Friday, February 29, 2008

Right to Sunlight in California

From CNN:

In an environmental dispute seemingly scripted for eco-friendly California, a man asked prosecutors to file charges against his neighbors because their towering redwoods blocked sunlight to his backyard solar panels.

But the couple next door insisted they should not have to chop down the trees to accommodate Mark Vargas' energy demands because they planted the redwoods before he installed the solar panels in 2001. . . .

After more than six years of legal wrangling, a judge recently ordered Richard Treanor and his wife, Carolyn Bissett, to cut down two of their eight redwoods, citing an obscure state law that protects a homeowner's right to sunlight.

The couple does not plan to appeal the ruling because they can no longer afford the legal expenses, but they plan to lobby state lawmakers to change or scrap the law.

The Solar Shade Control Act means that homeowners can "suddenly become a criminal the day a tree grows big enough to shade a solar panel," Treanor said.

The case marks the first time a homeowner has been convicted of violating the law, which was enacted three decades ago, when few homeowners had solar systems.

The law requires homeowners to keep their trees or shrubs from shading more than 10 percent of a neighbor's solar panels between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is strongest. Existing trees that cast shadows when the panels are installed are exempt, but new growth is subject to the law.

Ben Barros

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