Category Archives: Sustainable Energy

Solar & Sustainability Lip Service?

I think solar panels are beautiful, and I am not just talking about the fact that they can help us shift from fossil fuel energy to a clean sustainable solution. I think they are beautiful to look at too, but some leaders in the City of Coral Gables appear to think otherwise and on Tuesday will consider legislation to essentially prohibit them being placed on the street side of one’s house in the so called “City Beautiful”.

In fact, Coral Gables wants to place their view of what looks acceptable, thus aesthetics, ahead of allowing a property owner to benefit from solar, ahead of placing one’s solar panels in the best possible location to capture the sun if that means they can be seen from the street, and such a limitation is short sighted if you truly want to help lead the way in solving our climate change crisis.

Much of the proposed law begins with a fight that Gables resident Daniel Martinez and his family, who have been battling the City over where he’s allowed to place his panels on his roof. Not only did the City tell Mr. Martinez that his family could not place panels on the part of his roof facing the street but we’ve now learned that the City, while pretending to be supportive of solar and sustainability, has made decisions that led to at least 30 other homeowners to abandon their solar permit plans for seemingly similar subjective reasons.

I am incredibly disappointed in the City of Coral Gables’ Mayor and Commission for the roadblocks you have allowed residents to be subjected to, as well as for allowing the proposed limitation to be in your 2019 Legislative Priorities. You can read about what’s happening in the City of Coral Gables here:  https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article223187560.html.

And, on this Tuesday the City will consider passing legislation that says they “support” Florida’s Solar Rights Act, but goes on to say that they oppose any law that would inhibit the Gables’ “ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels“. Should Coral Gables pass that law they will have shown their true colors and make clear that they are in favor of solar but only if they subjectively like the way it looks and have a say over where panels should be placed no matter what the sun and physics deem best.

Here is a summary of the city of Coral Gables’ ridiculous Legislative Priorities Memo and their Legislative Priorities Resolution highlighting their true view related to solar power (I have marked the key wording in red):

SOLAR

Support the rights afforded under the Florida Solar Rights Act (Section 163.04, Florida Statutes). 

Oppose legislation that would limit the City’s ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels.   

  WHEREAS, The City of Coral Gables supports the rights afforded under the Florida Solar Rights Act (Section 163.04, Florida Statutes), but would oppose legislation that would limit the City’s ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels;

On Tuesday night the City of Coral Gables Commission gets a chance to redeem itself and decide whether it’s truly serious about sustainability and doing its part to solve our climate change crisis or, as resident Katherine Newman wrote in the January 6th, 2019 Miami Herald, just giving “lip service” to being “green”. Here’s what Ms. Newman wrote:

GABLES’ LIP SERVICE

The Dec. 26 article “Rooftop solar panel rules frustrate homeowner,” is exactly what most of us in Coral Gables expect: A long, expensive, frustrating process to get any permit (which is why many residents do work without permits).

Coral Gables gives being “green” a lot of lip service, but it does not put our money where its mouth is. Overdevelopment, with massive high rises reaching to the edge of our main streets, is one example. The traffic already is unbearable. What will it be like when the 60-story behemoth on U.S. 1 is finished? The CO2 emissions from all the cars will continue to increase.

In Gables by the Sea, we have been begging for shade trees for 25 years and have been largely ignored. The EPA says that urban “heat islands” contribute to climate change. On our two main streets, the temperature gets to 119 degrees on hot, sunny days because there is no shade. We pay enormous amounts of property taxes and have been unable to get desperately needed shade trees.

We are not fooled by the green talk. Coral Gables needs to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay the unfunded pension deficit. Enormous commercial buildings that contribute to traffic and take away green space will hurt our environment, but will create tax revenue. A homeowner, trying to do the right thing and install solar energy, is irrelevant to the city.

– Katherine Newman, Coral Gables

Saying you are dedicated to helping solve the biggest challenge that kids in my generation will face during our lifetimes often makes adults feel good, but actually putting your money, or your vote, where your mouth and heart is, is another thing all-together. Tuesday night the City can show all of South Florida, and the world, whether it’s either serious or not.