News
08.15.2007
Going Private
LA and SF in race to make private buildings LEED compliant

Los Angeles and San Francisco passed green building standards for municipal buildings in 2003 and 2004. Now both cities are getting the ball rolling where it really matters: proposing new green building standards for private development.

On June 19 the City of Los Angeles unveiled a draft proposal that would require all new buildings of 50,000-plus square feet or 50-plus units to be LEED compliant. The city would also provide financial incentives and expedited processing for LEED Silver or Gold projects. Meanwhile on July 11, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s new Green Building Task Force issued a report to the mayor recommending that the city use LEED standards for large commercial buildings and highrise residential buildings. The proposal calls for incentives like development bonuses, property assessment equalization, and fee reductions; and it suggests that developers meet LEED Gold standards by 2012. Neither code recommends immediately legislating green building standards for smaller buildings, although San Francisco’s proposal discusses phasing in such requirements down the line.

Despite this limitation, such standards would go a long way toward reducing the environmental impact of buildings in California, since so many large projects are privately owned. Boston is currently the only U.S. city to have adopted such standards. According to the American Institute of Architects, buildings account for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions and about three-quarters of all electricity generated at power plants.

“Greening our building standards will help the city achieve its sustainability goals, whether it is reducing our carbon footprint, preventing urban runoff, or diverting materials from landfills,” said LA City Council President Eric Garcetti in a statement.

Both plans must be passed by their respective legislatures before moving forward. LA’s proposal would likely be drafted and ready for review by various city commissions and city council members by September or October, said Sam Siegel, Legislative Deputy for Garcetti. Mary Leslie, Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) president, predicted that it may take about six months for it to pass City Council. The San Francisco proposal must pass that city’s Board of Supervisors. The San Francisco task force is aiming for new standards to be put in place by January 2008.

The Los Angeles plan was codeveloped with Global Green, a sustainable building nonprofit, and the LABC. It came after a year of discussions between members of various city agencies, and after two months of focus groups consisting of environmental groups, architects, developers, and others. The tenmember San Francisco task force, which has been meeting since last March, is made up of developers, architects, and building industry members. 

Sam Lubell