Building Height Regulations for Solar Systems in San Diego’s Coastal Zone

San Diego Solar Height Compliance

San Diego’s coastal region offers significant potential for solar energy capture. For commercial and industrial entities considering rooftop photovoltaic (PV) solar systems within the Coastal Height Limitation Overlay Zone, it’s essential to grasp the building height regulations that preserve the area’s beauty and natural resources.

Key Points of Technical Bulletin BLG-5-4 

Technical Bulletin BLG-5-4 is a guide for measuring building heights, ensuring that structures, whether with flat, pitched, or gabled roofs, comply with the 30-foot height limit. This regulation maintains the coastal skyline’s aesthetic and protects the view.

Height Exemptions for Solar Projects 

While the 30-foot rule is standard, exemptions exist for solar projects under strict conditions:

  1. Variances allow unique properties to exceed the limit if they can demonstrate minimal impact and significant benefits.
  2. Coastal Development Permits (CDPs) enable environmentally sensitive projects to go beyond 30 feet, provided they meet criteria to minimize visual impact.
  3. Neighborhood Use Permits are granted for projects that serve the public interest, emphasizing renewable energy and community resilience.
  4. Zoning Ordinance Amendments may be proposed to adjust regulations in favor of sustainable solar development.
  5. Special Exceptions cater to solar projects with innovative features that contribute to energy resilience and carbon reduction.

Measuring Building Height for Solar Installations 

Accurate height measurement is critical for planning and regulatory compliance:

  • The 1970 Uniform Building Code’s reference datum is the starting point for height measurements.
  • The highest adjacent ground elevation within 10 feet determines the reference datum.
  • For elevations over 10 feet, a standardized reference datum is used, set 10 feet above the lowest adjacent ground elevation.

Adhering to San Diego’s building height regulations is vital for solar projects. Big Shine Energy provides guidance on Technical Bulletin BLG-5-4 and exemption processes, ensuring your project aligns with regulatory standards and contributes to the sustainable growth of San Diego’s coastal areas. We work closely with city officials, environmental specialists, and legal advisors to support your solar initiative’s success.

Sources: bldg-5-4.pdf (

Ch11Art03Division02.pdf (

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