Downtown Should Be a Center of Sustainability

Downtown Los Angeles has a number of eco-friendly buildings, including the United States Federal Courthouse at 350 W. First St.

DTLA—In his State of the City speech on April 17, Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke out on the need for Los Angeles to aggressively address climate change. Twelve days later he presented his local version of the Green New Deal, rolling out a playbook to reduce emissions, clean the air, and take other steps to make the nation’s second largest city a global leader in sustainability.

It’s a more-than-worthy aim, and we commend Garcetti for trying to find ways that Los Angeles can get out front. One thing that has quickly become clear is that, if L.A. is to set the pace in sustainability, then Downtown will be a key driver.

Garrett Environmental Plan Could Impact Downtown Buildings

This should happen in multiple ways. The car traffic and gridlock that comes with being a commuting hub makes Downtown an apt zone to experiment with forms of mobility that spew less pollution. But the Central City could have a bigger impact on climate change in another way — by addressing emissions from its buildings.

Los Angeles Downtown News this month wrote about the effect that the mayor’s environmental plan could have on Downtown buildings. This would impact the scores of structures under construction and in the planning pipeline, and ultimately, older edifices as well.

Putting Downtown's Green Buildings on the Map

The article noted that, according to a 2018 analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council, buildings account for 25% of California’s emissions. Garcetti set a goal of having new buildings in the city be zero emissions structures by 2030, with all properties achieving that designation 20 years later.

Developers of many new buildings and conversions in Downtown have already taken steps to have their projects achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. These range from the new Wilshire Grand tower (certified LEED Gold) to a building housing the Downtown Women’s Center (LEED Silver). Older properties such as the Convention Center have also been LEED certified.

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Downtown is poised to be the hub of new construction in Los Angeles for many years to come. That places an onus on Garcetti and other elected leaders, sustainability experts and planning figures to make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for developers here to have the greater environment in mind long before shovels hit the ground. Developers should see eco-friendly approaches as a tool to use, not a hurdle to overcome.

The good thing is, developers will do this as long as being environmentally focused does not drive up costs to an intolerable level. They recognize that tenants are increasingly concerned about climate change. A zero emissions building can be a selling point.

Garcetti has taken the first step in what will be a decades-long process by laying out his vision for a greener city. But that won’t happen without effective and consistent leadership from local government. Because of its central location and its role as the transportation and jobs hub for the region, Downtown will continue to be the place in L.A. where many new buildings rise and more people live and work. It also should be a center point for sustainability. It will just need help getting there.

Copyright 2019 Los Angeles Downtown News