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SCVNews.com | From ‘Green’ to ‘Lean': County Floats New Building Codes | 10-23-2011
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For years we’ve heard of “green” building codes intended to reduce energy consumption and improve air quality.

Now the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning is inviting comment on what might be called “lean” building codes: a set of development standards designed to promote a healthy, active lifestyle.

Officially called the “Healthy Design Ordinance,” the plan “proposes changes to existing zoning and subdivision regulations that will increase levels of physical activity, assisting in reducing the county’s rates of obesity.”

The ordinance would amend county code sections to achieve four major goals: promote better walking environments, encourage more bicycling, improve access to healthy foods (farmers markets, community gardens), and “enhance project review requirements” to ensure that developers include healthy-lifestyle components in their building plans.

County planning staff members already held a public workshop on the proposal at the Acton-Agua Dulce Library in September, and the formal comment period is scheduled to culminate in a public hearing of the Regional Planning Commission on Nov. 21.

A summary of the plan follows:

1. Provide better walking environments. Increase the minimum public sidewalk width from four feet to five feet, and when applicable require landscaping and shade trees next to the street or driveway curb on new development projects. Require front yard trees to be planted next to the sidewalk and at more frequent intervals to establish a continuous street shade canopy. Add pedestrian thru-ways at cul-de-sac dead-ends that connect to schools, trails, recreation centers and other neighborhood destinations.

2. Encourage more bicycling. Require both short and long-term bicycle parking spaces to be provided within new developments in easily-accessible locations. Allow an automatic 5% car parking reduction when replaced with bike parking.

3. Improve access to healthy foods. Allow weekly farmers’ markets without the need for sponsorship by a charitable organization. Also, only require one temporary use permit per farmer’s market, per year. Allow community gardens as legally-permitted uses in residential, commercial and agricultural zones.

4. Enhance project review requirements. Require more detailed street section designs on tentative plans in order to depict healthy design features such as landscaping, lighting, street furniture and bike parking spots. Require higher justification when sidewalk and bicycle facilities are proposed to be reduced or waived. Lastly, allow an exemption from more stringent drought-tolerant landscaping requirements in order to provide better shade trees in areas frequented by pedestrians and bicyclists.”

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