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Cam Noltemeyer: Requiring energy efficiency for new development

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: February 17, 2010 8:52 p.m.
Updated: February 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.
On Feb. 11, a California Superior Court Judge ruled against the Community Advocates for Healthcare SCV and Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment in public-interest litigation filed in opposition a massive office expansion on the campus of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

This challenge was brought to ensure that promised hospital facilities would actually be delivered, and to protect our community from the horrendous impacts of three large office buildings to be developed in a residential-zoned area.

In statements from the bench that contradict official state policy, the judge indicated his belief that the science supporting climate change was not settled. He implied that the petitioners’ argument that the city should require adequate mitigation of global-warming impacts was therefore not valid.

He did not feel that adequate feasible mitigation measures such as improved energy efficiency needed to be required. He stated that massive campaign contributions were legal; therefore no one could argue bias in this matter.

During project hearings several years ago, then-Mayor Bob Kellar said: “A company that would come into our community and attempt to buy our elections is hardly the kind of a company that I want to have involved in the medical health care and protection of our community in the future.”

In typical special-interest style, G&L Realty, developers of the three multi-story office buildings and parking structures, has tried to imply that our community efforts interfered with hospital expansion. It should be noted that at no time did our two community groups take any action against the hospital itself. Nor did our action delay any permit for the hospital.

This is the same large realty company that contributed $30,000 to the campaign for City Councilwoman Laurie Ender in the last election. This $30,000 was the single-largest campaign contribution in the City Council race.

Whether one agrees with the science behind global warming or not, requiring energy efficiency in all new development is only common sense. It makes good common sense to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce air pollution in our valley by requiring such energy efficiency.

Also, for a city that has complained about the march of huge, unsightly high-tension power lines across our community, you would think our council would be at the forefront of a movement to require all energy-efficient building standards in new development — especially in one so controversial as the G&L office complex slated to be built next to the hospital.

In fact, the city does require such efficiencies for its own buildings. When the taxpayer is paying for it, there seems to be no problem meeting these new standards.

But for whatever the reason, we must coddle the developers and not require these standards from them. Of course, private firms do the majority of development, so this means our city is ignoring the opportunity to require these much-needed improvements.

On voting against this controversial project last year, Kellar said: “The real issue is building three massive medical office buildings by a private developer in the middle of a residential area that was never intended for this kind of high-density office building.

Overriding consideration could be given to in-patient hospital expansion, but not to a Beverly Hills developer. I feel strongly about that. This is not 21st-century planning, we’re back to the 20th century with this.”

The terrible impacts of additional traffic from three multi-story office buildings and the new helicopter pad should not be imposed on any residential community.

SCOPE challenged this approval to ensure that promised hospital facilities would be forthcoming, while lessening the severe impacts this residential neighborhood will suffer. We also wanted to ensure the office buildings would be as energy efficient as possible, because Santa Clarita has some of the worst air quality in the nation.  

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

The county of Los Angeles also requires builders to include such standards in its new “green building ordinance” that was approved last year.

New facilities at Providence Holy Cross are being built to these green LEED standards to reduce energy use and air pollution.

Why should Santa Clarita accept less? We must require such standards for new buildings in this valley.

Cam Noltemeyer is a Santa Clarita resident and a board member of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays and rotates among local environmentalists.


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