A plan to require certain specific categories of new construction in the City of Pasadena to be powered by electricity instead of natural gas is moving forward in the City Council on Monday.
The Pasadena Department of Planning and Community Development Department said this would require amending the Pasadena Municipal Code, specifically Title 8, the Health and Safety Code. The Department, through the Municipal Services Committee, is recommending that the City Council direct the City Attorney to prepare the necessary ordinance and report back to the City Council within 60 days.
The new measure would help reduce emissions from the use of natural gas and propane, which have become the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with buildings, a city report said.
According to the City of Pasadena’s Climate Action Plan, approximately 47 percent of the City’s GHG emissions are from residential and commercial energy use as of 2009. Residential energy use totaled16 percent and commercial energy use totaled 31 percent of the community-wide total.
Pasadena’s Climate Action Plan has identified various strategies for GHG emissions reductions, including the use of carbon-neutral energy in residential and commercial buildings.
“Pasadena cannot meet its climate goals without reducing natural gas use,” the Planning Department said in its report for the City Council. “State policies and lower prices of renewable energy mean that substituting natural gas with electricity is one of the quickest, safest, and least expensive pathways to eliminating GHG emissions from buildings.”
Research cited by the Planning Department also showed that using electricity instead of natural gas to power buildings can be expected to contribute to public health, since the use of natural gas indoors, particularly for cooking, worsens indoor air quality. Burning natural gas creates indoor air pollutants including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and nitrogen dioxide, all of which contribute to respiratory ailments. Children living in homes with gas cooking are 42 percent more likely to have asthma, the research showed.
The Planning Department added that natural gas lines are more difficult to repair following disasters compared to electric infrastructure. In times of disaster, fossil fuel supply chain will likely be disrupted, along with electricity lines, but all-electric buildings could recover faster, and in conjunction with battery storage technology and renewable energy generation can operate even absent the grid’s electric supply chain.
The Department’s recommendation is to require electrification in lieu of natural gas for all new multi-family residential buildings greater than three units, new mixed-use buildings, new non-restaurant commercial buildings, and additions to existing commercial buildings where the addition adds 50 percent or more to the existing floor area. In the latter case, the entire building must convert to electrification, the recommendations said.
Some Pasadena residents also sent correspondence favoring the measure to require new buildings to be electrified instead of being natural gas-powered.
A group of representatives from the Pasadena Environmental Advocates, Day One Pasadena, Citizens Climate Lobby Pasadena-Foothills Chapter, and the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area, among others, said they are urging the City Council “to adopt a strong building electrification policy” for new construction in 2022.
“Electrification of new buildings is a cost-effective and socially equitable way cities around California and the United States are reducing GHG emissions, decreasing the cost of house construction, and protecting public health,” their statement said. Saying that 54 California communities have adopted all-electric building codes for new construction, the group said Pasadena has the opportunity to join these jurisdictions “in taking a significant step to protect public health and the environment for decades to come.”
Resident Rachel Ryan said all-electric buildings are healthier, safer and more sustainable.
“Recent studies have found that kids who grow up in homes with gas stoves are more likely to develop asthma,” Ryan wrote the City Council. “New single-family homes and Accessory Dwelling Units must not be exempt from the proposed update. As a home-owner, I am currently planning to remove all gas appliances from my home.”
Members of the Pasadena community can watch the discussion on Monday’s City Council meeting, which begins at 4:30 p.m., at www.pasadenamedia.org.