Half Moon Bay has delayed passing a stricter electrification reach code ordinance and is instead returning to the drawing board for potential further changes to residential and nonresidential structure requirements and agriculture buildings.

“The issue of actually changing our existing homes and businesses just requires more attention,” Mayor Debbie Ruddock said.

At the final hurdle of a second reading of the much-discussed ordinance Dec. 21, the council stopped short of passage over concerns about financial costs to homeowners and businesses for replacing gas with electric appliances, lack of public support, and ordinance provisions going too far. Instead, Ruddock recommended bringing back a separate new ordinance in February requiring all newly constructed buildings to be built with an all-electric design. She suggested other controversial topics like provisions about the remodeling of existing residential and commercial buildings be debated at the city’s Climate Action Plan discussions in late spring.

The proposed ordinance had required switches to electric appliances in the next few years for buildings doing remodeling, something of concern for some of the public and council. She also wanted further exemptions for agriculture buildings like greenhouse gasses beyond the initial 2030 date.

“I’m trying to make a constructive alternative here that can get some buy-in from some fellows,” Ruddock said.

If the ordinance had passed its second reading, it would have authorized significant changes and stricter electric reach codes for residents and businesses. The ordinance required all newly constructed buildings be built with an all-electric design after 30 days. Major remodels of residential buildings would have been electric starting in 2023, and major remodels of nonresidential and mixed-use buildings must be electric by 2025.

Councilmember Robert Brownstone was against the ordinance as written and wanted to make changes before considering passing it. He said most of the public in Half Moon Bay was not interested in the changes. He urged the council to consider what the public wanted instead of what the council wanted. He wanted to see ordinance changes regarding restaurants and more guarantees that people for the foreseeable future will not have to replace appliances that burn out with electric options.

“This isn’t about reach codes. This is about overreaching. It’s not about reaching. It’s about overreaching,” Brownstone said.

Councilmember Joaquin Jimenez agreed with Ruddock and Brownstone, noting the cost to the community versus making a small impact was indefensible.

“Approving this ordinance would affect a lot of community members. [For example], our seniors who live on a fixed income. That’s not equitable. Also, we are going to be pushing some of the businesses out of Half Moon Bay,” Jimenez said.

The city wants to address climate change issues around greenhouse gas emissions and reach carbon-neutral goals. The city said if it does not take significant reductions, Half Moon Bay will not meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets. A staff report said 48% of Half Moon Bay’s local greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, with 80% of that total coming from onsite fuel gas combustion. The city has said failure to address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions could result in sea level rise that puts Half Moon Bay’s homes, businesses and local and regional transportation infrastructure at risk. More severe weather changes are possible, with an increased risk of flooding, fire and other natural disasters. Portions of Highway 1 had to briefly close due to rain flooding Dec. 23, with several residential areas also flooded.

The concern about climate change and the urgent need to take action from the city led Vice Mayor Deborah Penrose and Councilmember Harvey Rarback to urge the council to pass the ordinance. The two said change was needed to help save the planet for future generations. However, both could not convince the other three to vote yes.

Several people spoke against the ordinance at the meeting and asked the ordinance to be adjusted or stopped entirely. Several cited prohibitive expenses for home and business renovations, decline in home values and small changes at a heavy financial price. Some speakers said the timeline was too short for a big decision or asked for incentives instead of requirements. Others favored passing the law with the looming threat of climate change likely to increase in the coming years.

Penrose voted against delaying passing the ordinance given the threat of climate change. She believed future federal and state subsidies would help make it easier and cheaper for people to convert and transition following appliance burnout, along with better technology.

“I think this is an excellent ordinance,” Penrose said.

Rarback reemphasized the need to consider this a public safety issue to protect future generations. He said Half Moon Bay had no choice but to start making hard decisions.

“We need to get off fossil fuels, and this ordinance is a step in that direction, and I heartily support it,” Rarback said.

The first reading of the ordinance passed by a close 3-2 vote earlier in the month with councilmembers Robert Brownstone and Joaquin Jimenez voting no. The decision to delay passage Dec. 21 came to a 4-1 vote, with Penrose voting no.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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(1) comment

Dirk van Ulden

Finally a city council that has the guts to stand up to the ludicrous Reach Code hysteria. Where do the dissenting members think the electricity comes from? Hate to tell them but it comes from fossil fuel driven generators. I pray that other cities follow suit and disband their Reach Code lunacy.

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