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East County News Service
High fees violate state law, and discourage rooftop solar, Sierra Club says


November 29, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – The Sierra Club has launched a campaign to urge local municipalities charging exorbitant permit fees for commercial rooftop solar installations to lower those fees to actual cost-recovery levels. A survey by Sierra Club found that fees in San Diego County ranged from a low of $155 to a high of $14,940 for a 131 kw system.


Encinitas ranked highest in the region, followed closely by Lemon Grove ($14,810) and Santee ($12,740). San Diego County charges $6,500 and the City of San Diego rakes in $1,030. Among other inland cities, Escondido charges $1,830, La Mesa $1,669, and Poway $1,050. By contrast, El Cajon charges just $225, with Imperial Beach providing the best bargain for solar in the region at $155.

“This survey reveals many municipalities are complementing federal and state governments by incentivizing solar power with very reasonable permit fees, while other cities are doing just the opposite, charging many times more than what is needed to recover costs,” said Kurt Newick, leader of the Sierra Club’s study.

On November 22, Sierra Club contacted six municipalities (Encinitas, Lemon Grove, Santee, Coronado, Oceanside and San Diego County) charging more than $5,000, levels that the group considers unreasonably high, to ask that they be reduced.

Charging more for solar permits than the reasonable cost to administer them violates California Government Code Section 66014, which provides that fees associated with building permits and inspections “shall not exceed the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged.”

Since sunlight and available roof space on commercial buildings (such as shopping centers, industrial buildings, offices, churches, schools, government and nonprofit facilities) are plentiful locally, only the high permit fees are inhibiting more commercial solar production, according to the Sierra Club report.

To learn more, visit www.SolarPermitFees.org.

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