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Stakeholders Face-Off Over Plan to Eliminate Use of Natural Gas in All Newly-Constructed Buildings

Published on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 5:45 am

An electrician installs a multifunctional shield to control electricity into the wall of a new house. [Shutterstock]
Civic groups and those representing business interests aired views during a Municipal Services Committee hearing Tuesday on the pros and cons of a new city department proposal to require all new buildings built in Pasadena to be all-electric, with no use of natural gas allowed.

Praising the Pasadena Planning and Community Development Department proposal, League of Women’s Voters of Pasadena representative Kathy Kunysz said the electrification ordinance being proposed by the department would be a “courageous step” and an effective action to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the city.

“We encourage an early implementation date for two reasons: First, a delayed start risks a surge in application for permits for new gas construction. Second, the climate crisis is serious and calls upon our city to make an urgent response.”

The organization also recommends that exemptions to the ordinance should be based on “specific demonstrated needs and supported by information.”

According to the Planning and Community Development Department’s report to the Municipal Services Committee, the city could exempt from the ordinance some projects such as single-family housing development, affordable multiple-family housing development, and additions to existing buildings, to name a few.

Opposing the proposal, Los Angeles County Business Federation, (BizFed) a group composed of over 200 business organizations representing 400,000 employers in the County, said it supports a diversified energy portfolio to keep costs low and to lessen the strain on the “already overwhelmed energy grid.”

“Sustainability isn’t just about the environment, it is also the sustainability of jobs, the suitability of communities and sustainability of the economy.”

“Clean natural gas is an important part of that portfolio, and necessary to reach our clean air goals without disruptions.”

Diana Coronado, Vice President of the Building Industry Association of Southern California asked the city to consider exempting from the ordinance all residential projects.

“We are asking that all residential construction be exempt from this ordinance including accessory dwelling units.”

“Additionally, we believe that there should be a robust stakeholder process to discuss the impacts of this item and explore other alternatives such as incentives and voluntary programs as a part of the planning strategy.”

Local residents Machiko Yasuda and Maureen Serra are among the local residents who expressed support for the proposal.

“All-electric buildings have better indoor air quality and are healthier for the people who live in them, especially children. They also are more affordable to construct, savings that can be passed on to renters and future owners,” Yasuda said.

“Please pass the motion to change the city code so that future buildings built in Pasadena will be all-electric. All-electric buildings are healthier, safer, and more sustainable,” said Serra.

During the meeting, Vice Mayor Andy Wilson, Chair of the Municipal Services Committee, advised city staff to develop a timeline and engage with stakeholders thoroughly before it goes back to the committee.

In response, City Manager Steve Mermell said the staff will now start developing a timeline and determining stakeholders’ issues and concerns.

“We want to move at a fairly good clip because the environment is not getting any better but we want to make sure that we have a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to this,” Mermell said.

According to the department’s Director, David Reyes, the city staff will come back to the committee after a couple of months for the discussion on the draft electrification ordinance, before going to the city council.

As of October 2021, at least 51 municipalities throughout California have adopted ordinances to begin decarbonizing buildings through different approaches.

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