If Santa Monica hopes to be taken seriously for its goals to reduce greenhouse emissions, then it may behoove City Hall to ensure all future developments are at least making an effort to comply with the spirit of the Climate Action Plan.
One possible requirement of future multi-use developments: install photovoltaic (PV), or solar, panels on rooftops.
Council member Ted Winterer and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day asked staff on Tuesday night to include in development agreement (DA) negotiations a request that the project produce “the greatest amount of photovoltaic panels feasible given the rooftop configuration and orientation of proposed buildings.”
The request was unanimously approved.
Winterer said the possible addition of PV cells to multi-use developments benefits the community by helping reduce greenhouse emissions.
“When we had our hearing on Climate Action Plan the other day it became very clear to me that we really need to start thinking about how we can achieve those goals in every aspect of government that we oversee,” Winterer said. “It struck me both at our most recent hearing on a development agreement and watching the most recent one at the Planning Commission that, in both cases … no one knew exactly how much electricity they’d be generating (by solar panels attached to the project).
Winterer said now was the time to get busy about dealing with climate change.
“There are a lot of development agreements in front of us and this is our chance to gain the maximum amount of PV possible out of those agreements,” he said.
City Manager Rod Gould said the intent of this potential policy is to ultimately have multi-use developments generate their own power.
Mayor Pam O’Connor said she supported the concept but pondered whether City Hall was on the verge of requesting so many community benefits from developers that they no longer find value building in Santa Monica.
Winterer countered that requiring more PV cells could actually be a project benefit.
He added he learned at a workshop that for every $1 invested into green features for a single-family residence, an additional $20 would be added to the property value.
He suspected a similar return on investment would exist for mixed-used developments, as well.
“It’s a capital investment that’d take a long time to pay off but I think for a lot of applicants if they really look at it, they’d realize they’d be reducing their operational costs and increasing the marketability of the rental space. They are generating a lot of their electrical needs,” Winterer said. “Energy costs have nowhere to go but up, so in the long term this is probably a good idea for (the developer).”
Council members agreed the request for solar panels should not be an arbitrary and inflexible requirement but instead be determined on a case-by-case basis. As the language of the request was phrased to allow for flexibility, the concern of whether this would eventually lead to the council seeking too many community benefits from developers was alleviated.
In addition to PV panels, the council also approved a request to “negotiate more aggressive Average Vehicle Ridership,” or carpooling targets, in DAs.
In a separate agenda item, council members unanimously approved a modification of the recently adopted DA application review process “to require separate Architectural Review Board and Planning Commission float ups rather than one combined float up.”
Accordingly, DA applicants would first sit before the Architectural Review Board before moving forward to the Planning Commission.