BIRD NESTS AND SOLAR PANELS | Residents working to hold HOAs accountable – VC Reporter
Pictured: solar panels owned by the homeowners in this deckside mansion condominium. Photo submitted.
by Kimberly Rivers
Over the past month, residents and neighbors of communities managed by homeowners’ associations have been grappling with issues related to tree felling during the nesting season and the forced removal of solar panels.
HOAs boards of directors are elected by the homeowners, but stories of them walking a little off the lines are common. Here are two recent cases, one where an HOA responded to concerns from local residents and another one that is ongoing and raises questions.
Residents gather to protect the nests nest
Last month, residents of a neighborhood near Channel Islands Harbor got involved in ensuring nesting birds were protected when the HOA board voted to remove over a dozen old trees.
Janice McCarthy lives across the street from Hueneme Pier in the Port Hueneme-Surfside IV Condo Complex, and although she says most neighbors are okay with removing older trees, “we’re concerned about the timing,” she emailed the Ventura County reporter. “We are in the middle of the breeding season”
State law prohibits the disturbance or destruction of active nests – for any species of bird. Eggs or young birds are considered active nests. Exceptions can be granted if a tree poses a danger to people or property.
When McCarthy found out about plans to remove the trees, she contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, California Fish and Wildlife Department, and Ventura County Resource Management Agency. She also contacted the local Ventura Audubon Society.
“They are supportive, helpful, and concerned,” she said. “The city of Port Hueneme has refused to participate and the board is still moving forward” with the fall of trees on May 24th. But she said homeowners would get involved.
McCarthy was surprised by the town’s response, noting that she had recently seen tree pruning at a theater site in her neighborhood.
“I happened to see tree pruning at the theater next to where I lived a few days ago while walking my dog on the beach,” she said. “I saw birds freaking out and flying around the tree, which was being pruned as if there were nests in the tree.”
Just a few days later, McCarthy had good news. On May 27, she said that “we had a resolution with our board of directors to submit a report on an arborist’s inspection of the trees to be removed.” She said the report reassured her and “most homeowners” that the trees did not contain active nests. However, she notes that there can be some harsh feelings between residents and members of the HOA board.
Solar panels removed, homeowners fined, legal action taken
On May 18, Heather and Brenden West received a letter from the HOA board of directors for Deckside Villas in Oxnard informing them that they were being fined $ 100 per day for failing to obtain proper authorization the panels had been removed on May 21st for the installation of the solar panels in their condominium.
In a communication to the Wests on May 11, 2021, Deckside HOA attorney David Swedelson stated, “The board of directors and other owners do not want to look at the panels unless they have to and do not have to, as the panels should have been installed over the flat roof . ”
However, state law prohibits an HOA from banning and / or restricting the installation of solar panels in such a way that their efficiency would be reduced.
Swedelson did not immediately respond to inquiries.
California’s HOAs and Solar Panels Act states, “any Confederation, restriction or condition … that effectively prohibits or restricts the installation or use of a solar system is void and unenforceable. “(California Solar Rights Act, Civil Code Section 714)
West says the flat part of the roof only has room for three panels. They installed 16. “That’s an 80 percent reduction in efficiency and it’s against the law. The HOA cannot demand a change in the efficiency of the system by more than 10%. “
“We have nothing against solar panels,” said Ron Wiesner, President of the HOA Board of Directors at Deckside, speaking to the Ventura County Reporter on June 1st. Weisner is a local real estate agent and has represented both buyers and sellers of property in the Deckside Villas community according to online sales records.
Wiesner said the Wests did not follow the “proper” procedure to get permission to install the solar panels in their home. He stated that the process includes completing the required architecture change request.
In an email exchange dated October 23, 2020 with the subject line “Architectural Request” received from the VCReporter, the Wests received two documents from Ruth Cederstrom, certified Community Association Manager at Concord Consulting and Association Services, the administrative manages and performs, sent tasks for the deckside HOA.
One of the documents is titled “3666 Solar Conditionally Approved” and is the Deckside Villas Homeowners Association Architectural Change Form completed by the Wests to get permission to install solar panels and the date is September 24, 2020. This form contains a notice dated October 20, 2020, from Stephanie Alex, Vice President of the HOA Board of Directors; In a line item titled “Reject” it says “See Appendix”.
This letter, the second appendix dated October 23, 2020, is entitled “3666 Preliminary Rejection, but Conditions”. The letter acknowledges receipt of the architectural change form, but states that the request to install solar panels will be “tentatively rejected” but will be “reconsidered” if additional information is received.
The information requested includes the size of the panels, whether they are on the flat part of the roof and requires the signature of two adjacent neighbors. The HOA also required the West to sign a “maintenance contract” for the panels.
“We’re a duplex, we only needed one neighbor’s signature,” West said. “They had all the papers, city permits, shadow reports … the problem with the maintenance contract is that it doesn’t conform to California law, it says they can charge me their attorney’s fees with no cap.” The federal government also needs to be approved by all HOA members, and West said, “They won’t.”
The Wests sent a signature from the neighbor and received an email confirmation that the application had been received.
When asked about the conditional approval document, Wiesner declined to comment and referred the questions to Swedelson.
The solar panels were installed on November 13, 2020. Jerry Ramirez, an Oxnard City inspector, checked the facility and found it was properly installed and meets all requirements.
On the day of the installation, West said members of the HOA board of directors came and took photos and videotaped the installation and she felt they were being harassed. Eventually [[[???Wing??? Who???]]]were informed that they had been fined for installing solar panels.
“We had the plumber remove the panels last week and the HOA is still fining,” West said. The panels were removed on May 21, 2021. The fines imposed on the Wests to date total over $ 800, all of which were valued after the panels were removed.
Wiesner said removing the panels could waive the fines unless there was other damage to the roof for which the “association” was responsible.
The dispute between the Wests and the Deckside HOA continues.
California Fish and Game Code regarding disturbing active nests: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=FGC§ionNum=3503.
California Solar Rights Act; Section of the Civil Code. 714: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=714.&lawCode=CIV