Natural gas will be banned in new residential construction in South San Francisco, as officials joined the growing regional move toward adopting reach codes requiring future development to be powered entirely by electricity.

The South San Francisco City Council unanimously adopted Wednesday, May 26, a proposal to disallow gas hookups in future housing development under the effort to limit the city’s dependency on natural gas resources.

The decision makes the city the latest in a growing group of local communities to take such a step, though the decision blessed by South San Francisco officials stopped short of some of the more aggressive policies elsewhere on the Peninsula.

Flor Nicolas

Flor Nicolas

To that end, officials noted that the potential ban would only be applied to future construction and that existing buildings would be allowed to keep their natural gas connections. Additionally, they limited the requirement to residential construction, keeping the commercial sector unregulated.

Councilmember Flor Nicolas, who spearheaded the city’s effort, acknowledged that the reach codes adopted are not as ambitious as some members of the local environmental community had hoped.

“This doesn’t go as far as some would want, but I think it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

Councilmember James Coleman shared a similar perspective, while expressing optimism that the issue could be reconsidered for further action sometime down the road.

“This is a really good first wave of reach codes,” he said.

Further, Coleman said that he would be in favor of looking to expand the natural gas ban into some portion of the commercial development sector. Acknowledging such a move would not be possible in the life sciences industry that relies on natural gas for testing, he suggested office buildings could later be eligible.

Terry Nagel, chair of the Sustainable San Mateo County Board of Directors, urged officials to seek ways to expand the initiative.

“This measure is really the first step and I hope you will follow through with a commercial resolution that will address the commercial sector,” she said.

Beyond incompatibility with the biotech sector, some officials had previously shared reticence to expand the ban to the commercial sector for fear of harming local restaurants and eateries that rely on natural gas for appropriately preparing food.

The code adopted by South San Francisco contains additional carveouts for large, residential developments already entitled or within 6 months of receiving final approval. Officials supported the exemptions because they did not want the potential additional costs associated with meeting the all-electric mandate to stem housing development.

Alongside the natural gas ban, officials also approved a mandate for electric vehicle charging stations to be included in new residential development. Single-family homes would be required to install both a level 1 and 2 charger in new construction. Multifamily developments with fewer than 20 units would be required to install one of each sort for each unit. And multifamily developments with more than 20 units would be required to have 75% of the units as level 1 chargers, with 25% as level 2 chargers. Exceptions in the multi-family developments would be made for units without parking. Level 1 is the slowest EV charger available.

To further limit the local dependence on fossil fuels, the move to reach codes is often paired with an increased investment in electric vehicle infrastructure built into new residential developments as the auto industry moves away from gas.

Berkeley became the first city in the country to ban natural gas in new construction in July. There are close to 35 local cities that have explored of approved reach codes of various kinds, including San Mateo, Redwood City and unincorporated segments of San Mateo County. Because local officials can propose ordinances more stringent than the state’s Energy and Green Building codes, the policies are dubbed “reach codes.”

Nicolas lamented that South San Francisco was not on the local forefront of adopting the reach codes, but said that she felt the move was due.

“I think it’s about time for us to do something about this,” she said.

Councilmember Eddie Flores enthusiastically supported the decision as well.

“This is unquestionably a wonderful and much-needed initiative,” he said.

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(4) comments

Terence Y

Maybe natural gas prices will go down for residents and businesses who continue to use gas. Current buyers – buy quickly before you have to foot the cost for these extras: all electric appliances, installing electric vehicle charger stations even though most people can’t afford electric cars. Maybe this edict will make natural gas connected homes more valuable and decrease affordability of existing homes. Perfect!

Dirk van Ulden

Terence, what the green crowd does not want to acknowledge, because they are being misled, think AOC, is that much electricity will continue to be generated using natural gas. It just becomes a matter of where the gas is being burned. No problem for Ms Nicolas, as she will be retired or otherwise not affected when the bills and complaints start arriving. Try heating your house with electricity. PCE is going to love you.

Terence Y

Dirk, thanks for the reminder that electricity doesn’t grow on trees. I know other states will happily sell us their excess electricity for a hefty profit. Even more added costs for those poor souls who will become slaves to electricity. This supposed feel-good policy reminds me of the carbon credit scheme where any company can claim to be “carbon neutral” or “net zero” by buying offsets. What a concept! Companies can fool people in buying their way to “wokeness” while polluting as much as their hearts desire. Maybe I’ll buy some land and get my slice of those carbon credits. I’ll happily plant a few trees to suck up that carbon dioxide. I was going to plant trees anyway, but I may as well claim to be “woke.” All the way to the bank. BTW, I may have added to the carbon load with my Memorial Day BBQ. But greenies shouldn't be mad, I'll make it up by planting some carbon eating saplings.

Dirk van Ulden

Future residents of South San Francisco should remember Ms. Nicolas when faced with astronomical electric bills. Another reason to avoid that city and for developers to steer clear. This will help the housing shortage? Connect the dots, please.

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