The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has adopted new environmental standards for unincorporated areas, including Marina del Rey, requiring new homes and buildings to conserve more energy and landscaping to be more drought-tolerant.

The supervisors voted Tuesday, October 7th, to approve Green Building, Low Impact Development (LID) and Drought-Tolerant Landscaping ordinances for construction of new projects in unincorporated county communities. The three ordinances are slated to take effect January 1st.

Under the ordinances, green building techniques will be implemented in construction projects, requiring them to conserve more water, energy and natural resources, according to a county Department of Regional Planning report. The measures will require development projects to use Low Impact Development principles that encourage site sustainability, according to the report.

In addition, buildings will be required to retain storm water on site and landscaping will need to use drought-tolerant and native plants that require minimal use of water.

“This is an exciting step that the county is taking and hopefully it will set a precedent for what can happen throughout the region,” said Ben Saltsman, a deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Karly Katona, a deputy for Supervisor Yvonne Burke, said, “We’re very excited about this because, unlike some other green building ordinances that have taken effect, this is really flexible and enforceable.”

Officials with the Santa Monica-based environmental group Heal the Bay also hailed the supervisors’ action, saying it should lead to increased environmental sustainability.

“The Board of Supervisors does not have the most stellar environmental record, but in contrast, this is the most far-reaching environmental move I’ve ever seen the Board of Supervisors take,” Heal the Bay president Mark Gold said.

Among the requirements of the new environmental standards are that new developments consume at least 15 percent less energy than required by state standards, recycle at least 50 percent of construction waste and install smart irrigation controllers for landscape irrigation.

Buildings of 10,000 square feet or more must be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified, while developments with more than 25,000 square feet or that are more than 75 feet high must receive LEED silver status. Developments must also use drought-tolerant plants for at least 75 percent of their total landscaped area.

By packaging the ordinances together, the supervisors have shown a new understanding for conservation and “the complexity of environmental issues,” Gold noted. The action should result in a significant reduction in peak storm flows and pollution, an increase in existing groundwater supplies, and conservation of water and energy, he said.

Gold added that implementing Low Impact Development principles is a key factor in improving the region’s water quality, as urban runoff is considered the greatest contributor of pollution to bodies of water in the state.

The Marina del Rey Lessees Association, a group that is actively involved in development issues in the Marina, has also offered its support to the county’s green building ordinances after identifying some concerns.

In a letter to the Regional Planning Commission, Lessees Association president David Levine said the group wants to ensure that the ordinances do not “impair the site plans for Marina projects that have already been submitted to the Department of Beaches and Harbors or Marina del Rey Design Control Board for review.” The association had recommended that certain exemptions be approved for projects that are currently undergoing the county’s entitlement review process.

According to the Santa Monica-based nonprofit group Global Green USA, the green building standards are expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2,138 tons and save 14 million gallons of water in the first year. Approximately 66,000 tons of trash are expected to be diverted from local landfills during the next decade, the group said.

“Our hope is that this action will send a strong message not only to the 88 cities in L.A. County but to the entire state that this is the direction we need to go,” Gold said.

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