Changes to ASTM Standards for Environmental Due Diligence in 2021

Grassroots® | The Inspection Specialists - Home ...

There is a big change on the horizon that will significantly impact commercial real estate transactions, especially for industrial manufacturing properties with suspected contamination in the building or soil. ASTM E1527-13, entitled Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, is the nationally recognized standard for evaluating environmental risk at a commercial property during acquisition or financing.

First released in 1993, the standard has been revised in 1994, 1997, 2000, 2005, and most recently in 2013. The ASTM standards expire every eight years, and ASTM E1527-13 is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2021.  Therefore, the new standard, ASTM E1527-21, must be finalized and published sometime in 2021.

The ASTM subcommittee in charge of this process is considering updating certain key components to the standard. These changes are sure to have an impact on future commercial real estate transactions. While numerous changes are being proposed, most are relatively minor, aimed at reinforcing the current standard.  A few, however, will have a significant impact on the standard.

If you have been involved in the procurement, preparation, review, or use of a Phase I ESA Report, you know the biggest concern many environmental professionals, buyers/sellers of commercial property, and lending institutions struggle with is “Are there one or more Recognized Environmental Conditions [RECs] at the subject property?”. Just what defines a REC has progressed through revisions to ASTM E1527 in an effort to clarify this most critical concern. The forthcoming ASTM E1527-21 standard will likely update the definition of a REC.

To heighten awareness, E1527-21 proposes to include Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances [PFAS]  and other emerging contaminants in Non-Scope Considerations that some environmental professionals and end-users may want to evaluate as part of a Phase I ESA report.

How long is a report good for? EPAs All Appropriate Inquiries [AAI] Rule mandates specific components to be conducted within 180 days of the date of the property purchase or intended transaction. These components are 1) interviews with owners, operators, and occupants; 2) environmental cleanup lien research; 3) visual inspection of the property and adjoining properties; 4) review of government records; and 5) declaration by an environmental professional. After one year, the entire Phase I ESA report must be updated to meet the AAI Rule.

The above text was excerpted from Omni Environmental Group.

If you own and wish to sell a suspected environmental impacted property in Southern California then please contact us so we can present it to a buyer that specifically seeks this type of commercial real estate acquisition opportunity.

Market Snapshot 2021-Q1

Central Los Angeles industrial submarket overview with absorption and vacancy rate.

Supported by the phenomenal growth of e-commerce, leasing activity was strong in the first quarter after the steep declines experienced earlier in early 2020. In Q1, across the Central Market, 139 leases were signed for a total of 2,836,295 SF; the average asking rate was $0.96 PSF. Q1 leasing volume for Central LA was 25% higher than Q1 2020 levels. Another 133 warehouse properties, totaling 2,000,000 SF, were sold in the period with an average price of $291.43 PSF. The average rate will move up or down slightly quarter-to-quarter depending on how many older, functionally obsolete warehouse and manufacturing buildings are in the pool of available inventory. The limited amount of available first-generation, Class A space leases at a premium to the average rate.

Sold Warehouses Q4-2020 in Los Angeles

Map of sold buldings

Below is a list of industrial real estate listings that were sold in the 4th Quarter of 2020 over 10,000 square feet in size in the Central Los Angeles industrial submarket. Information includes: buyer, seller, sale price, square footages, and property features for warehouses and manufacturing buildings.

6th Street Viaduct

Constructed in 1932, the original Sixth Street Viaduct (also known as the Sixth Street Bridge), was an important engineering landmark in the City of Los Angeles. It was one of a set of fourteen historic structures crossing the Los Angeles River, and the longest of these structures.

Due to its large size, the original Sixth Street Viaduct was constructed using an onsite concrete mixing plant. Unfortunately, the aggregate used in the concrete caused a chemical reaction known as Alkali Silica Reaction, which caused deterioration of the concrete structure within 20 years of its completion. The total project replacement cost is $488 million, making it the largest bridge project in the history of Los Angeles.

Located in a highly urbanized area just east of downtown Los Angeles, the original bridge acted as a critical transportation link between the neighborhoods of the Arts District on the west side and Boyle Heights on the east side. 

The original viaduct was demolished in 2016. The new viaduct is scheduled for completion in 2022.

The 6th Street PARC is scheduled for completion in 2024 where there will be 12-acres of open and recreational space under the viaduct, including access to the LA River, an arts plaza, public art and numerous community amenities.

Amid exclamations like “I am going to be so happy to see the bridge completed!”, the most common questions on social media were about pedestrian and bike lanes and general accessibility. The wide and separate sidewalks and bicycle lanes planned for both sides of the bridge met with high praise. https://www.sixthstreetviaduct.org

Arts District of DTLA

Historically, the Arts District was home to industrial users who manufactured, distributed, and warehoused goods ranging from toys to frozen fish. Over time, the multi-story industrial buildings became antiquated and functionally obsolete – they began transitioning to lofts and studios for artists during the 1970’s.

Then in 1981 the Artist-In-Residence ordinance was passed by the city and it legalized the use of industrial buildings as work/live spaces for artists. During the 1990’s the area petitioned to be officially recognized as a city neighborhood called the “Arts District”.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-4-716x1024.png

About a decade ago, developers started converting the former warehouses into live/work lofts – starting with Barker Block Lofts, Toy Factory Lofts, and Biscuit Company Lofts. These projects helped spark a renewed interest in the Arts District, and the retailers have followed suit. Award-winning restaurants, designer apparel brands, and a multitude of breweries and cozy coffee shops make this neighborhood of mural-splashed warehouses truly unique.

The Arts District has also become a hotbed of residential and mixed-use development, with projects aimed at luring new residents to the live-work-play atmosphere of the area. The real estate players in area have shifted from private/local investors to developers with institutional funding, such as Shorenstein, Tishman Speyer, Hudson Pacific, etc. Office tenants are also vying to call this neighborhood home – Warner music Group, Adidas, Spotify and more will soon be settling into their world-class creative office spaces.

Although the landscape of the Arts District is changing dramatically, the intent of the developers and the local community is to keep the integrity, character, culture, and aesthetics intact for the most unique district of Downtown Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles Commercial Real Estate