L.A. Business Council Holds Sustainability Summit

L.A. Business Council Holds Sustainability Summit

The Los Angeles Business Council last week held its inaugural Sustainability Summit, calling on city officials to engage the private sector to create a green building code.

"Wherever that tipping point is, I think we hit it," said Mary Leslie, L.A. Business Council's president. "There's enough awareness now. I think it's the consumer that is helping drive it."

A sold-out crowd of architects, designers, developers, investors, contractors and insurance industry members gathered Wednesday to learn about the demand, risk, reward and competition associated with green building.

The city has been an active player in using green building techniques for public structures. Since 2003, the city of Los Angeles has constructed five new public buildings using the LEED rating system, with 44 more buildings in the pipeline.

The summit was an opportunity for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to address some of the recommendations made by the business council before the Sustainability Summit. The council suggested the city create a sustainability team to act as an intermediary between city departments and government agencies. It also recommended adding incentives to foster sustainable building practices, such as expediting the green building and development review process so builders can "go to the front of the line."

In the past, Leslie said, developers ran into hurdles getting trade-offs for building green, such as a break on density or parking requirements. The council recommends increasing density or parking bonuses if a project will be certified LEED Silver or higher.

At the summit, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke about encouraging growth out of single-family neighborhoods and into transit-oriented districts, which are higher density, mixed-use corridors with access to public transportation.

He announced the city's private sector green initiative, where the city will require all projects at more than 50,000 square-feet, or 50 units, comply with LEED standards.

If a developer plans to pursue LEED Silver certification, the city will expedite the entire entitlement process, including planning and public works. It also will certify all case workers as LEED accredited officials and create a checklist that includes all water and energy efficiency programs and incentives.

"The city's new cross-departmental Sustainability Team will identify existing obstacles to building green — and serve as a clearinghouse for emerging green technologies, methods and materials," Mayor Villaraigosa said.

Following the summit, the council will remain active trying to initiate legislative action, and making sure the mayor keeps his word on the city's sustainability plan.

"We must advocate loudly, and hold elected officials to do what they say they'll do," she said.