County Greening

Xeriscaping – a beautiful thing

I’m very tempted to write an extremely positive post on Los Angeles’ proposed trio of far-reaching environmental ordinances on green building, drought tolerant landscaping and low-impact development (LID).  After all, if the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approves the three ordinances at its meeting Tuesday, it will be the singularly most progressive environmental action ever taken by the county and will set an impressive precedent for the entire region.

Pardon me for my skepticism, but the enviro community’s past history with the supes, in conjunction with strong opposition from the Building Industry Assn. and general economic jitters, leads me to worry that a potentially resounding victory could be watered down into a defeat.

However, if the Board does the right thing and approves staff recommendations on the ordinances, here is what will be required for all new construction in unincorporated sections of Los Angeles County:

LID: The goal is for all new development to mimic stormwater flows coming off of the property pre-development.  The difference in runoff volumes pre-and post-development must be infiltrated on site or treated. In other words, the days of paving every square inch of a parcel with the resulting increases in stormwater runoff will be over.  The ordinance applies to nearly all development, but is especially strong for new development and large redevelopment projects.  The remaining keys to LID ordinance success are for the requirements to apply to all approved development, and for the comprehensive design requirements to be incorporated directly in the ordinance. If the ordinance passes, local groundwater supplies will be augmented and there will be a significant reduction in peak storm flows and pollutant loads.

Green Building: All new buildings have to meet the county’s green building standards, which are designed to greatly reduce energy and water use.  For example, all new developments have to use 15% less energy than required in state standards, use smart controllers for irrigation, and install ultra-low flush toilets.  In 2010, the green building guidelines require LEED certification for all buildings with a footprint over 10,000 square feet.  Buildings over 25,000 square feet and high-rises over 75 feet high will have to meet LEED silver certification.

Drought tolerant landscaping: All new development must meet the following criteria. First, 75% of the landscaped area must be planted with plants from the county’s drought tolerant list. Only 25% of the landscaped area can be turf. And all plants need to be planted in hydrozones with similar water use, soils, light and maintenance needs. If this ordinance passes, the days of tropical foliage surrounding commercial developments and condos will finally be over.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic.  After all, the Dodgers won a series for the first time since the 1988 Gibson miracle homer.  Just in case, please come out to the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration (500 West Temple Street, Los Angeles) Tuesday morning and make yourself heard.  Like any home team, the Board of Supervisors needs all the encouragement they can get.

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One Response

  1. This would be tremendous! And much needed good news after the recent disappointments around state funding for beach water quality monitoring, and the lack of passage for the derelict fishing gear and plastic bag legislation.

    The LID measures are especially critical when one considers the state of water in the southwest/Los Angeles — here are a few good resources When Will Los Angeles Run Out of Water? Sooner Than You Think and American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?

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