Friday, December 16, 2011

The End of the Year -- The End of an Era?

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Sustainable Development Report 


Issue #6                                                                                                                       December 2011

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ELP Advisors works with cities, agencies, stakeholders, foundations and business groups to craft strategies to grow thriving, healthy, vibrant communities. 
American Suburbia: The End of an Era?
High Speed Rail: Too Bold for California?
Green Infrastructure: Swimming in Jobs
Sidewalk Repairs: Who Should Foot the Bill?


LEDs Bring Holiday Joy


For those among us who enjoy amazing our neighbors, friends, coworkers and random passersby with illuminated displays of holiday merriment, save yourself some dough by switching to more energy efficient holiday lighting.  

If you like to

 go all out for your holiday decorations you'll want to consider switching to LED lights. According to Consumer Reports, incandescent holiday lights use 12 to 105 kilowatts of energy per hour, while their more energy efficient cousins, LED holiday lights, use 1 to 3 kilowatts per hour.  

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, switching to LED can save you close to $24 bucks -- enough to buy a loved one a last minute gift at your local mini-mart!  


To honor the use of energy efficiency LED lights this holiday season, we share with you the poem "A Christmas Snitch Sees the Light (LED, That is)".

Better Buildings Gets Even Bigger


Earlier this month,

President Obama made a huge step toward improving the energy performance our nation's building stock by announcing $4 billion in energy upgrades to billions of square feet of commercial and industrial buildings over the next 2 years. In a Presidential Memorandum, President Obama committed $2 billion to support energy efficiency improvements of federally owned and operated buildings, which total up to nearly 3 billion square feet of building space. Private sector companies such as Best Buy and CBRE, as well as institutions such as Allegheny College, also joined the effort by committing nearly $2 billion of private capital for energy efficiency projects.  The aim is to improve energy performance of 1.6 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, community college and school buildings.

These investments are part of President Obama's
Better Buildings Initiative, which has a national goal of improving energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings by 20 percent by 2020.  This will not only reduce energy bills for American businesses by $40 billion dollars but also create good paying construction jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the nation's air cleaner.



January 22-24, 2012

Los Angeles, CA


Register for the Water Technology Conference 

January 26, 2012 

University of La Verne

8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 



New Partners for Smart Growth 

February 2-4, 2012 

San Diego, CA  

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 315 W. 9th Street, Suite 1010

 Los Angeles, CA 90015

 Phone: 213-612-4545

 Fax: 213-488-3468 



Embracing the New Rootedness  

The holiday season makes us reflect on the importance of family, friends and the place we call home. As we bid to farewell to 2011, we're thinking about recent Census data that shows Americans as a whole are moving and migrating less. Many are hunkered down trying to pay their mortgages and salvage their slice of the American Dream. In California, data show we are no longer a great attractor of migrants from other states. Nor are we the magnet for immigration that we once were. High housing prices, even after the real estate crash, and a slow economic recovery has taken the gloss off the Golden State. For the first time in a hundred years a majority of us are homegrown Californians.


What does the mean for our future? It means that if we want a brighter future we have to invest in those who are here today and their children. It means we have to double-down on our investments in our communities -- in the very infrastructure that makes it possible for us to grow our food, quench our thirsts, light our nights, power our days, move around, and enjoy healthy, meaningful lives.  


We take the view that more a rooted people can build more connected communities where we care for and invest in each other because we know we depend on each other to succeed. So here's to the end of 2011. May 2012 bring us growth, connection and joy in the place we call home.


Sincerely yours,


Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine Aguilar Perez 

American Suburbia: The End of an Era? 


(Overly?) optimistic planners are declaring an end to sprawl. And they've got some intriguing evidence to support their assertion.


First, we start with the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The nonprofit recently  released a report [PDF] on the future of housing in California. In a nutshell, the report finds that in many parts of the state there is a glut of unwanted single-family dwellings. During the great housing boom developers constructed so many of these suburban domiciles that our current stock of conventional single-family homes will still outpace demand in 2035.


It turns out that people are shunning these far-flung abodes for smaller units that are closer to job centers and transit. ULI predicts that by 2035, nine million units of transit-station area housing will need to be constructed (that's eight million more than we have today). In addition, demand for multifamily, townhomes, and small-lot housing is expected to soar.


Demand for denser, more sustainable housing will rule the future. Planners, transit advocates, new urbanists, environmentalists and the like can break out the party hats and uncork the champagne!


Underpinning this anticipated shift in demand are changing demographics, migration patterns, and economics.


Let's start with demographics in the Golden State. Population wise, it's looking a lot like 1900. That's the last time that such a large portion of our state's residents have been California natives. High housing costs and a poor economy continues to make California an unattractive place to live. Within the U.S., the number of residents leaving California has long outpaced the flow of migrants from the other states. A poor national economy has ebbed the tide of immigration that has sustained the state's growth.


The state's growth will, for the first time in a century, be driven by natural increase -- not immigration and migration. It's predicted that as these home-grown Californians enter the housing market in coming decades, they'll opt for smaller homes close to work and/or transit.


This shift in demand is underpinned by changing economic realities. As Eduardo Peñalver at the Washington Post notes, sprawl "was built on the twin pillars of low gas prices and a relentless demand for housing."


In a post-recession America, low gas prices are a  fading memory and we've managed to create a substantial oversupply of housing. Americans, saddled with debt and faced with poor job prospects are staying put. Migration rates within the U.S. have reached historic lows, and new household formation is stagnating, further tempering demand for housing.


Essentially, commuting is expensive and (in California) big homes are expensive. So consumers entering the housing market are predictably looking for smaller, more affordable housing options that are close to work, school, and entertainment (or close to a transit network that makes these things easily accessible). Based on this projected demand, developers are being urged to look more closely at infill development.


But before declaring an end to sprawl, we need to take a measured approach.  David Daddio from The City Fix cautions that "we can't just assume that today's crisis translates into some fundamental shift in the way that we build our cities."


Economic dynamics might change and old patterns of development might reemerge. Even with high fuel prices, more energy efficient vehicles may ease the burden of long commutes, making living on the urban fringe more attractive. And, if cities do not invest in the creation of extensive transit networks that are convenient for residents, the demand for transit-station area housing may crumble. National policies that subsidize the costs of homeownership and the undying notion of the American Dream still reinforce the ideal of a single-family home on a large lot.


The current economic situation has created a seismic shift in how we are consuming housing in the near-term. But it can't be taken for granted that everyone will give up their suburban shackles and flee to more thriving urban cores. The economic downturn has had the unintended effect of elevating more cohesive urban centers above their suburban and exurban counterparts. People are more rooted in their local settings, whether it's by choice or necessity. What's needed now is a comprehensive strategy and policy framework that harnesses this fleeting trend and transforms it into a sustained movement.

High Speed Rail: Too Bold for California?    


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