Did you hear the explosion at the Jan. 24 Thousand Oaks City Council meeting?
The city’s architectural design standards collided with the community’s desire to embrace green energy technology—in this case, solar panels on a commercial building on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
Old meeting new created lots of confusion.
The city’s unique, consistent and attractive look has been maintained through the design standards, which have become a blessing and a curse. A blessing because ageold standards kept our city’s consistent look. A curse because an innovative builder wishing to become environmentally friendly by installing solar panels on patio covers can’t get approval because it is not in the city’s design codes.
City bureaucracy and innovation are not usually good friends when it comes to “never been done before.”
The builder appealed to the council for reconsideration and pleaded his case. Instead of what looked like an outright denial, Councilmember Andy Fox proposed a compromise that was approved on a 4 to 1 vote that allows the builder to install solar panels on one of the two buildings so the council members can assess the aesthetics before approving the second building’s installation.
This approval process is very subjective. To allow five council members to decide if they like the look is very dangerous for future solar design projects. If you ask five City Council members if they like a painting, you will get 10 opinions, and none are the same.
This like or don’t like the look approach doesn’t belong in city government. It’s too costly and open to extreme variability depending on the decision makers’ taste.
The city needs clear, updated architectural building design standards that city staff can evaluate without hours of City Council members debating if they like or dislike the look.