The manufactured home park being sued by the city of Santa Clarita over a hillside filled with solar panels filed its response to an appeal city officials filed in March over a split-decision judgment.
Judge Stephen Pfahler ruled in January 2022 that if the city wants to order the removal of the 6,580 ground-mounted solar panels that cover a hill that can be seen from Soledad Canyon Road, the city has to pay Canyon View for the panels’ cost and for their removal.
In the event Santa Clarita decides to pay for the removal, it gets to keep the panels, per Pfahler’s ruling.
The city’s appeal contended the city shouldn’t have to pay the $5 million, which included the cost of Canyon View’s $4.1 million contract with panel installer California Solar, because the panels represent a violation of the conditional use permit under which Canyon View operates, which requires the hillside be at least 50% open space.
The city also pointed out that the judge agreed with the city’s contention that the panels were an abatable nuisance.
Among their arguments, Canyon View’s counsel claimed the fenced-in yards that housed the panels were part of the park’s open space and therefore not a violation, plus, the panels were put up legally under the authority of the state’s Housing and Community Development, which, as the city indicated at the time of the project’s planning and execution, was the body with jurisdictional oversight for mobile home parks.
Pfahler rejected the former argument but called on the city to pay for the removal on the grounds of the latter.
Attorneys for both sides have declined to comment on the case. A spokeswoman for the city noted the lawsuit was part of active litigation.
In March, the city argued the park’s owners, the Seidenglanz family, knew the solar array was in violation of the park’s CUP, and the case’s facts don’t support a contention the city should have known about the park’s CUP, which was issued by the state in 1984, several years before the city came into existence.
According to the city, because the park’s owners should have known about the violation, the city shouldn’t be punished for abating what the judge agreed was a nuisance.
In its 135-page response that was due July 27, Canyon View attorneys claim the city stated for years it had no jurisdiction over the park and then did an about-face after the park installed a multimillion-dollar solar energy system.
Canyon View attorneys also said that local governments “may formally step into the state HCD’s and assume responsibility for the enforcement of the Mobilehome Parks Acts … While the city considered at one point whether to do so, City Manager Kenneth Striplin testified that it decided ‘to not move forward,’” per the July 27 respondents’ brief.
The park also states it asked the city in September 2016 whether any permits were required in addition to the HCD’s requirements, and the project’s contractor testified he was told the city has no authority. The city also told residents it didn’t have authority during a meeting with them in June 2017, according to the response.
The city first filed its nuisance enforcement action against the park in September 2018.
Since its initial filing, the city has already spent a little over $1.1 million in legal fees in its attempts to have the panels removed as of the appeal filed in March, according to city officials.
The docket for the Second Appellate District Court case was not yet updated to reflect the schedule for the next hearing date to consider the respondent’s July 27 brief, according to a court clerk Monday.