This is a case study that's a part of the 2021 REIT Industry ESG Report, an annual report detailing the REIT industry's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance details in the publicly traded U.S. REIT industry. Featured case studies showcase REIT leadership and ESG innovation from a variety of sectors and serve as a practical tool for stakeholders to assess the scale and impact of the REIT industry's ESG commitments and initiatives.
Equity LifeStyle Properties' (ELS) portfolio spans over 39,000 acres— encompassing 32 threatened and endangered species in critical habitats, about 8,000 forested acres, and over 2,200 acres of wetlands.
As such, environmental topics including Water Consumption and Conservation, Energy Consumption and Efficiency, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, and Biodiversity are of material importance to ELS—and have therefore inspired a number of environmental projects.
In particular, the De Anza Santa Cruz Restoration Project at a 198-site manufactured home community on the shores of the Pacific Ocean serves as an illustrative example of ELS' environmental commitments.
"My favorite part of the De Anza Santa Cruz Restoration Project is that now we see so many more birds from the bridge. I was involved in the annual Audubon Christmas bird count for my area of De Anza Santa Cruz, particularly around the ponds. We spotted 31 species in two hours, which is truly phenomenal for a place this small."
Jenny Anderson, three-year resident of the De Anza Santa Cruz community
ELS completed a large-scale, multi-phase ecological and environmental conservation and restoration project at the property, working closely with the California Coastal Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California Department of Housing and Community Development.
The wide-ranging scope of the project included:
- Improvements to the community's stormwater infrastructure
- Restoration of the plant habitat surrounding the community ponds
- Removal of invasive species
- Creation of new habitats designed to attract native wildlife and endangered species
- Development of dedicated spaces—such as vista overlooks, gardens, and pathways—that provide peaceful outdoor areas for residents along wildlife habitats
- Incorporation of locally sourced native plants to help reduce the project's carbon footprint
The project has been particularly appreciated by residents of the community who enjoy seeing the growth in biodiversity.
By pursuing additional environmental stewardship projects in the future, ELS is well positioned to continue maintaining biodiversity across its portfolio, creating assets that are connected to their local and natural environments, and providing places where residents and guests can enjoy and unite with nature.
Equity LifeStyle Properties is a leading owner and operator of manufactured home communities, RV resorts and campgrounds, and marinas in North America.