Owner files response in city appeal over solar panels 

A Canyon Country hillside covered in solar panels is the subject of a yearslong lawsuit by the city of Santa Clarita. Chris Torres/ The Signal

The latest chapter in the city of Santa Clarita’s yearslong effort to remove solar panels from a Canyon Country hillside without having to pay for the removal or the panels included a reply brief from the mobile home park that installed the panels. 

In a 73-page filing Monday, attorneys for the Seidenglanz family, which owns and operates Canyon View Estates, a mobile home park off Soledad Canyon Road, argued against parts of the trial court’s ruling that helped the city. 

The trial court essentially found that, in 1984, L.A. County “erroneously granted Canyon View’s 460-mobile-home conditional use permit in violation of the permit’s own open space requirements,” according to the argument from Canyon View. 

But that finding was wrong, according to the park’s attorneys. 

While the trial court found that the panels are a “nuisance,” which is why the city wants them removed, the trial court also found that the city must compensate the owners of the panels because of a legal principle called estoppel. The estoppel refers to the trial court’s finding of a legal standing in the initial approval for the panels.  

During the initial trial, Canyon View stated it had sought the city’s permission to put up the panels, and the city referred Canyon View to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which has control that preempts local authority under the Mobilehome Parks Act. 

Finding that the agency legally granted permission, the court said the city has to pay more than $5 million, the cost of removal plus the cost of the panels themselves. 

The cost included Canyon View’s $4.1 million contract with panel installer California Solar and the cost of the panels.  

The city’s appeal contended Santa Clarita shouldn’t have to pay for either because the panels represent a violation of the park’s original conditional use permit, which calls for 50% of the park’s land to be open space. 

On its appeal, the city also argued the trial court judge agreed with its contention that the panels are an abatable nuisance.   

However, the park has repeatedly argued that, according to the county’s rules, yard space counts. “Canyon View’s CUP has a 50% open space requirement that — consistent with the county’s General Plan, the county ordinance, and the county’s undisputed intent when it granted the CUP — counts private yards as open space,” according to Canyon View’s attorneys. 

While some have questioned how a private yard can be considered “open space,” a city planning commissioner noted during a recent discussion of a development proposed for Wiley Canyon that developers are allowed to count balcony space as open space provided in a development, meaning there’s no necessary requirement for public access. 

“Under that standard, the park still has more than 50% open space even after installation of the solar energy system. If the court agrees, there is practically nothing left to resolve in this appeal — no need to delve into issues of preemption, statutory interpretation, or equitable estoppel except as they relate to a handful of panels on adjoining property.” 

A city official said Thursday there’s been no schedule set for oral arguments in court over the filings, which would be the next step. 

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