Sierra Club Notes Bay Area Municipalities Lowering Solar Permit Fees

In the greater San Francisco Bay Area, 34 municipalities have reduced solar permit fees over the past 11 months due to the efforts of local Sierra Club activists to end excessive fees and application processing delays that can stall the installation of solar power.

The Sierra Club is encouraging dozens of city officials to review solar permit fees. Several municipalities in the Bay Area are making solar power systems accessible to middle income homeowners, according to a survey of 109 jurisdictions by the same chapters of the Sierra Club that are spearheading the campaign (Loma Prieta, San Francisco Bay and Redwood). Unfortunately, other municipalities continue to impose high permit fees and delay permit processing. The study found that for typical-sized residential rooftop installations, permit fees range from zero to as high as $1,074. The average is $365. Cities like Mill Valley issue solar permits over-the-counter without delays, while other cities take weeks. Some cities seem to use solar permit fees to generate revenue, not just to recover processing costs although state law prohibits this. Assembly Member Lois Wolk on 6/7/06 emailed a letter [link below] to all California cities encouraging minimum solar permit fees based on actual permitting costs incurred. In Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties 26 municipalities have reduced solar permit fees (20 significantly so), over the past year because of the efforts of local Sierra Club activists, public demand, enlightened city leaders and media coverage. Charts showing changes in solar permit fees over the past 11 months are also linked.
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