings. State law permits a Home Owners’ Association to relocate a proposed solar energy installation if the alternative placement does not decrease production by more than 20% or increase the cost by more than $2,000. Staff proposes tighter parameters than those allowed for HOAs for alternative location to reflect the high priority that the city has set on solar power production. Staff notes that the constraints of building requirements will often preclude the viability of alternative placements anyway.
The following amendments are also proposed to clarify that various property and development standards should not apply to solar energy systems:
- To create an exception for solar energy systems
- To exempt solar energy systems from a limitation on the percent of roof coverage.
· 9.04.10.02.070 Reflective Materials
- To exempt solar energy systems from this requirement
· 9.04.10.02.140 Screening mechanical equipment
- To exempt solar energy systems from this requirement
· 9.04.10.02.180 Permitted Projections into Required Yards
- To refer to the solar energy design standards [9.04.10.02.220] in regard to projections of solar energy systems into rear and side yards.
General Plan Consistency
The proposed zoning text amendment is consistent in principle with the goals, objectives, policies, land uses and programs specified in the adopted General Plan. More specifically, the amendments achieve the Conservation Element (1975) goal, calling for “Preservation of the ecological balance and natural resources of the city and conservation of the energies and materials without serious interference with community needs.” An objective associated with this goal is to “encourage activities and efficient operations which favor energy conservation.”
The proposed amendment does not substantially change the City’s approach to encouraging use of renewable energy, but rather clarifies the solar energy design standards and simplifies the approval process, thus promoting this Conservation Element goal and objective.
The proposal is also consistent with the City’s Historic Preservation Element, which seeks to protect historic and cultural resources from inappropriate alterations, and lists as an objective to ensure compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). By requiring a Certificate of Appropriateness for designated Landmarks and contributors to Designated Historic Districts, the proposed zoning text amendment ensures continued integrity of the CEQA process when solar energy installations are proposed on designated historic resources.
The proposed Zoning Text Amendment also
supports the objectives of the Sustainable City Plan (SCP) and the LUCE
Strategy Framework. Although the SCP is
not a General Plan Element, it provides important policy direction that is also
contained in the LUCE Strategy Framework.
Language to support solar energy systems is consistent with the goals of
these documents to move
The City’s action to modify requirements and procedures pertaining to solar energy systems is a legislative action subject to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In accordance with CEQA Guidelines Sections 15060-15061, staff conducted a preliminary review and determined that this project is exempt from CEQA on the following grounds:
The proposed ordinance is exempt pursuant to CEQA Section 15061(b)(3) in that it can be seen with certainty that the proposed ordinance does not have the potential to significantly impact the environment in that the amendments are procedural in order to encourage and streamline applications to install small-scale renewable energy systems. Furthermore, the proposed text amendment is exempt based on CEQA Section 15331 in that its provisions protect historic resources based on application of the Secretary of Interior Standards to designated historic resources.
9.04.10.02.220 Solar energy design standards.
This Section is intended to incorporate, to the extent
feasible, passive heating and cooling opportunities into the design or
modifications of residential developments. This Section is further designed to
assure that solar energy systems in residential, commercial, and industrial
areas conform in appearance to the surrounding neighborhood. The following
standards shall apply to the design of all solar energy systems: (a) Roof-mounted solar collectors shall be
placed in the location least visible from a public right-of-way without
reducing the operating efficiency of the collectors. Wall-mounted and
ground-mounted solar collectors shall be screened from public view. (b) When feasible, collectors shall be
integrated into the design of the building. Structural support for the
collectors shall be screened in a manner that is compatible with the design of
the building. (c) Appurtenant equipment, particularly
plumbing and related fixtures, shall be installed in an attic or basement,
where feasible. (d) Large accessory fixtures which must be
exposed (e.g., storage tanks) shall be screened where possible through
architectural features that harmonize with other design elements of the
structure. (e) Storage tanks shall not be located in any
required front or side yards nor shall they be visible from any public
right-of-way. (f) Exterior surfaces shall have a matte
finish and shall be color-coordinated to harmonize with roof materials or other
dominant colors of the structure. (g) Any pool or spa facilities other than
single family homes owned and maintained by a homeowners association,
cooperative, or similar entity shall be provided with a solar cover or solar
water heating system. (Prior code § 9040.22)
This Section establishes development standards for solar energy systems, which shall apply to all solar energy system installations. Notwithstanding SMMC 9.32.120, solar energy systems installed on existing buildings shall be exempt from review and approval by the Architectural Review Board, provided that the installations meet the standards in this Section. For solar energy systems installed on newly constructed buildings, any required review and approval by the Architectural Review Board shall be limited to review of the conformity of the solar installation with the standards in this Section.
(a) As used in this Section, "solar energy system" means either of the following:
(1) Any solar collector or other solar energy device, along with its ancillary equipment, whose primary purpose is to provide for the collection, storage, and distribution of solar energy for space heating, space cooling, electric generation, or water heating.
(2) Any structural design feature of a building, whose primary purpose is to provide for the collection, storage, and distribution of solar energy for electricity generation, space heating or cooling, or for water heating.
(b) Excluding solar collector panels and conduit, solar energy systems shall not be visible from the public right-of-way on the front elevation of a building.
(c) The height of solar energy systems are subject to the following standards:
(1) Solar energy systems installed on single-family dwellings may extend up to five feet above the height limit in the zoning district;
(2) Solar energy systems installed on all other properties may extend up to five feet above the roof surface on which they are installed, even if this exceeds the maximum height limit in the district in which it is located.
(3) Subject to ARB review and approval, solar energy systems may exceed the height limit in any zoning district a maximum of 14 feet.
(d) Solar energy system equipment may be installed within the required side and rear yard but shall not be closer than two feet to any property line.
(e) If alternatives exist to the proposed design that do not significantly decrease the energy performance or significantly increase the cost of the solar energy system, the alternative design that reduces the visibility from adjacent properties and from the public right-of-way to the greatest extent shall be selected.
(1) For energy performance, “significantly decreasing” shall be defined as decreasing the expected annual energy production by 10 percent or more.
(2) For the cost of solar water heating systems, “significantly increasing” shall be defined as increasing the system cost by 20 percent or more. For the cost of solar photovoltaic systems, “significantly increasing” means increasing the system cost by $500 or more for a single-family residential building, or by $2000 for all other buildings.
review and determination of the cost or energy efficiency of installation
alternatives shall be made by the City’s Energy and
(f) Proposed solar energy installations that do not meet the standards set forth in this Section shall be reviewed and approved by the Architectural Review Board in accordance with Chapter 9.32 prior to issuance of a building permit.
(g) Solar energy systems shall not be installed on a property containing a designated Landmark or contributing structure to a designated Historic District, as defined in Section 9.36.030 of this Code, unless a Certificate of Appropriateness is approved by the Landmarks Commission Liaison.
Other Proposed Code Modifications:
9.04.10.02.180 Projections permitted into required yards.
Except as provided in Sections 9.04.08.02.075 and 9.04.08.02.076, the following chart sets forth the allowances for various projections permitted into the required yards in residential, industrial, and commercial districts. Projections shall not be permitted closer than four feet to any property line. Projections permitted for solar energy systems shall comply with Section 9.04.10.02.220 (d).
9.04.10.02.140 Screening mechanical equipment.
Other than solar energy systems as defined in Section 9.04.10.02.220, all mechanical equipment that extends more than twelve inches above the roof parapet shall be screened from view. Equipment shall be screened from a horizontal plane on all sides with an impact resistant wall. (Prior code § 9040.14)
9.04.10.02.070 Reflective materials.
No more than twenty-five percent of the surface area of any façade on any new building or addition to an existing building shall contain black or mirrored glass or other mirror-like material that is highly reflective. Materials for roofing shall be of a nonreflective nature. The foregoing requirements of this Section shall not apply to solar energy systems; however, the design of solar energy systems shall be subject to the standards set forth in Section 9.04.10.02.220. At least fifty percent of the ground floor façade on the primary street frontage in the C2, C3, N, and C3-C Districts shall provide visibility to the interior of the building. Glazing on the ground floor street frontage façade shall be clear glass. (Prior code § 9040.7)
(a) The maximum allowable height shall be measured vertically from the average natural grade elevation to the highest point of the roof. However, in connection with development projects in the Ocean Park Districts, building height shall be measured vertically from the theoretical grade to the highest point of the roof.
(b) The following shall he permitted to exceed the height limit in all zoning districts except the R1 District:
(1) Vents, stacks, ducts, skylights and steeples provided such projections do not extend more than five feet above the permitted height in the District.
(2) Legally required parapets, fire separation walls, and open work safety guard rails that do not exceed forty-two inches in height.
(3) Elevator shafts, stairwells, or mechanical room enclosures above the roofline if:
a. The enclosure is used exclusively for housing the elevator, mechanical equipment, or stairs.
b. The elevator shaft does not exceed fourteen feet in height above the roofline and the stairwell enclosure does not exceed fourteen feet in height above the height permitted in the district.
c. The area of all enclosures and other structures identified in Section 9.04.10.02.030(b)(1) that extend above the roofline shall not exceed twenty-five percent of the roof area. However, this limitation shall not apply to equipment associated with solar energy systems.
d. The mechanical equipment is screened in conformance with Section 9.04.10.02.140.
e. The mechanical equipment enclosure does not exceed twelve feet in height above the height permitted in the district.
4) The screening required pursuant to the
provisions of Section 9.04.10.02.140 of tanks, ventilating fans, or other
mechanical equipment required to operate and maintain the building provided the
total area enclosed by all screening does not exceed thirty percent of the roof
(c) The following shall be permitted to exceed the height limit in all zoning districts:
(1) Chimneys may extend no more than five feet above the permitted height in the district;
(2) Solar energy systems pursuant to Section 9.04.10.02.220.
(23) One standard television receive-only
nonparabolic antenna and one vertical whip antenna may extend no more than
twenty-five feet above the roofline, provided that they are not located between
the face of the main building and any public street or in any required front or
side yard setback. All other antennas shall be subject to the provisions of
Notice of Public Hearing
NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING
SUBJECT: A Public Hearing will be held by the Planning Commission on the following:
Amendment to SMMC Section 9.04.10.02 (Zoning Ordinance) To Revise Design
Standards for Solar Energy Installations. The Planning Commission will make a recommendation on proposed
amendments to the Zoning Ordinance Property
Design and Development Standards that apply city wide and will facilitate the
installation of solar energy equipment to achieve maximum energy production
efficiency while ensuring design compatibility in compliance with
WHEN: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Council Chambers, City Hall
If you want additional
information about this project or wish to review the project, please contact the
Project Planner (310) 458-8341. The Zoning Ordinance is available at the
Planning Counter during business hours or available on the City’s web site at www.smgov.net. The meeting facility is wheelchair accessible. If you have any
disability-related accommodation request, please contact (310) 458-8341, or TYY
Number: (310) 458-8696 at least five (5) business days prior to the meeting.