In the shadow of urban oil fields, multifamily solar arrives at affordable housing in heart of L.A.


February 28, 2018


An extended mechanical left comes towards a roof edge
Esperanza Community Housing staff are receiving solar – clean energy in a region that has often been dominated by the industries reliant on dirty fuels.

With support from The 11th Hour Project, a program of the Schmidt Family Foundation, and donated equipment from Enphase Energy, we've started multifamily solar installation work on the newly-reroofed apartments of Alegria, a community of renters located between the University of Southern California and Downtown Los Angeles. Alegria's residents are frequently mentioned as part of the University Park neighborhood outcry against poisonous urban oil drilling, and with good reason! These families have lived, played, and slept just hundreds (if not dozens) of feet away from an active oil well, where a Signal Hill-based company extracts natural resources from land leased by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles (at considerable health costs to those nearby). Given this long regional history of fossil fuel drilling, it's no surprise that air quality in the neighborhood south of the 10-110 interchange is far worse than the air in wealthier parts of town. Local leaders have lent their voices to the conversation over where, why, and how environmental injustice occurs in situations like these.

The Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, which made the decision to go solar with GRID Alternatives, is the first operator of low-income multifamily units in Los Angeles to partner with our Multifamily Program. Their decision to bring renewable energy onto the rooftop at Alegria has big implications: $170,000 in expected output over the system lifetime. Moreover, the service we're providing will enable direct benefit to the tenants in the form of an onsite media lab for residents. The project directly assists Esperanza's mission to develop and preserve affordable homes for the Figueroa Corridor and St. Vincent de Paul Parish, helping achieve the goal of building hope within community. 

We've been embraced with a warm welcome by the families living here so far, and we can't imagine a more deserving operator than Esperanza to bring solar savings. As many affordable housing professionals can attest, $9000 or $10,000 in annual revenue from a clean, safe system that exacts no cost to the community's health is a bonus for everyone involved. Since we plan to continue construction days into March, the morning where we "flip the switch" on Alegria's system is over a month away, but we're looking forward to celebrating that occasion with and amongst people from this community! We're honoring their grit in the face of some of Los Angeles' biggest challenges and welcoming them to take a stand for community self-determination.