City, Canyon View Estates diverge on solar panel removal

Solar panels have been installed on the hills of Canyon View Estates. Courtesy of Geri Brown.

The city of Santa Clarita and Canyon View Estates have proposed two differing judgments in court filings this month on the matter of a solar panel system at the Canyon Country mobile home park.  

Both sides proposed their desired outcomes for the case in response to a judge’s ruling last month that the mobile home park violated a 50% open space requirement on its property when it installed 6,000 solar panels on nearly 3 acres.  

The court required that both sides submit a proposed judgment that’s “completely consistent with, and reflective of, the court’s decision.” 

The court’s ruling stated that the city has the right to have the solar power system “demolished, removed, and the open space restored” if it reimbursed Canyon View Estates $5 million for the removal of solar panels. 

The city, represented by City Attorney Joseph Montes, filed its proposed judgment with the court on July 6, within the 20 calendar-day window ordered by the judge. 

The city’s proposed judgment asked for: 

  • The judge to rule in favor of the city and against the mobile home park.  
  • The city to have until June 11, 2022, to formally ask Canyon View Estates to demolish and/or remove the panels. 
  • Canyon View Estates to restore landscape of the affected area within 225 days of the city asking from the demolition and/or removal of the panels. 
  • The city to take ownership of the solar panels once they are removed. 
  • The city to pay Canyon View Estates $5 million once the mobile home park has demolished and/or removed the solar panels, and that the two sides will meet and confer about payment instructions. 
  • The city will be paid attorneys’ fees in a timely manner. 

The city and Canyon View Estates agree that both sides meet about alternative solutions within 45 days of the city providing written notice to the mobile home park that it intends to use its right to remedy the issue. 

On all other points, Canyon View Estates offers positions different from the city’s proposed judgment. In its proposed judgment filed on July 20, Canyon View Estates asked for: 

  • A reimbursement of $5 million from the city be paid to an escrow account within 60 days of the city providing written notice to Canyon View Estates, which can withdraw half the amount 30 days before starting to remove the panels and the remainder 14 days after the panels are removed. 
  • The city to provide its written notice to enforce the court’s ruling by Aug. 1, 2022, or the city will no longer have to right to enforce the removal of the panels. 
  • The court to allow Canyon View Estates 18 months from the date the city deposits the money to pull permits from the state to remove the panels and that the work will not require any city permits. 
  • The city to hold an application to restore the solar panels be held to the standards used by the state when it approved the system installation in 2017, and that the city provides a decision within two months of Canyon View Estates submitting the application. If the city does approve an application to re-install solar panels, violations in the court’s decision would be cured.  
  • The court’s ruling is limited to the legality of the solar panel system and not the conditional use permit requiring open space on half of the property. 
  • Motions for attorneys’ fees be delayed until 60 days after the deadline to file an appeal to the court’s ruling. 

Along with its proposed judgment, Canyon View Estates filed a list of objections to the city’s proposed motion on July 20, including that the court not rule against the mobile home park. 

The mobile home park’s attorneys contested the city’s request to restore the landscape with planting and irrigation, referring to the city’s proposed wording as “overbroad ‘open space’ language.” 

Objections also extended to the requirement to destroy or demolish the solar panels. 

“’Removal’ is the only relief the city sought in this action, and the requirement to ‘demolish’ could be construed as a requirement to completely destroy all components of the system,” attorneys for Canyon View Estates submitted, noting the panels could not be destroyed if the decision allows for the possibility to reinstall the existing solar panel system. 

Canyon View Estates objected to the city’s request to take possession of the solar panels, also calling on the judge to schedule a hearing on their objections. 

“The city’s attempt to seize the solar power equipment is a taking of private property without any of the substantive or procedural safeguards set forth in the U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution, and California’s Eminent Domain Law,” the mobile home park’s attorneys wrote. 

An additional objection includes the city’s inclusion of a requirement for both sides to meet about payment, which Canyon View Estates’ attorneys said deviates from the judge’s June 11 ruling. 

Attorneys for Canyon View Estates also called a decision on attorneys’ fees “premature.” 

Montes, the city’s attorney, was not made available for comment on the story. Carrie Lujan, the city’s spokeswoman, told The Signal that the city cannot comment until the judge issues a final ruling. 

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