From the desk of Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director of Government & Public Affairs
In early July, the Executive Committee of the AIA LA Board of Directors voted to share a letter of support for SB 4 (Wiener) with the CA Assembly Natural Resources Committee. If signed into law, SB 4 will provide “a streamlined process for religious organizations and nonprofit colleges to develop affordable housing on their property regardless of local zoning restrictions.”
According to the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH), one of the co-sponsors of the bill, “SB 4 will streamline the building process and offer new tools for neighborhood leaders to build safe, stable, affordable homes for local residents and families. This bill will allow places of worship to build 100% affordable housing projects, creating a valuable option in the midst of the state’s housing and homelessness crises.”
SCANPH has created a portal to share your firm’s support with the Natural Resources Committee.
For a quick summary of SB 4 (Wiener), click here.
To review SCANPH’s position on other current CA Housing Bills, please click here.
On July 6th, LA Mayor Karen Bass signed into law an update to the zoning code to exempt affordable housing units from the site plan review (SPR) threshold, which aims to expedite affordable housing production by waiving them through the expensive and time-consuming SPR process.
Council President Paul Krekorian and Council President Pro Tempore Marqueece Harris-Dawson co-authored the legislation along with…….
Site Plan Review kicks-in for housing projects of 50 or more units. Projects that are 100% affordable will be entirely exempt from SPR. For mixed-income projects, only the affordable units will be exempt from the calculation. Yet, that will still help incentivize developers to integrate more affordable units into their projects. As you know, the Site Plan Review Process is not only expensive (fees) but adds a significant amount of burden and uncertainty to the process of bringing housing to the market because it creates a discretionary review process and creates litigious vulnerability and the potential for significant delays. Many developers will ‘leave density on the table’ and not optimize the land-use of their site in order to by-pass SPR. By raising the threshold and encouraging more mixed-income and affordable housing projects, exempting housing developments from SPR will benefit our city and facilitate the quicker production of much-needed housing.
Ideally, we’d like to see the policy expanded so all urban infill housing projects will be exempt from site-pan review. as long as those housing projects have a licensed architect (an AIA member) from Los Angeles-area directly involved with the project.
One pathway to reach that goal is currently being developed by Los Angeles City Planning’s Urban Design Studio. Referred to as the Healthy Buildings, Healthy Places initiative, the draft initiative would create a scoring-system to measure projects that adhere to certain landscape and site design standards. One potential outcome of that scoring-system could be to waive SPR for all housing projects.
Perhaps we can make that policy a reality soon!
California Updates Building Codes to Advance Housing Creation and Climate Goals
AIA California-led initiative simplifies adaptive reuse of empty office and retail structures for new housing.
(Sacramento, California) June 30, 2023—In an action that simultaneously addresses the climate emergency and California’s housing crisis, the California Building Standards Commission voted this week to ease barriers to the safe conversion of underused existing commercial buildings.
The adaptive reuse of retail and office structures (vacated due to market changes such as work-from-home and online shopping) can reduce the carbon footprint of construction, while also helping revitalize our communities. The potential is enormous, as highlighted in a recent RAND Corporation report that found some 2300 underutilized properties in Los Angeles county alone that could product 72,000 to 113,000 housing units.
In terms of sustainability, renovation and reuse projects typically save between 50 and 75 percent of the embodied carbon emissions compared to constructing a new building, according to Larry Strain, FAIA, a sustainability expert.
This major code advancement was initiated by the American Institute of Architects California in 2019. What followed was literally years of behind the scene work involving many stakeholders.
“This action is a real catalyst for change that will push the industry forward in rapidly addressing the growing climate emergency,” said William Leddy, FAIA, AIA California Vice President of Climate Action, and partner in a San Francisco-based architectural firm that consistently designs sustainably high-performing projects.
“The most sustainable buildings are the ones that are already built. Prioritizing the reuse of existing buildings not only accelerates the reduction of embodied carbon emissions from new construction, it ‘incentivizes’ the industry to address California’s severe housing crisis more quickly and efficiently, creating more sustainable and resilient communities,” Leddy continued.
Because many of the impacted buildings are situated in the urban core of cities across the state, their reuse as housing has a secondary impact: the revitalization of metropolitan centers.
Ahead-of-the-Curve Thinking Shapes the Future
AIA California began shaping the code landscape for existing buildings over four years ago, but code change is a long and rigorous process. The State Fire Marshall became a core partner in this effort, as they managed multiple technical working groups that went through code language line by line, with key issues being debated, discussed and fine-tuned.
“AIA California is committed to accelerating substantive changes that facilitate carbon reduction,” said AIA California President Scott Gaudineer, AIA. “As architects, experts, and citizens, we have no time to waste. We are grateful to the State Fire Marshall for being our partners in this initiative and to California Building Standards Commission for taking action which will lead to a better future for generations to come.”
California Existing Building Code Put to Use
The change, amends the California Existing Building Code, and turns what many Californians might see as a mundane bureaucratic element into a powerful tool that expands California’s role as a climate leader and offers new hope to rehouse people in a state where a recent University of California San Francisco study found that nearly 50% of those without shelter are age fifty or older.
In its vote, the California Building Standards Commission altered California’s Title 24 Part 10 Existing Building Code (CEBC) by adding Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13 of the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) into the 2022 CEBC.
Michael Malinowski, FAIA championed this effort on behalf of AIA CA from the beginning, tapping his expertise as a practicing architect with extensive experience with commercial to housing conversion projects. He is also familiar with the code process and the model codes, as an appointed member of the national ICC Existing Building Code Committee.
“The new California Existing Building Code will allow for greater flexibility in responding to the complexities of existing building reuse, harnessing the power of design thinking to respond to the complex challenges often found in existing buildings. AIA CA is working with the International Code Council (ICC) and other stakeholders like CALBO (California Building Officials association) to provide training and orientation to this new material,” Malinowski noted.
The international Existing Building Code provides three options, known as compliance paths, from which to choose: Prescriptive; Work Area; and Performance. All three paths lead to safe, code-compliant buildings, but their differences allow design professionals significant latitude to find a code path best suited for a particular building challenge. The existing California code includes only the Prescriptive path effectively limiting potential for adaptive reuse.
The architectural profession stands ready to work with developers and all members of the design and construction industry to utilize these options to create new possibilities for communities, repurposing the many existing underutilized and obsolete commercial buildings in our urban centers, breathing new life into our urban cores with walkable, sustainable, and resilient design solutions.
Click Here to read the Press Release from AIA CA’s Tibby Rothman.
WASHINGTON – July 6, 2023 – Amidst a recent salvo from special interests to dictate specific design styles, AIA is standing firmly against any federal mandates on architectural design styles and other forms of freedom of design and artistic expression. In fact, in February of this year (during AIA’s 2023 Leadership Summit), architects from across the country visited Capitol Hill to advocate the importance of design freedom in over 280 Lobby Day meetings with federal policymakers.
The recently introduced bills directly track with the 2020 Executive Order (EO) issued by the outgoing Trump Administration, titled “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture,” which AIA also staunchly opposed then. AIA has mobilized its 96,000 members around the issues and is working with state components to educate lawmakers where there is current support for these renewed mandates.
AIA remains undeterred in its support of H.R. 964/S. 366, the Democracy in Design Act, a bipartisan legislation authored in the House by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA); and in the Senate by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), and Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN). This legislation would require General Services Administration (GSA) to adhere to the Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture (Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture | GSA) in the design selection process and to undertake rule-making to establish this formula for success into statute. This would prohibit any federally mandated design styles from being dictated to communities and would protect the GSA’s Design Excellence Program in law.
Washington – June 29, 2023 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and other allied organizations recognize that even with affirmative action, the number of minorities enrolled in our nation’s colleges and universities is disproportionate to our demographics. By removing these protections, we are concerned that the impact of underrepresentation may worsen outcomes for everyone.
Equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging represent our combined core values. We will continue to advocate for inclusive collegiate admissions because its educational benefits are integral to moving the architecture profession forward. Diverse student perspectives and lived experiences will not only enrich the next generation of architects and design professionals, but also shape our world through the built environment they will design. We are committed to the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public, which includes ensuring that our future workforce reflects the population it serves.
Washington – June 30, 2023 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is concerned that the Supreme Court’s ruling on student loan forgiveness in Biden v. Nebraska will create an inequitable financial burden for many of our members. It will likely make it even harder for those from economically challenged backgrounds to become architects and design professionals and may even force others to leave the profession for financial reasons.
To become an architect, it takes on average 13 years to complete the path to licensure, and through AIA’s own research of its membership’s student debt, it is clear student loan debt disproportionately impacts people differently based on age, race and gender.
The AIA believes diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging enriches not only architects and design professionals, but also the entire world through the built environment they design. Protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public is vital to the role that architects play in shaping our collective future. The AIA is committed to supporting a diverse profession that reflects the communities being served. Thus, equitable access to the profession is essential.
Do you have Concerns About The Wildlife Ordinance? – Council File: 14-0518
We are currently drafting a set of recommendations to share with LA City Council on how to improve the draft ordinance and we welcome your input and ideas. Please share your specific recommendations to email@example.com by July 14th so that we can make sure to integrate your concerns into our memo to LACP and City Council.
On June 20th, LA City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved as amended the draft Wildlife Ordinance and will next be heard by the full City Council later this summer.
Here’s the direction that Council District #4 & #5 are currently moving in:
+ Reverse the City Planning Commission’s action that would have allowed up to 1,000 square feet of basement area to be exempted from Residential Floor Area (RFA) calculations.
+ Revert back to having a limitation on calculation of RFA for 60% slopes, which was in Version 2.
Although we are extremely late to the ‘decision-making’ table, I’ve heard an extensive amount of concern for the unintentional and negative impacts that this draft ordinance will have on the architecture profession and its efforts to deliver creative and environmentally effective design solutions in our area hillsides and wildlife corridors. Of course, we support strategies that protect and nourish wildlife, promote bio-diversity, and sustain healthy ecologies. However, sometimes even well-intended measures have substantial flaws and by more effectively engaging the architecture & design community those flaws can be ameliorated.
Primarily, we are asking LACP and City Council to more effectively utilize the resources of AIA Los Angeles to help facilitate case studies to test the feasibility of the ordinance. The concerns I’ve heard from AIA members is that the ordinance is being inadvertently ‘weaponized’ to severely limit the development of housing in our beloved hillside areas by making many projects no longer feasible. The ordinance may also severely divert the personnel resources of LACP (and other city departments) towards an onerous, complex, and time-consuming entitlement process that drains resources away from implementing and executing policies that help deliver affordable housing more quickly. Furthermore, I’ve heard substantial concern from AIA members, that as currently written, the ordinance exposes the City to substantial litigious risk, which we as a city can absolutely not afford.
I think anyone concerned about our city budget will want to more closely examine ordinances and policies that may end up costing the city untold millions of dollars in legal entanglements.
On July 19 and 20, LADBS is hosting a series of live webinars to provide updates and coordinate Q & A sessions with the AEC industry.
Residential / Building Code – WED, July 19, 2023 (10:00 AM – 11:00 AM) = RSVP HERE.
Affordable Housing – WED, July 19, 2023 (11:00 AM – 12:00 PM) = RSVP HERE.
Solar – WED, July 19, 2023 (2:30 PM – 3:30 PM) = RSVP HERE.
Electrical Code – THUR, July 20, 2023 (9:00 AM – 10:00 AM) = RSVP HERE.
Mechanical Code – THUR, July 20, 2023 (10:30 AM – 11:30 AM) = RSVP HERE.
Plumbing Code – THUR, July 20, 2023 (1:00 PM – 2:00 PM) = RSVP HERE.
Fire Sprinkler Code – THUR, July 20, 2023 (2:30 PM – 3:30 PM) = RSVP HERE.
So far this year we’ve hosted breakfast receptions with Mayor Karen Bass, Council President Paul Krekorian, Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, and LADWP General Manager Martin Adams. These forums serve as an opportunity for AIA members to connect directly with civic leaders, to ask questions about policy priorities, and to share ideas and recommendations on how to improve development services, etc.
Upcoming receptions include:
Quarterly Meetings w/ LADBS
We’ve confirmed dates for our series of quarterly meetings with w/ Osama Younan, P.E. – General Manager, LADBS. These quarterly forums serve as an opportunity for AIA members to connect directly with LADBS leadership and to hear status updates and emerging initiatives. Kindly register via the links below.
These meetings will be on zoom again this year (for the time being). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org specific items and issues that you’d like to add to the agenda at least one week in advance. We’ll tally the issues and share with Osama in advance so that he can best prepare responses with his team.
LACP Design Review Sessions
In 2023, we will be coordinating thirty-six virtual design review sessions, which will serve as opportunities for architects and designers to help the Los Angeles City Planning’s Urban Design Studio critically review upcoming projects throughout the City.
Upcoming sessions include:
Tuesday, July 11 (10am – 12pm)
Tuesday, July 18 (10am – 12pm)
Tuesday, August 1 (10am – 12pm)
Join us here w/ RSVP to gain zoom access.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Government & Public Affairs