Palo Alto City Council removes ban on gas infrastructure developments

City will no longer require all-electric new buildings, student committee opposes ruling
Palo Alto City Council removes ban on gas infrastructure developments

In compliance with a federal court ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Palo Alto City Council agreed unanimously to stop enforcing its ban on gas infrastructure development on Feb. 26, no longer requiring new buildings to be all-electric.

Castilleja senior Julia Zeitlin, executive director of the Palo Alto Student Climate Coalition, thinks the court ruling is a mistake because the city’s previous ban on new natural gas appliances  provided numerous benefits.

“Gas appliances can leak harmful chemicals into our home that are pretty detrimental to human health,” Zeitlin said. “There’s evidence that shows growing up with a gas stove in your home could lead to a higher likelihood of developing asthma and other respiratory conditions.”

Because of the environmental and health benefits offered, Nadr Essabhoy, a broker associate with Compass, a real estate agency, said electric appliances have begun increasing in popularity.

“In the past, a lot of people preferred gas stoves and ranges for cooking,” Essabhoy said. “I would say that is still a little bit of a bend towards that. However, more people are starting to change their view and are starting to become OK with electric stove tops and ranges.”

However, due to the ruling, Zeitlin said Palo Alto no longer has codes that go above and beyond the state-mandated environmental requirement.

“The state of California has these base-level energy efficiency requirements that all buildings must meet, but in progressive cities like Palo Alto, Berkeley and San Jose, these cities can develop reach codes that reach beyond these energy standards,” Zeitlin said. “Palo Alto has already moved to pause that ruling and no longer has a reach code.”

For many residents, Essabhoy said the real issue with converting to all electric appliances is upgrading their current electrical systems.

“Let’s say you had a gas range and a gas water heater, and now you wanted to switch it to electric,” Essabhoy said. “In Palo Alto, a lot of homes are older and they may not have the electric capacity in the panel to accommodate an electric appliance. So that would mean replacing the entire electric panel to be able to have an electric water heater or electric stove.”

Zeitlin said when new gas appliances are added, they can stay there for a long time.

“People are installing gas appliances that will last for 10 plus years,” Zeitlin said.

With gas appliances in these houses lasting a decade plus, Zeitlin said the city’s reversal on banning new gas appliances could have effects on its goals surrounding global warming.

“This goal (is) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels 80% by 2030,” Zietlin said. (And), a huge portion of Palo Alto’s greenhouse gas emission comes from natural gas (such as stoves).”

While costly, Zeitlin said in the end, the transition to electric would have an overall positive impact on Palo Alto.

“There’s obviously challenges with making these changes,” Zeitlin said. “There’s a higher upfront cost at times to purchase electric appliances, but over time, these purchases can actually in some cases, save money.”

But Essabhoy said even if the city required all new buildings to be fully electric, it would only make a small dent in overall emissions.

“The new houses are such a small stock of overall housing,” Essabhoy said. “So if we want to try to get to a greater solution, then I think more of the question is how do we incentivize people to move to electric not only new units but all units.”

Palo Alto Chief Building Official George Hoyt said he wasn’t available to comment on this story.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Campanile
$100
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Palo Alto High School's newspaper

More to Discover
Donate to The Campanile
$100
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Campanile Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *