Rancho Santa Fe residents say solar panels created ‘blight’ in neighborhood


Rancho Santa Fe homeowners are complaining that a recently installed “power plant” of solar panels on a residential property in the Rancho Del Lago community on El Camino Del Norte is negatively impacting the surrounding neighborhood.

Just before Lago Lindo on El Camino Del Norte, the long row of panels is visible from the road. The panels are also visible from Covenant properties along the lake on Lago Lindo.

“There’s no need to put a blight on Rancho Santa Fe by putting it right on the road,” said neighbor and Covenant resident Patricia Astier said. “It’s hideous.”

The property in question is not located within the Covenant and the home is located within the Rancho Del Lago homeowners association. The HOA manager from JD Richardson Company did not respond to requests for comment.

Astier and another neighbor said that the panels are “ridiculous and intrusive” and they wish they could say illegal, however, the panels have been legally installed.

According to Alex Bell, San Diego County Department of Public Works spokesperson, the county receives approximately 9,000 solar permits a year and the permit process is ministerial under California law — permits are applied for over the counter and no special studies are required.

Bell said the county does complete inspections for solar panel permits, particularly for roof-mounted units to make sure structures can withstand the addition.

“There are no limitations on how many panels can go on as long as they meet the setbacks requirement,” said Vince Nicoletti, chief of the building division for San Diego County, noting setbacks from property lines are unique for each property.

The ground-mounted panels in question were required to be set back a minimum of 3 feet from the property line in the rear, front and exterior side yards. The panels are also required not to exceed 12 feet in height.

Additionally, the county does not require noticing for neighbors as part of the permit process.

Astier said its unfortunate that the panels seem to have been completely screened from the back of the private home by a berm but are not screened from the rest of the neighborhood.

“It’s an embarrassment for our whole community. Is this what we all want to live with as a community? “ Astier asked, wondering about the precedence set by the panels’ approval. “They are impacting the ambiance of our beautiful town with this ridiculous power plant, right in the public eye.”