News Release    June 20, 2011

SierraClubLogo.jpg  Sierra Club,
Angeles and Loma Prieta ChaptersContacts:

Kurt Newick (cell phone: 408-761-2029)

Jim Stewart (cell phone: 213-820-4345)

Email: SolarPermitFees@gmail.com

High Permit Fees Hinder Residential and Commercial Solar Power, Half of L. A. County Cities Over-Charge, Others Promote Solar

 The Sierra Club (Angeles and Loma Prieta Chapters) are following up on a campaign to encourage municipalities in Los Angeles County to support the installation of residential and commercial roof-top solar power systems by lowering permit fees.  Back in June 2009, the Sierra Club, Angeles Chapter formally asked L. A. County municipalities with unreasonably high residential solar permit fees to consider lowering them to cost-recovery levels.  Between 2009 and 2011, some significant changes in solar permit fees have occurred: 38 cities have lowered them (but 14 have raised fees) for residential PV systems. During the period of the latest study, between January 2011 and June 2011, fifteen cities have significantly  lowered their commercial solar permit fees while two others have raised them.  (Note that “significant” is defined as fee changes greater than $100.)

In the winter of 2010/2011, Sierra Club volunteers surveyed all municipalities in Los Angeles county to determine their estimated permit fees for installing roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) systems on residential and commercial buildings.  Such structures can include homes, office buildings, stores, industrial facilities, schools, churches, government and non-profit buildings. Volunteers conducted this survey for a 131 kW commercial PV project and a 3 kW residential PV system. A new report has been published for the Sierra Club’s Commercial and Residential PV permit fee campaign for Los Angeles County (see: www.solarpermitfees.org/losangeles.html). This web link has an executive summary of the report that shows fee rankings for all jurisdictions in Los Angeles County.

The Sierra Club's solar permit fee campaign in Southern California began in 2009 for residential PV systems.  Now this is being updated to include both residential and commercial rooftop solar projects in Southern California.

The survey report shows that for commercial PV projects 131 kW in size, 62% (55 out of 89) L. A. County jurisdictions are over-charging fees, exceeding maximum cost recovery threshold levels as determined by a basic PV permit fee calculator highlighted in this new report.  In addition, 47% (42 of 89) cities are charging excessive fees for residential PV projects. Kurt Newick, leader of the study states, “This survey reveals many municipalities are incentivizing solar power by lowering solar permit fees to reasonable levels, while other cities are doing just the opposite, charging many times more than what is needed to recover city permitting costs for inspections and plan reviews.”

On May 30, 2011, the survey team contacted 44 municipalities with fees exceeding $10,000 for a 131 kW commercial PV project. These Sierra Club volunteers also contacted 27 cities in LA County that have fees exceeding $700 for a 3 kW residential PV system. The team notified these cities that their solar permit fees were unreasonably high and requested that they review their solar permit fee calculation methods, since they are likely charging fees higher than cost-recovery levels. Several cities have responded by either lowering their solar permit fees or starting the process to review their fees.  Charging more for solar permits than the reasonable costs to administer them violates California Government Code Section 66014, which provides that fees associated with building inspections and building permits "shall not exceed the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged."

Since local sunlight and available roof space are plentiful, only the number of solar power installations limits the production potential of this abundant renewable resource. The Sierra Club acknowledges leaders of those cities that have already taken action to make solar energy more affordable for homeowners, businesses and non-profit entities, and asks others to follow their lead.

Sierra Club PV Permit Fee Campaign for many California Counties: www.SolarPermitFees.org

 Sierra Club, Angeles and Loma Prieta Chapters Commercial and Residential PV Permit Fee Report, Los Angeles County:  www.SolarPermitFees.org/PVFeeStudyLosAngeles.pdf

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PV Solar Permit Fees 3 kW Residential Systems, Los Angeles County as of 6/15/11

Ranked by Fee 3 kW   Alphabetical Rank 3 kW  
Municipality Fee   Municipality Fee   Changes since 2009
Lawndale ^ $1,471   Agoura Hills # $383   Reduced from $1,058
Irwindale $1,156   Alhambra ^ $359   Increased from $213
San Marino $1,088   Arcadia $291   Increased from $283
Bell # $1,081   Artesia # $687   Reduced from $1,030
Paramount $1,081   Avalon $792  
Norwalk ^ $1,070   Azusa # $395   Reduced from $1,197
Hawaiian Gardens #* $1,060   Baldwin  Park # $570   Increased from $432
La Verne ^ $1,057   Bell # $1,081   Reduced from $1,166
La Mirada $994   Bell Gardens $431   Reduced from $450
La Puente ^ $986   Bellflower # $350   Reduced from $925
Whittier # $956   Beverly Hills # $327   Reduced from $350
Vernon ^ $943   Bradbury $306  
Inglewood # $936   Burbank $0  
Huntington Park # $866   Calabasas $668   Increased from $658
Rosemead ^ $859   Carson # $340   Reduced from $1,473
South El Monte ^ $840   Cerritos # $53   Reduced from $1,078
Covina ^ $820   Claremont $435  
Glendale ^ $807   Commerce * $598   Reduced from $675
Maywood $798   Compton ^ $790   Reduced from $900
Avalon $792   Covina ^ $820   Increased from $645
Compton ^ $790   Cudahy $717  
Glendora # $759   Culver City $0  
Diamond Bar ^ $747   Diamond Bar ^ $747   Increased from $704
Cudahy $717   Downey # $200   Reduced from $1,164
La Habra Heights # $709   Duarte # $386   Reduced from $965
Westlake Village # $693   El Monte # $180   Reduced from $1,014
Artesia # $687   El Segundo ^ $521   Increased from $515
Gardena $677   Gardena $677   Reduced from $692
Calabasas $668   Glendale ^ $807   Increased from $0
South Gate # $634   Glendora # $759   Reduced from $805
Temple City $625   Hawaiian Gardens #* $1,060   Reduced from $1,427
Montebello # $601   Hawthorne # $479   Reduced from $943
Commerce * $598   Hermosa Beach # $0   Reduced from $650
Pico Rivera # $575   Hidden Hills $225  
Baldwin  Park # $570   Huntington Park # $866   Reduced from $1,100
Walnut # $564   Industry # $377   Reduced from $967
Lakewood # $533   Inglewood # $936   Reduced from $1,066
Monrovia $533   Irwindale $1,156  
Lynwood ^ $525   La Canada Flintridge # $227   Reduced from $356
El Segundo ^ $521   La Habra Heights # $709   Reduced from $1,572
Sierra Madre $515   La Mirada $994   Reduced from $1,008
Rolling Hills Estates # $493   La Puente ^ $986   Increased from $131
Hawthorne # $479   La Verne ^ $1,057   Increased from $331
Monterey Park ^ $452   Lakewood # $533   Reduced from $800
Claremont $435   Lancaster $61   Increased from $58
Bell Gardens $431   Lawndale ^ $1,471   Increased from $1,214
Rolling Hills # $430   Lomita # $370   Reduced from $1,183
San Gabriel # $428   Long Beach # $233   Reduced from $599
Signal Hill $419   Los Angeles # $248   Reduced from $308
Palmdale ^ $418   Los Angeles County # $370   Reduced from $1,144
Malibu # $412   Lynwood ^ $525   Increased from $350
Santa Fe Springs # $404   Malibu # $412   Reduced from $761
Azusa # $395   Manhattan Beach $0  
Santa Clarita ^ $387   Maywood $798  
Duarte # $386   Monrovia $533   Increased from $520
Agoura Hills # $383   Montebello # $601   Reduced from $852
Industry # $377   Monterey Park ^ $452   Increased from $395
Lomita # $370   Norwalk ^ $1,070   Increased from $945
Los Angeles County # $370   Palmdale ^ $418   Increased from $330
San Dimas # $370   Palos Verdes Estates $89   Increased from $85
Alhambra ^ $359   Paramount $1,081   Reduced from $1,082
Bellflower # $350   Pasadena # $32   Reduced from $198
San Fernando # $345   Pico Rivera # $575   Reduced from $785
Carson # $340   Pomona # $248   Reduced from $510
Beverly Hills # $327   Rancho Palos Verdes ^ $177   Reduced from $402
Bradbury $306   Redondo Beach ^ $265   Increased from $202
Arcadia $291   Rolling Hills # $430   Reduced from $1,472
Redondo Beach ^ $265   Rolling Hills Estates # $493   Reduced from $1,168
Los Angeles # $248   Rosemead ^ $859   Increased from $122
Pomona # $248   San Dimas # $370   Reduced from $1,000
Long Beach # $233   San Fernando # $345   Reduced from $582
South Pasadena ^ $229   San Gabriel # $428   Reduced from $1,479
La Canada Flintridge # $227   San Marino $1,088   Increased from $891
Hidden Hills $225   Santa Clarita ^ $387   Increased from $300
Downey # $200   Santa Fe Springs # $404   Reduced from $895
El Monte # $180   Santa Monica $0  
Rancho Palos Verdes ^ $177   Sierra Madre $515  
Palos Verdes Estates $89   Signal Hill $419  
Torrance # $67   South El Monte ^ $840   Increased from $814
Lancaster $61   South Gate # $634   Reduced from $822
Cerritos # $53   South Pasadena ^ $229   Revised from $88
Pasadena # $32   Temple City $625  
West Covina # $2   Torrance # $67   Reduced from $1,009
Burbank $0   Vernon ^ $943   Increased from $687
Culver City $0   Walnut # $564   Reduced from $735
Hermosa Beach # $0   West Covina # $2   Reduced from $815
Manhattan Beach $0   West Hollywood # $0   Reduced from $1,077
Santa Monica $0   Westlake Village # $693   Reduced from $1,389
West Hollywood # $0   Whittier # $956   Reduced from $1,328
Average $512   Average # $512   Reduced from $712






* Fee under review




# Fee reduced




^ Fee increased




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PV Solar Permit Fees 131 kW Commercial Systems, Los Angeles County as of 6/18/2011

Ranked by Fee 131 kW
Alphabetical Rank 131 kW  
Municipality Fee
Municipality Fee   Notes
Rolling Hills Estates $46,616
Agoura Hills $603   Revised from $1,179
Inglewood $37,692
Alhambra ^ $1,400   Revised from $116
Sierra Madre $37,349
Arcadia $291  
Paramount $36,068
Artesia $17,576  
La Verne $33,015
Avalon $6,908  
Irwindale # $32,319
Azusa $7,800  
Commerce * $28,577
Baldwin  Park $2,200  
West Hollywood $26,209
Bell # $6,370   Reduced from $26,925
La Puente $25,831
Bell Gardens $1,561  
Carson $23,604
Bellflower $12,375  
Lawndale $23,106
Beverly Hills $602   Revised from $4,310
Glendale $21,434
Bradbury     N/A no commercial
Whittier $20,104
Burbank $0  
Rosemead $19,433
Calabasas $10,126  
Santa Fe Springs $19,047
Carson $23,604  
La Mirada $18,771
Cerritos $15,866  
Hawaiian Gardens * $17,861
Claremont $7,432  
Downey $17,675
Commerce * $28,577   Revised from $29,577
Artesia $17,576
Compton $12,226  
Culver City $17,000
Covina $16,100  
Industry $16,529
Cudahy $12,664  
Covina $16,100
Culver City $17,000  
Monterey Park $15,880
Diamond Bar $10,995  
Cerritos $15,866
Downey $17,675  
Monrovia * $15,142
Duarte $5,107  
Huntington Park $15,107
El Monte # $498   Reduced from $27,500
San Dimas * $15,000
El Segundo # $1,052   Corrected from $17,617
San Marino $13,081
Gardena $6,735  
Cudahy $12,664
Glendale $21,434  
Montebello $12,633
Glendora $10,132  
Bellflower $12,375
Hawaiian Gardens * $17,861  
Compton $12,226
Hawthorne # $4,902   Reduced from $18,000
South El Monte $12,186
Hermosa Beach $0  
Los Angeles County $11,615
Hidden Hills     N/A no commercial
Norwalk $11,368
Huntington Park $15,107  
Diamond Bar $10,995
Industry $16,529  
Westlake Village $10,653
Inglewood $37,692  
Glendora $10,132
Irwindale # $32,319   Reduced from $35,411
Calabasas $10,126
La Canada Flintridge $274   Corrected from $14,322
Santa Clarita $9,306
La Habra Heights $9,133  
Lynwood $9,254
La Mirada $18,771  
La Habra Heights $9,133
La Puente $25,831  
Vernon $8,752
La Verne $33,015  
Los Angeles $8,120
Lakewood $1,164   Revised from $3,300
Azusa $7,800
Lancaster $670  
Claremont $7,432
Lawndale $23,106  
Torrance ^ $7,090
Lomita $370  
Avalon $6,908
Long Beach $2,000  
Signal Hill $6,889
Los Angeles $8,120  
Gardena $6,735
Los Angeles County $11,615   Revised from $15,836
Bell # $6,370
Lynwood $9,254  
Duarte $5,107
Malibu $712  
Walnut # $5,007
Manhattan Beach $0  
Hawthorne # $4,902
Maywood $798  
Palmdale $4,055
Monrovia * $15,142  
South Gate # $2,485
Montebello $12,633   Revised from $35,416
Pico Rivera # $2,263
Monterey Park $15,880  
Baldwin  Park $2,200
Norwalk $11,368  
Long Beach $2,000
Palmdale $4,055  
Bell Gardens $1,561
Palos Verdes Estates $89  
West Covina $1,400
Paramount $36,068  
Alhambra ^ $1,400
Pasadena $231  
Temple City $1,278
Pico Rivera # $2,263   Reduced from $22,430
Lakewood $1,164
Pomona $248  
El Segundo # $1,052
Rancho Palos Verdes $641  
Maywood $798
Redondo Beach $442  
Malibu $712
Rolling Hills     N/A no commercial
Lancaster $670
Rolling Hills Estates $46,616  
San Gabriel $662
Rosemead $19,433  
Rancho Palos Verdes $641
San Dimas * $15,000  
Agoura Hills $603
San Fernando $345  
Beverly Hills $602
San Gabriel $662  
South Pasadena # $547
San Marino $13,081  
El Monte # $498
Santa Clarita $9,306  
Redondo Beach $442
Santa Fe Springs $19,047  
Lomita $370
Santa Monica $0  
San Fernando $345
Sierra Madre $37,349  
Arcadia $291
Signal Hill $6,889  
La Canada Flintridge $274
South El Monte $12,186  
Pomona $248
South Gate # $2,485   Revised from $11,994
Pasadena $231
South Pasadena # $547   Revised from $675
Palos Verdes Estates $89
Temple City $1,278  
Burbank $0
Torrance ^ $7,090   Revised from $2,121
Hermosa Beach $0
Vernon $8,752  
Manhattan Beach $0
Walnut # $5,007   Revised from $28,232
Santa Monica $0
West Covina $1,400  
Bradbury  
West Hollywood $26,209  
Hidden Hills  
Westlake Village $10,653  
Rolling Hills  
Whittier $20,104  
Average $10,542
Average $10,542  






* Fee under review




# Fee reduced




^ Fee increased




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Executive Summary of Commercial & Residential PV Permit Fee Report, Los Angeles County

by Sierra Club, Angeles and Loma Prieta Chapters, 4/27/2011, updated 6/18/2011

A 2010 - 2011 survey by the Sierra Club revealed wide variations in permit fees charged for commercial and residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) energy systems by municipalities in Los Angeles County. The survey found that fees for commercial PV projects of 131 kW in size varied from nothing to over $46,000. High fees can discourage businesses and residences from making good, long-term, high-yield investments in solar power. Fifty-five municipalities (62%) are charging fees that exceed the maximum cost-recovery levels identified in this report for commercial PV projects.  Thirteen cities are charging more than $20,000 for a commercial PV permit (8 times higher than an estimated maximum fee that enables full cost recovery).  Commercial PV permit fees for some LA County cities are extremely high.  For 3 kW residential PV permits, 44 of the 89, half of the municipalities in LA County are charging fees that are excessive!

The time needed for city staff to review and inspect a commercial PV project does not vary linearly by system size. For instance, interviews conducted in the preparation of this report revealed that the difference in time needed to process a 100 kW PV project is about two to three times longer than a 10 kW project (not ten times longer). Basing fees on the value of the solar equipment inflates permit costs to unreasonably high levels, especially for larger, more expensive solar power projects. To recover costs, therefore, permit fees should be based on specific review times and billable hourly rates and not on PV project valuations.

The authors of this study have developed a free, public fee calculator spreadsheet for PV systems mounted on commercial rooftops to help municipalities determine cost recovery:

www.SolarPermitFees.org/PVFeeCalcCommercial.xls.

This report recommends best practices that municipalities can adopt to assure greater consistency, and help our society develop an energy source that leads to a healthier, safer, and more stable community. These include setting permit fees at cost-recovery levels, and instituting streamlined permit processing procedures. Please see the detailed survey responses for each jurisdiction at: www.SolarPermitFees.org/PVFeesLACounty2011.html.

Web site for Los Angeles County PV permit fee report (published April 2011, updated 6/18/2011):

www.solarpermitfees.org/losangeles.html

This executive summary: www.SolarPermitFees.org/PVFeeLosAngelesExecSum.pd

Key recommendations: www.SolarPermitFees.org/PVPermitFeeRecommend2010.pdf

Summary of California Laws Governing PV Solar Permits and Fees:

www.SolarPermitFees.org/SolarPermitLawsSumCA.pdf

Sierra Club PV Permit Fee Campaign lead: Kurt Newick, 408-370-9636, SolarPermitFees@gmail.com

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