In addition, Santa Monica requires most developers to incorporate four kinds of recycled material into their buildings and to recycle at least 60 percent of their construction and demolition waste.
Likewise, Portland, Ore., was just voted America's most sustainable city in the 2006 SustainLane Rankings, largely because of its attitude toward green building. Beyond its 11 LEED certified buildings, Portland is brimming with small natural structures like benches and kiosks made from clay, sand, and straw. The city also boasts an entire community of sustainable homes for the homeless, known as Dignity Village.
"Their natural building has totally transformed the spirit of their community, and it feels different than if you walk through Oakland or San Francisco," Marisha Farnsworth, an architect with the Natural Builders in Oakland, told the Guardian. "I got together with some architects, builders, and designers, and all of us said, 'Wouldn't it be great to have city planners come down from Portland and explain to our officials what's going on up there?’”
That isn't to say officials in San Francisco have completely missed the memo. The San Francisco Department of the Environment just finished negotiations with the Department of Building Inspection for a new priority permitting program set to be rolled out in the coming weeks. It would allow developers who pledge to build green to get fast-tracked through the bureaucratic morass of the city's permitting process.
Department of the Environment officials have also worked to reduce the amount of time and money it takes to get a rooftop solar permit. And with the opening of the Orchard Garden Hotel at Union Square on Oct. 12, San Francisco will soon become the first city in the country with a LEED certified hotel.
The point of West Coast Green was to ask how this city and the rest of the country can do more. Should we offer rebates for efficiency consultants to assess how energy is being wasted in our homes and businesses? Can the city offer larger incentives to the private sector or require more rigorous standards for developers? Should PG&E be pressured into pledging more of its public benefit money toward green building?
"Green architecture is still very much emerging," Eric Corey Freed, one of San Francisco's top green architects and a host at West Coast Green, told the Guardian. "And although San Francisco is the capital, even here it hasn't reached the point of ubiquity that we expect it to. We're still very much in our adolescence. We're like teenagers with pimples and crackly voices."
In 100 years, Freed added, history will likely look back on our time as the era of the green revolution. If he is right, perhaps San Francisco will have done enough to be deemed a nucleus of the movement — and important conferences like West Coast Green will take priority over the opening of new shopping malls. SFBG