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Board eyes expanding clean energy program

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday set in motion an examination of programs across the state, including its own, that carry out an energy upgrade funding mechanism known as Property Assessed Clean Energy.

The board-approved directive came at the recommendation of Vice Chair Dianne Jacob and Supervisor Dave Roberts.

It ordered county staff to evaluate and compare various municipalities’ PACE programs, which allow lending companies to provide loans to property owners that are repaid through property tax assessments.

The funding mechanism leaves the payoff connected with the property, as opposed to the individual or the business.

The county launched its own PACE program in 2012, but kept it limited to commercial properties because of rules adopted by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which discourages the practice, citing concerns over the potential for increased financial risk to lenders.

FHFA rules affect mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which comprise a great deal of mortgages in the housing market.

Jacob noted before the vote that two counties in the state, Sonoma and Riverside, have elected to move forward with residential PACE programs despite the federal objections.

Her hope in bringing the motion to the floor, she said, was to help the county wade through the options.

“Our goal is to put solar on every roof in the San Diego County region,” Jacob said.

Seeking to put a “few more tools in the toolbox” toward that end, Jacob added that she sees holes in the availability of energy upgrade options to county residents.

Before hearing the thoughts of 16 public speakers in favor of the directive, Roberts added to the motion, asking that it include a directive to the county’s chief administrative officer to draft a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to intervene in the FHFA rulemaking process.

“Because of some outside decisions that I think are wrong, it really stymied what we really wanted to do here,” Roberts said.

He also pitched a possible PACE expansion as a means of job creation and added competition in the solar energy market, which he said would help consumers by making it more affordable.

As part of the analysis, county staff will provide a side-by-side look at various models, program vendors and fiscal impacts -- both to the municipalities and property owners -- associated with the San Diego County model and other areas’ PACE programs.

County staff was directed to report its findings to the board within four months.

Bonsall school district

In other actions, supervisors adopted a resolution creating a unified school district, comprising the area of Bonsall Union School District and the portion of the Fallbrook Union High School District within its scope.

The unification was previously approved in the November 2012 General Election by area voters, and has received approval already from the County Committee on School District Organization and the State Board of Education.

By adopting the resolution, supervisors legislatively terminated the former district, established the new district's boundaries, and re-established the Fallbrook Union High School District's boundaries.

According to county staff, the creation of the school district will not change the county’s net general fund costs and no additional staff years will result. The new unified district will begin operations on July 1, 2014.

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