Prior to the final approval this week, the council had voted 7-0 on Oct. 22 to back the strict new requirements, which several members argued are essential to battle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. City staff had initially recommended that single-family homes and duplexes could continue to use gas for cooking appliances and fireplaces.
Councilman John McAlister said he was concerned that the council was potentially overstepping and "intruding on peoples' lives" by banning gas for cooking appliances. What's more, he said, he worried about the "unintended consequences" of what the council was on the cusp of adopting, and that some reports he had read showed all-electric homes may not lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
"There's more information that's coming out about the implications of what we're doing, and we need to just be following those and review our policies as more data comes out," he said.
Councilman Chris Clark suggested the possibility of delayed implementation for people who are right on the edge of submitting plans to the city's building department. Although considered by the council in October and approved this week, anyone seeking to submit plans that include gas hookups will have to do so by the end of next month.
A built-in delay would amount to a "material change" to the item, which would not be permissible during a second reading, said City Attorney Krishan Chopra. The idea was ultimately dropped.
Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga, a strong proponent of the gas ban, said she has heard the concerns of residents about the new building codes. She said she believes that the city should do more work educating the community on energy efficiency and sustainability efforts and hew fact from fiction.
"There's a lot of data, there's a lot of outdated data," Abe-Koga said. "Frankly I'm not up on the most up-to-date technology, but I think what I've gathered is, to quell the concerns we just need to be more diligent about educating the community."
Despite the comprehensive ban on nearly all uses of natural gas, exemptions will be available for commercial kitchens that prepare dishes that cannot be cooked using electric alternatives.
The approved building codes also introduce new requirements for parking lots that accommodate electric vehicles. For multi-unit housing and commercial development, 15% of the spaces must have a "Level 2" charging station capable of charging a car for up to 180 miles over the course of eight hours. The codes also require 100% of the spaces to be "EV Ready," meaning new development will have to build the electrical infrastructure for charging at every parking space.
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