From the Forum – Solar Rights – Dealing with a popup with the new DC Regs

Photo by PoPville flickr user Fritz Myer

Solar Rights – Dealing with a popup with the new DC Regs

“Guess what? I get to be patient zero with the new DC regulations for the R-4 zoning laws, new pop up rules, and solar rights.

I’m scared…. Very Scared. I don’t want to ruin the hard work of everybody who came before me.

How can I get a reputable shadow study (DCRA said I can create one in google sketch up or similar)?? I have a solar study from one of the companies who bid on the install. The company doing the install is having trouble completing a solar study. One of the first companies said it will decrease the productivity of the system by at least 30%.

Who can help me protect the solar system? Is there anybody I can contact who was involved with the solar rights issue / wants to be involved with this new law in practice?”

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23 Comment

  • In the Lanier Heights neighborhood of Adams Morgan a couple years back, the developer of a pop-up on Lanier Place moved existing solar panels from the neighbors house to the top of the pop-up to mitigate blocked sunlight.

  • “Who can help me protect the solar system?”

  • I can’t tell from the OP’s description what exactly the situation is. Are the solar panels on the house already in place, or are they yet to be added? Is there a pop-up proposed for next door? If so, when was its permit approved?

    • Sounds like the OP is concerned about either his/her pop-up blocking someone else’s solar panels, or trying to install solar panels on a roof that is blocked by a pop-up.
      Did anyone else chuckle at ‘who can help me protect the solar system’?

      • I have solar panels, my neighbor is putting up a popup which would block the sun for the system. The panels are currently producing electricity.

        Is there a different question I should be asking?

        • The above is clear. The original post was not.
          If you’re in R-4, the neighbor can no longer (IIRC) build above 35 feet on a by-right basis and would have to get a variance to do so. Does/would the popup make the height above grade more than 35 feet? If so, has the neighbor obtained a variance? Did DCRA grant the neighbor a permit for the pop-up, and if so, on what date?

          • This is not true. The 35ft is ceiling high and does not include any parapets or balustrades, which can be another 4ft.

          • @anonymous
            Do you have a reference for the “ceiling” and “parapet” measuring standard? Zoning is so byzantine that I and every building inspector I’ve worked with could have it wrong, so I’m not nearly as confident as you as to say “this is not true”, but I’m gonna call shenanigans. This is straight outta the DC zoning code.

            Building Height – The vertical distance measured from the level of the curb opposite the middle of the front of the building to the highest point of the roof or parapet. The term curb shall refer to a curb at grade. In the case of a property fronting a bridge or a viaduct, the height of the building shall be measured from the lower of the natural grade or the finished grade at the middle of the front of the building to the highest point of the roof or parapet.

    • I agree. It’s kind of hysterical and confusing.

    • I think the OP is trying to prevent his neighbor from building a popup. The new rules say:
      “336.7 Any addition, including a roof structure or penthouse, shall not interfere with the operation of an existing or permitted solar energy system on an adjacent property, as evidenced through a shadow, shade, or other reputable study acceptable to the Zoning Administrator. ”
      The OP needs a shadow study to prove that his neighbor’s proposed addition will interfere with the OP’s existing solar system.

      • How new are the rules? Would it apply to someone that got a permit a while back but is just building now?

  • Contact DC Sun and see what support they can provide

  • We have a similar problem! Except our neighbor is currently putting up a giant monstrosity of a penthouse that is going to affect over half of our panels. Any advice for a situation where the ANC and DCRA approved plans for the structure show a much shorter and smaller penthouse than what is now being built?

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