Chapter 9.56
Solar Siting and Solar Access


9.56.010    Purpose and Objectives

9.56.020    Applicability

9.56.030    Definitions

9.56.040    Subdivision Design, Building Orientation, Easements, and Access

9.56.050    Solar Access Easements

9.56.060    Solar Shade Control Act

9.56.070    Solar Rights Act

9.56.010 Purpose and Objectives

A.    The City recognizes the importance of protecting the potential for solar energy use. The purpose of this Chapter is to maximize access to sunlight for City residents.

B.    This Chapter is intended to implement the California Solar Rights Act and the California Solar Shade Control Act, as well as to strive to meet the City’s energy policy goals as outlined in the Arcata General Plan 2020. The provisions of this Chapter are intended to protect access to solar energy for future development in Arcata by serving as a guideline for new development. This is done by setting limits on the amount of shading permitted by new construction and requiring that new buildings be sited to maximize solar access. Proper building siting and orientation is required to fully utilize solar energy. These measures will benefit the citizens of Arcata by reducing dependence on non-renewable energy sources.

C.    The potential economic and environmental benefits of solar energy use are considered to be in the public interest; therefore, local governments are authorized to encourage and protect access to direct sunlight for solar energy systems. Solar easements are appropriate to assuring continued access to direct sunlight for solar energy systems, and may be created and privately negotiated.

9.56.020 Applicability

The provisions of this Chapter shall apply to all development within the City, in all zoning districts, except for a condominium conversion in compliance with Section 9.84.040 (Condominium Conversions).

9.56.030 Definitions

Definitions of the technical terms and phrases in this Chapter may be found in Article 10 (Glossary) under "Solar Access."

9.56.040 Subdivision Design, Building Orientation, Easements, and Access

Design approaches that maximize natural heating and cooling opportunities and use of solar energy in development design shall be pursued whenever the energy conservation benefits and solar energy development potential are greater than the associated negative impacts. It is not intended that the requirements of this section result in reducing densities, reduced buildable lot area that may be occupied by a structure, precluding construction under the zoning regulations applicable at the time a Tentative Map is filed, or cause the unnecessary removal of trees.

A.    Application requirements. A plan-view, shade projection map, detailing shadows cast on the ground by all buildings, and all vegetation exceeding 10 feet in height, on December 21 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. shall be provided with each subdivision or planning permit application.

B.    Minimum solar access requirement. The lot size, orientation, and building configuration of Planned Developments, subdivisions, and all other development that requires City discretionary review, shall provide for each primary dwelling on at least 80 percent of the building sites to have adequate solar access.

1.    The lot size and configuration shall permit the short axis of primary dwellings to be aligned between 15 degrees east of south and 30 degrees west of south.

2.    A different orientation may be allowed where the review authority determines that more effective solar access can be accomplished. When adequate solar access is not feasible on one or more lots, those lots shall be designed to provide as much solar access as possible.

C.    Protection of existing solar access. The lot size, orientation, and building configuration of a proposed subdivision shall ensure that no primary dwelling on a lot adjacent the proposed project loses existing adequate solar access.

D.    Street orientation. To provide the greatest flexibility in satisfying the requirements of Subsections A., and B., streets shall be oriented within 15 degrees of east-west or north-south where feasible. A different orientation may be allowed where the review authority determines that more effective solar access can be accomplished through other means.

E.    Exceptions. An applicant may request exceptions to the requirements of this Section by including a written statement with sufficient supporting documentation with the application for City approval of the project. After review and a recommendation by the Director, the Planning Commission may grant the exception along with project approval only after first finding that:

1.    Compliance will result in reduced residential densities below that which would normally be allowed at the time the application is filed, or

2.    Compliance is otherwise not feasible.

9.56.050 Solar Access Easements

A.    When required.

1.    When building configuration is specified on a Tentative Map or other development proposal, and upon finding that neither lot size, lot configuration, or applicable zoning is sufficient to reasonably protect solar access to a proposed south wall or south roof, the Planning Commission may require the preparation and dedication of solar access easements as a condition of Tentative Map approval for any subdivision application containing one or more lots under one acre.

2.    No solar access easement shall be required where the lot that would be benefited is of one acre or more, and the applicable zoning requires single-family dwellings, or where solar access is not available because of existing vegetation, topography, surrounding development, or where other deed restrictions are sufficient to protect solar access.

B.    Easement design, dimensions. A solar access easement shall be designed to protect solar access to proposed south roof and south wall areas. In establishing the dimensions of a solar access easement, consideration shall be given to contour, configuration of the parcel to be divided, existing vegetation, and the use of adjacent parcels.

C.    Form of and content of easement document. A solar access easement shall be prepared in compliance with the "Model Solar Easement Form" established by the Arcata Energy Committee, and all requirements of the City Attorney, and shall include, at minimum, all of the following:

1.    A description of the solar access easement in terms of specific areas on benefited property to which solar access is to be protected and a statement specifying that no structure, vegetation, or land use, shall cast a shadow so as to obstruct the passage of direct sunlight to more than 10 percent of a protected area on a benefited property between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at any time throughout the year;

2.    A statement that the burdens and benefits of the solar access easement are transferable and run with the land; and

3.    A diagram of the burdened property prepared in a format acceptable to the County Recorder indicating, in a manner easily understood by non-technical persons, the approximate height restrictions on the property necessary to protect solar access to specific areas on benefited property.

D.    Recording. A required solar access easement shall be recorded with the County Recorder. If the development involves a subdivision, the easement shall be recorded at the time of recording the Final Map or Parcel Map.

E.    Revision, termination. A solar access easement may be revised or terminated as follows, or by a modification in writing that is signed by all benefited and burdened property owners and recorded with the County Recorder. The initial grantor of the easement shall not have a right to modify the easement.

1.    To avoid unnecessary property burdens, no change in restrictions on structures, vegetation, and land uses shall be made unless a revised solar access easement signed by the owners of all affected benefited and burdened properties, in compliance with this Section has been recorded with the County Recorder.

2.    The easement shall include a statement that upon refusal by the owners of an affected property to sign the modified solar access easement, any other affected property owner may bring an action in Court to determine what modification, if any, should be made to the easement, and that costs of suit may be awarded to the prevailing party. This provision is not intended to, and shall not increase the area burdened by any solar access easement on any property.

9.56.060 Solar Shade Control Act

The California Solar Shade Control Act (Public Resources Code 25982) states that no person owning, or in control of a property shall allow a tree or shrub to be placed, or, if placed to grow on such property, subsequent to the installation of a solar collector on the property of another so as to cast a shadow greater than 10 percent of the collector absorption area upon that solar collector surface on the property of another at any one time between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2.p.m., local standard time; provided that this section shall not apply to specific trees and shrubs which at the time of the installation of a solar collector or during the remainder of that annual solar cycle cast a shadow upon that solar collector. The City requires property owners or others in control of a property to abide by this Act, and any subsequent changes in the Act. Those seeking permits for solar systems are advised to establish documentation of vegetation existing at the time of their solar system construction or installation.

9.56.070 Solar Rights Act

The City will enforce and abide by the California Solar Rights Act (Civil Code Section 714). Any deed restriction or covenant that unreasonably restricts or prohibits the installation or use of solar energy systems shall be made void and unenforceable. This includes any restriction of clotheslines for drying clothes outdoors. In addition, the City shall not enact any policy, ordinance or regulation that prohibits or unreasonably restricts the installation or use of solar energy systems. Unreasonable restrictions are defined as anything that increases cost by greater than 20 percent or decreases efficiency by greater than 20 percent.