City of Los Angeles Adopts Green Building Ordinance on Earth Day

By James E. Pugh

On April 22, 2008, the City of Los Angeles passed Ordinance No. 179820 and thereby established a city-wide “Green Building Program.”  The program is modeled after the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”) building standards.  The program addresses five key areas including: (1) site location; (2) water efficiency; (3) energy and atmosphere; (4) materials and resources; and (5) indoor environmental quality.  The new ordinance amends the Los Angeles Municipal Code (“LAMC”) by adding new Sections 16.10 and 16.11, which will likely have a considerable affect on the type of developments the City will approve.

The program sets mandatory standards of sustainability for large projects.  In essence, the program provides that no building permit shall be issued for projects at or above 50,000 gross square feet of floor area unless “[t]he project applicant…demonstrates that the Project meets the intent [emphasis added] of the criteria for certification at the LEED certified level.”  See LAMC, Section 16.10 D.1.  Formal LEED certification, however, is not required.  The program applies to residential, non-residential, and mixed-use projects that fall within the square footage and height requirements established by the new law.  There are exemptions for projects dealing with historic resources or those projects that can be “grandfathered” based on plan check and entitlement status.  See LAMC, Section 16.10 F.1-5.  The program also incentives developers to build green by expediting projects that voluntarily commit to formal LEED silver or higher certification.

Overall, the Green Building Program could introduce another layer of entitlement complexity.  Nonetheless, it should also help the City accomplish its stated goal of reducing natural resource use, creating healthier living environments, and combating global climate change.  The new standards for non-residential and high-rise residential projects will be effective on November 1, 2008.  The standards will apply to low-rise residential projects on May 1, 2009.

For more information please contact James Pugh.  James E. Pugh is an associate in the Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Practice Group in the firm's Los Angeles office.

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