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Solar permit process in Solana Beach to get easier

SOLANA BEACH — Obtaining a permit for a small rooftop solar system will soon be easier after council members at the Aug. 25 meeting adopted the first reading of an ordinance that will expedite the process.

The move will also put Solana Beach in compliance with a new state law requiring cities to streamline the permitting process by Sept. 30.

City Manager Greg Wade said the current average permitting time of two weeks will be cut in half.

“We’re already pretty quick,” he said.

To qualify solar energy systems must be no larger than 10 kilowatts alternating current nameplate rating or 30 kilowatts thermal. They must also conform to all applicable state fire, structural, electrical and other building codes.

The systems have to be installed on a single-family dwelling or duplex and cannot exceed the city’s maximum legal building height.

The new law also limits the number of inspections that may be required.

Wade said the city will be able to cut the processing time by allowing residents to complete the permit application online. He said the city receives two to four permit applications weekly.

At least initially people will likely still need to go to City Hall to sign the application and pay the $190 fee.

Mo Sammak, the city engineer, said he plans to work with the technology department to possibly bypass the final signature and accept payment electronically so the entire process can take place online.

Mayor Lesa Heebner noted that Encinitas recently waived all fees associated with solar system permits.

“I won’t make that recommendation right now but once we maybe do a review of our user fees it might be something that we can look at,” Heebner said.

Councilmen David Zito and Peter Zahn supported her recommendation to discuss the fees in the near future and possibly reduce or eliminate them for rooftop solar systems.

Wade said a fee study for all services is included in the budget for the current fiscal year.

City Attorney Johanna Canlas said state law limits how much a city can charge for a permit. Fees can’t be more than what it costs the city to administer                        the permits.