Solar-panel lawsuit: City wants to inspect Canyon View, owners object

Solar panels line a hillside in Canyon Country above the Canyon View Estates. The City of Santa Clarita has ordered the removal of these panels. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

The legal battle against a Canyon Country hillside full of solar panels has hit an impasse as the city of Santa Clarita is seeking to inspect the property, while the owners are objecting. 

The two parties have had a busy start to December as each shared their views on the city’s jurisdiction over the Canyon View Mobile Home Estates — a mobile home park at 20001 Canyon View Drive with about 6,000 solar panels that sit prominently on a hillside directly behind the development. 

The lawsuit stems from a complaint made by the city last year, asking the court for “preliminary and permanent injunction and declaratory relief to abate a public nuisance” related to the installation of the solar panels.

Santa Clarita is now looking to enter the property for the purpose of “inspecting, surveying, measuring, photographing and videotaping the property, including but not limited to the solar panels installed on the property,” according to court documents. 

On Sept. 23, the city made a request to the court for an Oct. 30 inspection, but by Oct. 10, Canyon View Limited objected on five grounds, including: the inspection demand is “vague and ambiguous”; and that the inspection “is not relevant to the subject matter of this action nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence”; and that the city’s request fails to identify what is being demanded. 

In response, the city said the inspection is relevant on grounds that the owners’ “solar energy project, which spans over 2.5 acres and covers over 120,000 square feet, violates the (conditional use permit’s) 50% open space requirement.”

It also argued that Canyon View cannot block the inspection based on a disputed legal issue as the city “does not have to establish at this stage that it is legally correct — it simply has to show that the discovery is relevant or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” 

The city’s request for an inspection received legal support from Stephen McEwen, an attorney with Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP — the same firm City Attorney Joseph Montes is a part of. In his statement, he “reiterated that we would not be performing any destructive testing on site. Our inspection therefore, would not be intrusive.”

The back-and-forth preceded a city motion to compel a Dec. 4 inspection of the property, asking the court to order Canyon View Limited to take action. The date for the hearing was scheduled for March 24, 2020, while trial for the case is set for Jan. 27. 

The city’s latest move on Friday was to ask the courts to shorten the time to hear the motion to compel for Dec. 19. On Monday, Dec. 9, the court is expected to decide whether to grant the time request. 

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