In the wake of the D.C. Council passing significant LEED legislation last week, there’s been substantial commentary about how positive the bill is for green building at large. While I agree that the legislation is certainly a step in the right direction, a recent post I wrote about the D.C. mandate describes what the BD+C White Paper calls “LEED creep.” The effects of LEED creep may eventually plague private developers across the District, and its potential problems are well-illustrated by a recently completed LEED hotel project out in California that I came across earlier today.
The Gaia Napa Valley Hotel in American Canyon, California, is waiting on up to $1 million in hotel occupancy tax revenues from the American Canyon City Council. In 2003, the Council promised developer Wen-I Chang a tax rebate of up to $1 million over the hotel’s first four years of operation. The catch? It had to first receive LEED certification, but it hasn’t- yet- despite opening this past October 31st.
“Until they have the designation, they don’t get the credit,” City Manager Richard Ramirez said. “They will be responsible for collecting the occupancy tax and rebating it to the city.”
Bobbie Freeman, the hotel’s director of sales, confirmed that Gaia Napa Valley does not yet have a LEED rating. “Obtaining a LEED certification is an extremely lengthy and tedious process,” she said. “As of right now, we don’t have a final.”
So, in essence, because it’s taking USGBC so long to sort through Chang’s LEED paperwork, the municipality is withholding his tax rebate. Chang has clearly built an environmentally-friendly structure- green features at the hotel include solar power, recycled water, recycling bins in each room, toilet and facial tissues made from recycled products, and a kiosk in the lobby which displays the hotel’s energy consumption, water use, and carbon emissions in real-time. Why penalize him because USGBC doesn’t have its house in order? Although Chang expects his Silver or Gold rating within the next two months, the fact that American Canyon has tied its tax rebate program to LEED is costing him money right now. As a prospective developer- in American Canyon, D.C., or any other municipality mandating LEED for private projects- this would bother me. I might choose to site my project outside such jurisdictions out of fear that compliance issues outside of my control would end up costing me money, or worse, potentially expose me to liability.
Obviously the objective behind these local green building ordinances is to encourage green building, but it seems to me that LEED creep will ultimately discourage developers from building- green or otherwise- in those locales which continue to insist on only one means of certification as a precondition for whatever incentives the municipality was purporting to offer developers in the first place.
- D.C. Council Passes Green Building Rules (Washington Post)
- D.C. Proposes Sweeping Green Building Bill (gbnyc.com)
- “Green” AmCan Inn Needs Formal Rating to Claim Tax Break (Vallejo Times Herald)