Eco-friendly residential projects in L.A.


The city of Los Angeles has worked hard for its reputation as a concrete jungle, with its nearly 470-square-mile area crisscrossed by roughly 6,500 miles of public streets and 181 miles of freeway -- and packed with some 4 million people, each one looking for a place to call home.
Thanks to the city's ongoing housing shortage, finding the right place isn't an easy task, but finding a sustainable space is an even greater challenge.

Someone recently asked Steve Edwards, principal and founder, with Greg Reitz, of ReThink Development, about green living spaces in the Hollywood area. Other than pricey custom homes, said Edwards, whose Culver City-based real estate and development firm emphasizes sustainable building practices, "none exist."

ReThink is filling some of that void with the in-progress Cherokee Lofts, located near the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose avenues on the site of Cherokee Studios, where more than 300 platinum and gold albums have been recorded by the likes of David Bowie and Frank Sinatra.

The mixed-use development of retail space and 12 condominium lofts will pay tribute to the studio (which will also be reborn as a sustainable facility), incorporating many of its original materials, and is set to be Hollywood's first building to receive a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.

Cherokee's architectural firm, Pugh + Scarpa, is a leader in sustainable design and has worked on several entertainment industry projects, including the Hollywood headquarters of Dektor Film Group and Reactor Films' production studio in Santa Monica.

Pugh + Scarpa has also partnered with ReThink on a couple of sustainable developments across town in East Los Angeles.

The first is an adaptive reuse project called Fuller Lofts. With commercial space and 102 residential units, Fuller will boast numerous sustainable features, including a recycled-steel facade, two rooftop gardens and an atrium for bringing light and air into the building.

The second, across the street from Fuller, is Barranca Lofts, which will consist of 80 live/work and standard lofts and will feature "pretty much all the bells and whistles of sustainability," Pugh + Scarpa principal Lawrence Scarpa says. But Barranca will be unique in other ways. Situated near the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park Metro station, it's intended to be a walkable, public-transit-oriented neighborhood (it even plans to offer its residents the use of Smart Cars on an as-needed basis). Barranca also will be the country's first "neighborhood project development in an existing city" to receive LEED certification, which to date has only been applied to brand-new cities and communities, ReThink's Reitz says.

In Beverly Hills an entirely different sustainable project is in the works: 9900 Wilshire, a luxury, mixed-use, eight-acre development situated on the site of the former Robinsons-May department store. With plans for expansive gardens and 235 sustainable condos, 9900 Wilshire is set to be Beverly Hills' first LEED Gold-certified project.

"9900 Wilshire is a huge milestone for us as it marks our first foray into the United States market," says Candy & Candy's Christian Candy on behalf of Project Lotus, the joint venture between CPC Group and Kaupthing HF Bank that purchased the development in April 2007. "Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier and his team have created a landmark building of international repute, and together with Candy & Candy (the project's exclusive interior design and development management company), we will bring Beverly Hills one of the world's most luxurious and sustainable residential addresses."

That some developers are making sustainability a legitimate goal is a promising sign for the future of Los Angeles, though the city has a long way to go before the inventory of green living spaces is large enough to be viable for much of the population. If these projects are any indication, however, Los Angeles might finally be on its way to choosing paradise over a parking lot.

Home, sustainable home
Eco-sensitive products are good for the planet -- and the pocketbook

--Compact fluorescent lightbulbs use a fraction of the energy as incandescents and last up to 10 times as long. Current Energy, which specializes in energy-efficiency solutions, recommends the A19 bulb: It's versatile, and its light output and color are very similar to that of incandescents. Current Energy, A19 CFL bulb, $9-$13, 888-8CURRENT,

--Insulation is key to a structure's energy efficiency, but the Department of Health and Human Services has listed glass wool, or fiberglass -- the most common insulation -- as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Bonded Logic's UltraTouch insulation is made of post-industrial denim and cotton fibers -- think recycled blue jeans -- diverting roughly 200 tons of landfill waste each month. Bonded Logic, 480-812-9114,

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--Fresh water, like oil, is running low. EnviroPlumbing offers solutions for everything from solar water-heating to water reclamation. EnviroPlumbing, 310-450-7208,

--With energy prices soaring, now is the time to harness the power of the sun. SolarCity offers financing, installation and support and even has a lease option, making solar power a feasible option. SolarCity, 888-SOL-CITY,