The Key to Going Green

By selecting Santa Barbara, Calif., as the premier location for Los Portales, builder, City Ventures, LLC, has seamlessly introduced an affordable, urban infill project in an area dominated by luxury.

By Evan Lancaster

Although there is not an exact translation for the phrase “los portales” from Spanish to English, the best interpretation available is considered to be entrance or doorway. Home builder, City Ventures, LLC, has surely made an entrance into one of the most desirable markets on the West Coast with an award-winning, affordable infill design.

In March 2011, City Ventures took the opportunity to unlock a portal, or doorway, into the Santa Barbara, Calif., market with a signature ‘Greenkey’ development, Los Portales. This development is a 48-unit, solar-powered, LEED-Gold certified, urban infill project placed on 1.77 acres that also received the 2012 Gold Nugget Grand Award for “Multifamily Project of the Year.”

Los Portales is a beautiful multi-family project located in the sunny beach city of Santa Barbara, CA. The project boasts many sustainable elements, such as the photo-voltaic roof panels we were able to capture. It was very important to document the architectural details of Los Portales, as the architect and the builder went to great lengths to make the project fit in with the style and feel of the surrounding city.

As multifamily developments become more appealing to homebuyers and renters, builders are showcasing alternatives to run-of-the-mill housing options and finding success in areas not yet explored – one area in particular – urban infill development.

According to Herb Gardner, president of home building, City Ventures, Los Portales received major recognition for the extensive planning and seamless design execution into the alreadyexisting Santa Barbara neighborhood. However, Gardener explained that City Ventures wanted to go a step further than just neighborhood aesthetics. By selecting Santa Barbara as the location, the company had the opportunity to showcase the technology behind Los Portales in one of the most livable cities in America. “That fact that we could provide affordable and green homes in a city like Santa Barbara makes the job of a home builder that much easier,” Gardener said. “The city could not have been more accessible and easy to work with.”

As City Ventures’ first Greenkey project, the home builder wanted to provide residents a chance to experience ‘eco-nomical’ incentives  These stylish, solar-powered town homes significantly reduce utility bills, featuring courtyard-style, three-story designs with additional outdoor living space. 26 Builder & Developer September 2 012 as well. By offering the first all-electric, nogas homes, the 48-units at Los Portales run on advanced solar power and combine the most efficient appliances and materials under one roof. According to Gardener, this was easier said than done. “Everyone from the gas company, to our MEPS designer, to our plumber told us it couldn’t be done,” he said. “We listened to none of them and had no intention of being held back. Perseverance made this project happen.” For an urban infill project, City Ventures had a limited building palette, Jeff Chelwick, senior principal, William Hezmalhalch Architects, explained. In order to maximize the potential of Los Portales, the community was sectioned into quadrants. According to Chelwick, this was a challenging task in the sense that the goal of the community was to match the surrounding tranquility and still preserve intimacy of the individual residences. Through advanced landscaping techniques and by paying close attention to community details such as paved walking paths, manicured gardens and aesthetic consistency, were all aspects that helped execute the high-density design, flawlessly. “This neighborhood has been designed with the inspiration of authentic Santa Barbara Spanish architecture to fit in with the style of the city and in context of the neighborhood,” Chelwick said. “The wonderful themed courtyards that interact with the street edges, authentic rich detailing, extensive outdoor private living spaces, variable massing and attractive articulation that softens the street scene are all features of this neighborhood design.”

Driven by a dedication to remain on the cutting-edge of green building, the main goal of Los Portales was to position the community to mesh well within the surround community and provide an opportunity for residents to live a clean, sustainable lifestyle. Gardener emphasized that it is critical to stay at the top of the food chain in this industry, in order to be considered relevant. “We 100 percent believe it’s the future of home building and that the first one that figures it out wins,” Gardener explained. “We made it a mandate when we formed the company to always be on the cutting-edge of what it means to be a green builder.”

Los Portales offers residents two- and threestory floor plans ranging from 972 to 2,210 square feet; including two- to three-bedrooms and two- to three- and one-half-bathrooms. By incorporating City Ventures’ high-performance Greenkey building program with the aspects of LEED-Gold certification, this project is a clearcut example of what City Ventures values in their projects. Chelwick explained that by developing Los Portales as a 100 percent electric community, residents would see a dramatic decrease in their monthly electric bill, not only in terms of price, but frequency as well. Residents who utilize the solar technology will only see an electric bill once a year.

When asked to elaborate on the building elements behind the LEED and Greenkey technology within the home Gardener explained that the main components that earned LEED Gold status were the density of the project, the location of Los Portales in a very built out sector of the city, and the ability to harness alternative energy without increase costs or sacrificing location.

“The solar system we installed that was large enough to supply at least 30 percent of the assumed electrical demand,” Gardener said. “The special electric hybrid water heater, and the heat pump system and we also installed a very green landscape and drainage plan that utilized pervious pavers. There were others but these drove the most LEED points,” he added.

By claiming the Gold Nugget Grand Award for “Multifamily Project of the Year,” it is safe to assume that City Ventures has opened the door to success with Los Portales, which is now completely sold out. Chelwick added that William Hezmalhalch Architects and City Ventures, LLC, had the opportunity to collaborate on an award-winning project that has been the first of its kind. “We believe our creative yet efficient and very buildable design solutions set this neighborhood apart from other communities while integrating flawlessly into the context of the surrounding community,” he explained. Chelwick continued by saying without the involvement and support from the entire team of developers, architects, green raters and residents, this project may have fallen short of their expectations. “We appreciate working with City Ventures and the city’s Architectural Board of Review,” Chelwick said. “This project was truly a team effort and is a good example of what can happen when cooperation between the design professionals, the developer and the city representatives work towards the common goal of providing housing for future residents in a quality affordable community.”

Evan Lancaster Evan Lancaster is assistant editor of Builder and Developer. He may be contacted at

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