With a unanimous vote Thursday night, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission approved recommendations for strengthening the city’s green building requirements.
If sanctioned by the City Council, these standards will make both residential and commercial buildings even more energy efficient and healthier for occupants, plus conserve water and building materials.
In 2007, West Hollywood led the charge in adopting mandatory green building ordinances, one of the first cities in the nation to do so. Those standards included requiring drought-tolerant landscaping, low-flow plumbing fixtures and energy-saving appliances, plus drastic reductions in construction and demolition waste in landfills. In 2009, the state of California adopted similar guidelines.
In the decade since, the green building industry has evolved and developed even greater efficiency standards. By adopting these new standards, West Hollywood aligns its green building policies with those of the state. More importantly, the city is striving to establish a “best in class” program that allows the city to continue to be a leader in green building standards.
Among the new requirements:
- Buildings must provide water sub-metering for individual units, (i.e., instead of the building getting a single monthly water bill, each individual unit would get a bill for the amount of water used).
- Showerheads and kitchen faucets must only release 1.5 gallons of water per minute, down from 1.8 gallons per minute.
- Toilets must only release 1.1 gallons of water per flush, down from 1.28 gallons.
- Electric vehicle charging stations and bicycle parking is required for all projects.
- Outdoor lighting on buildings must be energy efficient.
- Buildings (new or remodeled) over 10,000 square feet must have “sustainable roofs” by installing either solar panels, solar-powered water heaters or roof gardens.
- Large buildings would have to install “gray water” systems for recycling water from sinks, baths, showers and washing machines (but not toilets) for use in irrigating the property’s landscaping. Alternately, large buildings can show they are 50% more energy efficient than the baseline standard.
To entice developers to use the new standards, the city will provide several building incentives for construction projects to choose from: an additional unit in multifamily residential buildings, reduced parking requirements or a slightly increased building density (know as Floor Area Ratio, or FAR).
However, consultant Walker Wells with the Berkeley-based urban consulting firm Raimi + Associates told the Commission that developers are most likely to use the additional unit incentive.
To guarantee the developer doesn’t take an incentive but then fails to comply with the new green building standards, the Commission recommended a requirement tha the developer deposit money with the city in the form of a “performance bond.” Once the city issues the certificate of occupancy and assures the project does adhere to these new green standards, that money would be refunded.
While the commissioners liked the overall plan, there was some debate whether more fine-tuning was needed. For example, Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner suggested developments should have a five-foot rear setback between the property line and the beginning of the underground parking garage to allow space for rainwater and water runoff to soak into the earth.
Another concern was maintaining the city’s “tree canopy” since new developments frequently cut down the large, old growth trees that provide shade over streets and buildings, thereby reducing heat.
However, Commissioner John Altschul suggested additional items could be added to the ordinance later. He urged the Commission go ahead and approve these recommendations so they will be on the books if Sacramento passes new housing laws that might pre-empt these standards.
The City Council will consider these measures during a meeting later this summer.