Coral Gables homeowner gets system approved as work continues to secure solar rights for everyone

By Ben Delman on January 18, 2019
Coral Gables homeowner Daniel Martinez proudly displays his hard-won permit to go solar.

Coral Gables’ community of solar supporters notched a small, but important victory this week. Solar homeowner Daniel Martinez received a permit for a solar system that will have panels installed on a street-facing roof. Solar supporters are hopeful this will lead to a relaxing of the city’s unfair restrictions on these kinds of designs.

Solar systems work best when the panels face in a southerly direction. Martinez has a roof with a south-facing side that is visible from the street. He wanted to go solar, but could not get permits for his system. Coral Gables city policy empowers the review board to reject permits for solar panels if the system would be visible from the street.

In December Daniel had a conflict resolution meeting with City attorneys and Architectural Board to review his permit denial. The Board upheld its denial.

Martinez and fellow solar supporters then took their concerns before the Coral Gables Board of Commissioners, the body that oversees the Architectural Review Board. They urged the commission to change city rules to allow ensure that homeowners with south-facing roofs that face the street can benefit from solar. They pointed out that the city’s opposition to these kinds of installations is directly at odds with Coral Gables’ professed concern about sustainability.

This month, Martinez had a hearing with a Special Master, appointed to mediate disputes the Architectural Review Board has with complainants. Many homeowners attended to speak in favor of street-facing arrays. Perhaps this shifted the outcome, but in a surprising move, the Architectural Board agreed to Daniel’s street facing array – allowing 14 panels on the front of his house.

Martinez’s victory is a start. Homeowners who are best served by systems that are street-facing will still have to fight for their solar rights on a case-by-case basis. Because of this, solar advocates will continue their appeal to the City Commissioners to urge them to change city code to ensure all Coral Gables residents have the right to go solar. The homeowner will also be meeting with the City’s Sustainability Advisory Board to suggest aesthetics guidelines that will help other homeowners in the future.

Coral Gables residents can click here to submit comments on this issue to their commissioners.