Baldwin and Sons is looking to add 1,500 homes to Otay Ranch, its sustainable community in Chula Vista, California. These additions will be on smaller lots because Stephen Haase, senior vice president of development at Baldwin and Sons, says that the firm is realizing that allocating more land for natural landscaping doesn’t necessarily make a project more sustainable.
This is a big shift for the developer, which held to the idea that larger plots of land were more sustainable because there is more of the natural environment intact. “Part of sustainable communities is protecting a significant portion of the natural environment,” Haase says. “[But] large lot development is no longer sustainable.”
Otay Ranch is a master-planned community that includes 19 villages on approximately 23,000 acres. Baldwin and Sons had emphasized maintaining open space as a conservation measure and specifically set aside more than 11,000 acres for natural habitat. With its new plan for growth, Otay Ranch’s smaller lots will further emphasize the community’s sustainable aspects.
Villages and planning areas within Otay Ranch. Developer Baldwin and Sons says current and future homes are being built on smaller lots.
Otay Ranch’s villages are organized to reduce environmental impact, and every effort is made to locate public facilities within walking distance of homes. The communities feature wider sidewalks and bike lanes for greater safety, traffic-calming features, and bike and pedestrian bridges over busy intersections. These design principles minimize the need for people to use their cars and reduce the distances they have to drive. Otay Ranch residents also have ample opportunity to use public transportation. “Transit is a big part of our communities,” Haase says. “We simply can’t continue to drive on freeways or to our parks, libraries, and schools.”
The homes, apartment complexes, and retail and municipal buildings of Otay Ranch also strive to live up to the environmentally conscious standards of the surrounding community. In order to set itself apart from competitors, Baldwin and Sons has emphasized amenities such as garage plug-ins for hybrid vehicles, photovoltaic-ready homes, and conservation technology such as Energy Star and WaterSense fixtures.
Baldwin and Sons has collaborated with public utilities, including San Diego Gas & Electric, to ensure residential properties maximize energy efficiency, and all the green amenities have increased Otay Ranch’s appeal to house-hunters. “There’s a strong tendency for California homeowners to be environmentally conscious,” Haase says. “From that standpoint, we’ve responded to market demands.”
Even renters are engaged in resource conservation efforts. The apartment complexes have sub-metering for utilities in each individual unit. Haase says that tenants are going to be more energy or water conscious if they pay the bill directly rather than it be included in the overall monthly rent. The City of Chula Vista supports sustainability too, striving to have all of its public buildings, such as schools and police stations, be at least LEED Silver certified. Sustainability in Otay Ranch is not just manifested in its buildings, parks, and schools; there also is a social sense of permanence. The community atmosphere at Otay Ranch is a major source of sustainability, encouraging residents to put down roots. “It’s not buying a house,” Haase says. “It’s buying a home and a neighborhood and a community.”