CITY HALL — A controversial law requiring photovoltaic panels to be installed in the least visible location from the street got the greenlight from the City Council on Tuesday just weeks after solar advocates argued the rule would deter interested property owners in the future.

The ordinance, meant to streamline the permit application process for solar panel installation, was approved upon a second and final reading after it was initially introduced on July 2. The ordinance will be effective 30 days from adoption.

The issue in question concerns a subsection of the ordinance that requires solar energy equipment be installed in a location that is least visible from adjacent streets as long as it doesn’t significantly increase costs or reduce performance. It excludes single-family homes.

“We should eliminate barriers to renewable energy, not create new ones,” Alexandra Kravetz, a policy associate for Santa Monica-based Global Green USA, said during a council meeting earlier this month.

City officials said the ordinance will establish objective development standards and allow administrative approval as long as it meets certain criteria. Solar panel systems that don’t fall under the standards will need approval from the Architectural Review Board.

Under the new regulations, solar panels may be located up to 5 feet above the roof’s surface or 7 feet for solar water and swimming pool heating systems. Single-family homes have more flexibility.

Some opponents have said the provision will create extra steps for applicants to receive their permits, having to return to City Hall to show how moving the panels would affect costs. City officials pointed out that the subsection specifically sates that panels be located in the least visible location, not be invisible.

Unlocked doors for massage parlors<p>

The council also adopted an ordinance requiring massage parlors to keep their doors unlocked during operating hours.

The new policy is meant to better ensure safety in the event of a fire. The ordinance also includes several changes authorized to existing massage parlor regulations, one of which is being passed to bring local laws in line with new state requirements that go into effect Sept. 1.

SB731, which passed last year, permits cities to require that technicians have state certification but does not allow for them to force those who are already certified to obtain additional licenses. The local ordinance will be changed to provide exemption for state certified technicians from local permit requirements.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days from adoption.

Construction price tag increases for mall garages<p>

Facing an extra $8 million in costs to renovate parking structures 7 and 8, city officials are planning on phasing construction in stages as resources become available.

The project was originally estimated at $10 million but has since ballooned to $18.1 million because of changes in cost and several added components, including an increase of more than $830,000 to install bike parking facilities in both structures because of extra work required to install heating and cooling units.

Located on the northeast and southwest sides of Santa Monica Place, the parking garages are slated to receive facade improvements and several major changes inside, including attendant parking and ground-floor retail spaces.

The costs will be shared by City Hall and Macerich Co., the group the manages the mall.

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