April 18, 2014 on 9:07 am | In all, Curious, Green Building, Green Cities, Green Houses, Statistics, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

by Jodi Summers

Bet you didn’t know that the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk was one of the first master-planned cities. Uruk was situated on an ancient channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq,  The city was the main force of urbanization during the Uruk period (4000–3200 BC).

Like history? The Uruk epoch saw a shift from small, agricultural villages to a larger urban center with a full-time bureaucracy, military, and stratified society. Uruk period culture, exported by Sumerian traders and colonists, had an effect on all surrounding peoples, who gradually evolved their own comparable, competing economies and cultures.

Millennia has passed since the days of ancient Uruk, as well as other early planned cities such as Harappa, Lothal, and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley Civilization (in modern-day northwestern India and Pakistan). The ruins of these antiquated cities display the earliest examples of deliberately planned and managed cities. Streets were paved and laid out at right angles in a grid pattern, with a hierarchy of streets from major boulevards to residential alleys. Archaeological evidence suggests that many Harrapan houses were laid out to protect from noise and enhance residential privacy; many also had their own water wells. These ancient cities were unique in that they often had drainage systems, seemingly tied to a well-developed ideal of urban sanitation.

The earliest multifamily dwellings date back to ancient Rome and the first century BC. The insulae (singular insula) were large apartment buildings where the lower and middle classes of Romans (the plebs) dwelled. The floor at ground level was used for tabernas, shops and businesses with living space on the higher floors. Ancient Roman insulae in Rome and other imperial cities reached up to 10 and more stories, some with more than 200 stairs.

Essentially, some elements of smart urban planning and harmonious living are thousands of years old. Today, as urban planners rethink livable cities and green communities, we borrow many elements of these early civilizations.

Look Backward

The past is a great source of ideas that work. “Density and adjacency increase sociability,” observes , says Donald Powers, principal of Union Studio Architecture & Community Design.

Time-tested elements like mid-block alleys – a staple of residential planning from the 1920s and ‘30s – lessen emphasis on the car. Small setbacks and stoops help houses relate to the sidewalk. Courtyards encourage interaction. Corners are important; houses built on them should play to the street. “Give 5 more feet to the corner lot and let the porch wrap,” affirms says Carson Looney, principal of Looney Ricks Kiss. “The house is just one element, not the element.”

Build for History

“Built with craft and care, well-designed places that people want to spend time in never lose their luster. They remain vital and continue to appreciate in value,” offers Stefanos Polyzoides, principal of Moule and Polyzoides. A big part of is ensuring that there’s interest and variety in the streetscape.

Appealing neighborhoods are a long-term proposition. Forest Hills in Queens, N.Y.—widely seen as one of the most successful master planned communities ever—started 100 years ago; it earned that inviting patina over time. “Once upon a time, the trees were little twigs,” Powers offers. “Fifty years from now, people will say Kentlands was the Forest Hills of its time,” says Powers of the Gaithersburg, Md., community developed in the late ’80s. “One of the goals is to create a pattern that will be picked up on and connects the new with the old,” as opposed to erecting buffers between them.

Social Sidewalks

“Four-foot sidewalks aren’t wide enough for couples to stroll, or for people to stop and talk and a baby carriage to pass by,” Looney says. “Four and a half feet is good, and 5 feet is better.”

“Each place is different,” says Speck, but “home builders who are interested in long-term value will insist that all streets are lined on both sides by trees approximately 30 feet on center.”

Experts agree, street trees should be as many and as big as the budget allows. Choose variations that are in full glory in the fall while others are blooming in the spring.

Encourage Interaction

Design public spaces as outdoor rooms with a sense of enclosure. Configure them so storefronts face each other. At home, large front porches to encourage neighborhood interaction while providing a buffer for private living spaces. Special care needs to be taken for porches that are very close to the sidewalk. Savvy urban planners elevate these types of porches 3 feet or 4 feet to help homeowners feel comfortable with instead of vulnerable to action from the street.

Be Wise with Commercial Tenants

“If you take the first tenant who comes along, you might end up with a cell phone store, a dollar store, and a liquor store,” instead of a coffee shop, a bookstore, a clothing store, and a restaurant, Powers advises. “Pick tenants that contribute to each other and to the public realm.”



April 2, 2014 on 7:57 am | In Green Building, Green Cities, Reasons to Love L.A., Recycling, Solutions, Trends, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

by Jodi Summers

You know the story, the greenest building is the one already built. So you must be a big fan of  those fabulous loft conversions in downtown Los Angeles – old office buildings and factories that have been renovated into apartments and condos. That’s what’s happening with a lot of that extra office space…that’s in cool buildings.

In 2012, nationwide, office stock shrunk in a third of the 54 top U.S. markets. Buildings worth saving are being converted, while lesser buildings are being demolished. The result is that the net inventory has dropped by about 21.6 million square feet > or 0.3% of inventory. In Los Angeles, available office space has declined by -16.2% according to Loopnet.

Over the next four quarters, approximately 11 of the top 54 U.S. metros and almost half of the 1,400 submarkets in those metros will have a net loss of inventory.

Conversion to residential usage is the most prominent reason that an office building is removed from inventory. Condo and apartment conversions comprise 34% of the lost office space, according to CoStar. Additionally another 13% of office space has been demolished to make way for new residential construction.

In high density urban areas where housing is needed, multifamily repositionings benefit both owner and user. The ideal conversion candidate – transit-accessible office structures built circa 1930 with 22,000-square-foot floor plates.

For more information please contact Jodi Summers and the SoCal Investment Real Estate Group @ Sotheby’s International Realty – or 310.392.1211, and let us move forward together.



March 15, 2014 on 5:11 pm | In Act Locally, all, Green Cities, Reasons to Love L.A., Solutions, Trends, Uncategorized, Water | 1 Comment

edited by Jodi Summers

Did you know that about 40% of all drinking water in Los Angeles is used for landscape

irrigation? The City of Los Angeles Water Conservation Ordinance currently in effect helps city residents and businesses conserve precious drinking water.

By being savvy about our landscape water use, we can save a lot of water.

Currently the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is asking us to honor Sprinkler Use Restrictions – Outdoor watering with sprinklers is restricted to three days a week with different watering days assigned to odd-numbered and even-numbered street addresses.

• Customers with odd-numbered street addresses – ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 – are allowed to use their sprinkler systems on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

• Customers with even-numbered street addresses – ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 – are allowed to use their sprinkler systems on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

• Watering with sprinklers is limited to one cycle of up to 8 minutes per station per watering day for nonconserving nozzle sprinkler systems (typical residential system), or two 15-minute cycles per watering day for conserving nozzle sprinkler systems.

• All outdoor watering is prohibited from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., regardless of the watering day.

* Street addresses ending in fractions are treated as whole numbers and observe the same day restrictions as others on their same side of the street (i.e.: 4321 ½ is regarded as 4321, an odd-numbered address.)

Watering by hand is allowed any day of the week, before 9:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. The Water Conservation Ordinance requires that you use a self-closing water shutoff nozzle on your hose when watering outdoors.

Additional prohibited uses of water, which apply to all phases of the Ordinance and all LADWP customers, include:

• Watering of any hard surfaces such as sidewalks, walkways, driveways or parking areas unless flushing is needed to protect health and safety;

• Outdoor watering between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.;

• Outdoor watering during periods of rain;

• Allowing runoff onto streets and gutters from excessive watering;

• Allowing leaks from any pipe or fixture to go unrepaired;

• Washing vehicles without using a hose with a self-closing water shut-off nozzle;

• Serving water to customers in restaurants unless requested;

• Using water to clean, fill or maintain decorative fountains unless the water is part of a recirculating system;

• Installing single-pass cooling systems in new buildings;

• Installing non-recirculating systems in new car wash and commercial laundry systems; and

• Allowing large landscape areas to be watered without rain sensors that shut off irrigation systems.

The Ordinance also requires that hotel and motel operators provide guests with the option of not having towels and linens laundered daily.



February 28, 2014 on 6:56 pm | In Act Locally, Green Cities, Reasons to Love L.A., Solutions, Uncategorized, Water | 4 Comments

edited by Jodi Summers

Los Angeles has prepared for this drought. Today, Angelinos use less water per capita than residents of any major U.S. city with a population over 1 million. Los Angeles’ Mandatory Water Conservation Ordinance, which was strengthened in 2009, has resulted in unprecedented levels of water savings by  Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s 680,000 water customers.

Already, LADWP customers have reduced their water use by 18%. The amount of water saved in Los Angeles—more than 141 billion gallons—is enough to serve the cities of Burbank, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Glendale, and Anaheim combined for two years.

Expecting drought conditions, LADWP and other Southern California water agencies have invested in storage over the past decade. Together with a strong conservation program, these investments will allow us to weather the current shortage. But we need to redouble our commitment to conservation and make sure all of us are fully complying with current water use restrictions and reducing our water use.

Last year 88% of the water used in Los Angeles was imported from external sources. Water supply shortages are a continuous threat across California and much of the West.

Now, residents across the city are being asked to look for more ways to reduce their water use and encourage our customers to take advantage of money saving rebates offered by LADWP to help them save both water and money. They include rebates for water efficient appliances and devices, and the “Cash for Grass” program, which has increased participation 10-fold since LADWP raised the rebate amount to $2 a square foot, up from $1.50, for customers who replace water-thirsty lawns with California Friendly landscape.

LADWP also will be expanding its public outreach and education efforts to raise awareness about the dry year conditions and users’ responsibility to use water wisely and in accordance with the City’s Water Conservation Ordinance.

More information on LADWP’s water conservation programs, regulations and rebate incentives can be found at



February 13, 2014 on 11:02 am | In Act Locally, all, Green Building, Green Cities, Green Houses, Reasons to Love L.A., Recycling, Solutions, Trends, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Edited by Jodi Summers

Bravo to the City of Los Angeles. Through innovative public policy and creative private development, demonstrating how older buildings can be repurposed and repositioned for the new economy while reducing carbon emissions.

Believe it or not, Downtown Los Angeles contains one of the nation’s finest collections of early 20th century architecture. Most of these buildings sat vacant for decades, until a carefully targeted Adaptive Use Ordinance (ARO) removed regulatory barriers, provided incentives, and helped make it possible to repurpose more than 60 historic buildings over the past 14 years as new apartments, lofts, and hotels.

But many more buildings remain empty or underused in the downtown area and nearby commercial districts.

A recent report from the Urban Land Institute and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Green Lab concludes that more than 10 million square feet of space in the city’s urban core is currently vacant. The report, Learning from Los Angeles, was presented to Mayor Eric Garcetti this morning, at an event organized by the ULI Los Angeles District Council. It describes strategies that build on the success of the ARO to unlock the economic and community development potential of underused older buildings. The report documents demolition, building, and vacancy trends throughout the city and recommends strategies for removing regulatory barriers, streamlining approvals, and providing incentives to make building reuse easier to accomplish.

Conversations organized by the Preservation Green and ULI Los Angeles identified key barriers to building reuse and recommend solutions to overcome these obstacles. The Los Angeles Conservancy, a key partner in this effort, served on the project Advisory Committee along with practitioners in real estate development, planning, design, construction, community revitalization, and local government.

Learning from Los Angeles is the first in a new series of research and policy reports being developed by the Preservation Green Lab through the Partnership for Building Reuse, a joint effort of the National Trust and ULI. Launched in Los Angeles in 2012, the Partnership for Building Reuse is designed to foster market-driven building reuse in major U.S. cities through dialogues with community stakeholders about building reuse challenges and opportunities.



January 27, 2014 on 12:59 am | In all, Green Houses, Net Zero, Solar, Solutions, U.S. Government, Uncategorized, Water | 2 Comments

by Jodi Summers

Didja know > about a quarter of U.S. households live in multifamily housing units. This group of apartment dwellers spends about $40 billion on energy costs each year. The Better Buildings Challenge > Multifamily Edition < estimates that making multiunit housing units 20% more energy efficient would save more than $7 billion per year and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 430 million tons.

As part of the Better Buildings Challenge, DOE and the HUD are partnering with leading private and affordable buildings owners and public housing agencies to cut energy waste and help families save money. Better Building Challenge multifamily Partners are leaders in market rate multifamily housing, public housing authorities, and affordable housing.

Challenge renovation areas include:

Save Water

2013 saw record little rainfall in Southern California. Water is precious and expensive. Fixtures like the new low-flow toilets work better and save dramatically more water than models that just a few years old. According to the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) the savings may pay for the cost of the fixtures in a year to 18 months.

Expert Installation

Some companies can now install water-saving technology for you, with little or no up-front cost. Companies like eConserve and Minol do such work in exchange for taking a cut on future savings in the future.

Designate an Energy Manager

A leaky sprinkler system or a mistake by a utility company can go unnoticed until someone finds the problem. Landlords, do yourselves a favor and designate person on staff to read the property’s energy bills. Software tools such as EnergyScoreCards, Portfolio Manager, or WegoWise track and compare utility usage.

Utility Rebate Programs

Periodically, utility companies offer rebates for things like installing energy-saving lighting. The T12 fluorescent lighting rebates are gone, but there’s always going to be another incentive. Call the number on your bill and ask how they can save you money.

Energy Star Appliances

Many appliances with the federal Energy Star label for energy efficiency are priced in line with conventional products. Like flat screen TVs, a product whose up-front cost was too pricey last year, might be affordable this year.

Reconsider Solar Panels

If you’ve decided in the past not to install solar panels because the panels were relatively expensive, revisit the numbers. The cost of panels has come down, and more utilities are allowing buildings to use the solar energy they produce themselves during the day to offset the electricity used by residents at night. Depending upon roof space, some new companies will offer “solar-power purchase agreements.” At little or no cost, the companies will install solar equipment at a multifamily property. In exchange, the property agrees to buy a certain amount of the power produced by the solar panels.


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