From the desk of Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director of Government & Public Affairs
December 01, 2020.
AIALA Legislative Day at City Hall
Our annual Legislative Day at City Hall is scheduled for Thursday, December 3rd and will be transformed into a virtual event this year. We have 22+ meetings confirmed with City Councilmembers and Department leaders. Meetings are also scheduled on December 4, 8, and 10th.
Please CLICK HERE and RSVP to each of the meetings you have time to attend.
Issue #1: Adopt the 2022 Zero Code for California
With the Mayor of Los Angeles currently serving as the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, now is the time to demonstrate our leadership and commitment to climate action. As of October 2020, 39 California jurisdictions have adopted local ordinances to advance building decarbonization goals. However, rather than having LA pursue its own local reach code, AIALA recommends that the City of LA adopt the 2022 Zero Code for California, which is a national standard that has been officially vetted and approved to be an appendix in the International Energy Conservation Code for 2021.
The Zero Code for California has three key points:
1. Energy Efficiency: to comply with the upcoming 2022 California Building Energy Standards (BEES)
2. Electrification: no on-site fossil fuels or fuel-based systems for heating, cooking, etc.
3. Renewable Energy: Generate/ procure carbon free renewable energy.
The Zero Code establishes minimum standards for energy efficiency, on-site renewable generation, and a system for how to procure the remaining renewable energy a building may need via Community Solar, Green Pricing, and Utility Renewable Energy Contracts, etc.
The Zero Code will apply to new commercial, institutional, high-rise residential, and hotel/motel buildings that are addressed by the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (BEES). It’s designed to work alongside the CEC’s Energy Code – not as a replacement, but as a supplement. The ZeroCode ‘lives’ on the Architecture 2030 website as a free, open source tool that is ready for Los Angeles to adopt today: 2022 ZERO CODE for California.
We believe that adoption would vault Los Angeles to the forefront of the dozens of existing California reach-code cities since it would for the first time bring a national standard to our decarbonization code landscape, which now consists of many ‘one off’ custom codes each created with considerable effort and expense. AIA California is among many organizations that believe that uniformity in codes and standards makes for lowered costs, reduced uncertainty, greater ease in application, and consistency in enforcement.
If Los Angeles adopts the Zero Code, it will motivate the other 96 affiliated C40 cities to do the same and allow Los Angeles to once again take the world stage as a global leader.
OUR REQUEST: For the City of Los Angeles to adopt the 2022 Zero Code for California as a ‘reach’ code in 2021.
Issue #2: A True Streamline To Faster Housing Production
In July of 2015, The City of Los Angeles announced that funding had been secured for BUILD LA, “a software system that will integrate and streamline the City’s development review processes across departments.” Although LADBS has successfully launched both the ePermit and ePlanLA online systems, a more holistic and integrated software system utilized by all of the numerous departments involved in the plan-check and clearance process has yet to be implemented.
It’s time to invest in software modernization for all city departments to streamline their communication interface with LADBS BUILD LA system, and to facilitate 100% digital plan-check in the spirit of resilience, efficiency, cost-and-time savings, and greater compatibility with the tools and resources utilized by the private sector (i.e., architect, contractor, LACP, LADBS, city departments: all talking on the same digital interface).
Recent statewide legislation has provided us with the opportunity to simplify and streamline LA City Planning’s entitlement and permitting process, especially for affordable housing. Additionally, LACP recently released an updated draft of the Processes and Procedures Ordinance, which will help clarify land-use regulations.
To leverage these new planning resources, AIALA encourages the City of LA to:
1. Expand the Priority Housing Program by (A) creating a new unit with dedicated planners who work in that unit only; (B) training/hiring dedicated planners who monitor and quickly implement new state laws (e.g., SB 330, SB 35, AB 1197, etc.) with better coordination between the City Attorney’s Office, HCID, DBS, and project applicants; (C) eliminating the public hearing requirement for affordable housing projects (e.g., State Density Bonus) and delegating approval authority to the head of this new unit.
2. Update Community Plans to allow for additional density and streamlined approvals by (1) eliminating Site Plan Review requirements; and (2) creating ministerial/administrative processing of housing projects that are consistent with the zoning and land use designations in the plans.
3. Permit TOC projects in Redevelopment Plan areas.
4. Streamline the Process, eliminate antiquated or redundant requirements, raise the Site Plan Review threshold to 100 units, and allow for electronic versions of signatures and approval stamps in order to facilitate the Ready to Issue process.
5. Allow for Alternative Compliance Approvals at the Staff Level.
OUR REQUEST: To solve our housing crisis, the City of Los Angeles must modernize the BUILD LA software system, adopt the updated Process and Procedures Ordinance, expand the Priority Housing Program, update community plans, and streamline the entitlement process by allowing compliance approvals at the staff level.
UPDATES FROM LOS ANGELES CITY PLANNING
DTLA 2040: Downtown Los Angeles Community Plan Update
On December 2 & 5, LACP will host a virtual ‘open house’ for community stakeholders to learn more about the draft DTLA 2040 plan update.
Architects and designers are encouraged to review the draft update and to share their feedback and recommendations with LACP. Please copy email@example.com with your recommendations, as well. We will consolidate that feedback and schedule a follow-up meeting with LACP leadership to share the insight and expertise of the architects that will be implementing this community plan.
More importantly, you are also encouraged to attend the virtual public hearing on December 8, 2020
We’ve met several times with LACP over the course of the last five years to share feedback, concerns, and support for their downtown community planning process. If you have specific recommendations for how to improve the community plan and/or if you have specific concerns that you think will detrimentally impact the design and environmental performance of your projects, then please share those comments with LACP and copy Will Wright so that we can make sure that the DTLA 2040 process has the critical design insight necessary to become successful,
Processes and Procedures Ordinance
A revised draft the Processes and Procedures Ordinance (CPC-2016-3182-CA) has been released for public comment. You are encouraged to review the draft ordinance and share your comments in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and copy Will Wright. As I collect feedback, we will consolidate a set of recommendations to share with LACP to amplify the voice of the architecture and design community.
Updates From AIA California
The Economic Outlook: The Alphabet Soup
By Steven Hall, AIA
While she promised no crystal ball regarding what the economic future could bring, Michele Russo, the Managing Director of Research and Practice at AIA National, did provide some hope in her October 27, 2020 webinar to AIA California members. The “Alphabet Soup” in this title relates to the four possible recovery curves of recovery Ms. Russo explained: V for “victory,” a quick recovery that is the best we can hope for, U for “uh oh,” or revisiting the Great Recession, W for “whoa,” a possible double dip, or L, as she put it, a “looooooong and painful” recovery. More on that later.
While not repeating Michele’s presentation word-for-word (a video is available online), here is a general overview. In her presentation, she touched on five topics: The presidential election, economic indicators, employment and skills, the industry outlook, and what firms are telling the AIA.
First the presidential election. This is written prior to the election and the outcome is not known. However, Ms. Russo quickly touched on the differences, specifically climate and taxes, and similarities, infrastructure and, surprisingly, trade, of the candidates. Each affects the economic recovery.
The economic indicators do point to a recovery in some sectors. For example, national and western regional housing starts are recovering from dips at the start of the pandemic. Housing starts have increased in the recent year and, while multifamily is projected to drop, there is an overall increase in housing starts in 2020. As this is being written, the noise of construction of a new house is taking place below.
One of the revolutions that affects architects is e-commerce. Once up to over 16 percent of the total retail revenue, it is now around 15. This affects the commercial sector especially lodging which is down almost 10 percent. Nevertheless, Ms. Russo told the audience that while construction spending is softening, it does not reflect the magnitude of the downturn. The percent change of the total nonresidential construction is -0.1 percent from 2019.
California Building Codes and Standards
Every three years California adopts new building codes and standards. The standards are adopted and proposed by various state agencies and are, for the most part, based on national model codes. The California Building Standards Commission reviews and approves the standards adopted by the state agencies.
California currently is in the process of preparing the 20222 California Building Standards Code. Here is a timeline of that process.
The California Building Standards Commission has released some videos on the Commission and the building code adoption process.
AIA California Advocacy on Codes
AIA California is actively promoting standards to reduce the impact the built environment has on the climate. A sizeable percentage of greenhouse gas emissions in California come from the operation of homes and buildings. AIA California believes California can be a leader in fighting Climate Change through the enactment of Zero Net Carbon standards.
Our efforts include:
Local Electrification Codes
AIA CA has joined with several local chapters to support efforts to adopt local electrification reach codes. The jurisdictions include: San Carlos, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Colma, Petaluma, San Francisco, and San Luis Obispo. This is an ongoing, and growing, effort.
Zero Code for California
AIA California has petitioned to include the Zero Code for California in CALGreen. Amending CalGreen to include the 2022 Zero Code for California will create a consistent, replicable reach code framework for decarbonization by electrification and renewable energy for commercial and large residential developments.
California Existing Building Code
AIA California has petitioned to amend the California Existing Building Code to include all three national model code compliance methods. This will support increased retrofit and reuse of our urban existing building infrastructure for greatly reduced embodied carbon emissions, while at the same time providing urban revitalization, infill housing and well paying jobs.
Contact Mark Christian, the AIA CA Director of Government Relations for information on how to help these efforts.
Updates from AIA National
Policy Platform 2020
American architecture stands as a testament to our unique place in the world. Our architects work at the leading edge of a $1T construction industry that promotes commerce and drives consumer confidence. Architects have always dared to reach higher and set new standards. Our next architectural achievements will be measured by how well they respond to a post-pandemic world, eradicate inequity, fuel economic recovery, eliminate carbon emissions, and nurture individual and community health.
Now is the time for urgent and decisive action on these issues. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) represents more than 95,000 architecture professionals. We step forward to address the needs of our economy, climate, and communities. We seek support for the crushing student debt of our members; support for disadvantaged businesses; and real progress to end the systemic racism that has existed for centuries and continues to grip our nation. We seek meaningful policies and commit to better buildings that will sustain a healthy country.
In a spirit of cooperation, we challenge others to join us in support for the following initiatives.
Building a Healthy America
When business thrives, America thrives. Architecture firms lead a $1T building construction industry that catalyzes private investment. Most of these firms meet the federal government’s definition of small business. The administration’s tax policies should support small business, innovation, and talent recruitment. AIA commits to voice strong support for a future economy that advances the success of architecture firms and the profession.
Prioritize job creation and equitable access to opportunities
- Increase STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Architecture, and Math) investment and student debt relief to strengthen diverse and inclusive talent pathways into the profession
- Strengthen workforce training for new, sustainable building technology and practices
- Strengthen the inclusion of businesses owned and operated by historically underrepresented communities including women and racially and ethnically diverse business owners
- Develop a Civil Service Corps option for graduates
Leverage private investment
- Utilize tax incentives to spark resilient, sustainable, and equitable development
- Invest in low-income housing tax credits
- Recommit to historic preservation tax credits
Adopt business-friendly tax policies
- Prioritize favorable tax policies for small businesses
- Provide research and development tax credits and research funding
Human activity is warming our climate to dangerous levels and carbon from buildings is a primary culprit. Buildings must consume less energy, use only renewable sources, and contribute power back to the energy grid. AIA is taking action to eliminate all building carbon emissions by 2040.
Provide American leadership
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord
- Promote science-based environmental regulation and research
- Provide federal leadership on climate and cross-departmental integration
- Actively address the disproportionate impact of climate change and environmental degradation on communities of color
Transform energy use
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency in buildings
- Promote renewable energy and embrace building electrification
- Create federal incentives for the adoption of net zero carbon energy codes
Commit to zero carbon practices
- Reduce embodied carbon and encourage carbon-smart materials
- Renovate, adapt, and preserve existing buildings
- Preserve historic structures
- Fund robust federal investment in green infrastructure
In towns and cities across the country, deep inequities exist that prevent access to safe and healthy buildings for many Americans. We as a nation must act to provide shelter—a basic human need. AIA commits to a future built environment that improves individual health and prepares communities to weather a variety of storms.
Invest in housing & infrastructure
- Catalyze accessible and affordable housing
- Promote toxin-free living
- Confront the legacy of discriminatory zoning and housing policies on communities, including Black, Indigenous and other population who have been historically marginalized with deleterious economic disinvestment
- House those who are experiencing homelessness and provide related supportive services
- Promote equitable development, including mass transit-oriented development, multimodal streets, and reformed Opportunity Zones
Reinvest in America’s public places
- Fund best practices for school design to promote healthy, safe learning environments
- Provide federal funding to support health care surge capacity
- Invest in community and civic infrastructure
- Strengthen our resilience
- Improve building resilience and adaptation to allow populations to shelter-in-place
- Integrate buildings into the grid to promote energy resilience
- Fund flood and risk mapping, and prioritize resilient land-use policies
- Strengthen water and air quality policy