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San Luis Obispo city officials are streamlining rooftop solar and rain-collection permitting processes

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It should become easier to install rooftop solar for residents in San Luis Obispo under a newly adopted streamlined permitting process.

Under the 2014 California bill, AB 2188, local municipalities are required to adopt ordinances that create expedited, streamlined permitting processes for small residential and rooftop solar systems by Sept. 30. And SLO may be one of the earliest adopters in the county.

“The sooner the better is, I think, the consensus we’ve got among us,” Councilman John Ashbaugh said at the Feb. 3 City Council meeting shortly before the City Council unanimously passed the ordinance.

John Ewan, founder and owner of Pacific Energy Company, said SLO is the first city in the county to adopt the new standards. He said members of the local solar industry began meeting with city staff several years ago in an attempt to ease the permitting process. Different guidelines throughout the county make it difficult for solar companies to help customers install small systems, he said.

The new ordinance in SLO includes a requirement to remove “unreasonable barriers, minimizing costs to property owners and the city,” as well as a requirement for the city’s Building and Safety Division to adopt a standard plan that will provide expedited reviews for qualifying rooftop solar systems.

Additionally, the city will now implement a “nondiscretionary review process” to further expedite small rooftop solar projects. The ordinance includes an exception for properties on the list of historic resources.

Along with the streamlined solar permitting process, city officials also adopted new rules for rainwater catch systems. The old local rules required a plumbing permit for water tanks that hold more than 250 gallons, though most rainwater systems utilize 500-gallon tanks, according to a city staff report. Now, residents can obtain a permit exception for systems that are less than 7 feet tall and 600 gallons in capacity.

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