San Francisco is considering legislation which will disincentivize gas infrastructure in new building developments. At stake are at least 72,000 new residential units and numerous commercial buildings. This legislation follows similar “reach codes” adopted by San Jose and other Bay Area cities. Ultimately, the City will need to adopt a separate gas ban ordinance as soon as possible to comprehensively halt the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure for new projects, followed by an equitable plan to retrofit all existing buildings.
The recent decision to ban natural gas in Berkeley and other cities was based on three major factors: decarbonization, health and safety, and the economics of electrification. Natural gas leaks and combustion represents approximately 35% of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions. While gas stoves are often considered a luxury, the health impacts of burning methane are significant. Burning natural gas indoors releases carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other pollutants in confined spaces. Gas combustion also pollutes outdoor air.
In September, DSA SF’s Ecosocialist Committee signed on to a letter to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors outlining the reasons to ban natural gas in new buildings. Despite the fact that fully electric units are cheaper to build, the majority of developers want to keep gas as a luxury selling point, or simply because they aren’t familiar with all-electric design.
While the details of a Berkeley-style gas ban ordinance are being debated at City Hall, the crucial point which cannot be ceded is that in the interim any new developments featuring gas must not only be more efficient than code, but also be electric-ready, i.e. feature sufficient electrical capacity, conduit and wiring to facilitate future electrification. Such a provision would simplify electrification retrofits and be a major incentive for developers to choose all-electric infrastructure before a full ban can be enacted.
The vast majority of new buildings in the construction pipeline will feature fossil fuel infrastructure unless we intervene now. Without action, we could see an increase of up to 18% in fossil fuel infrastructure in the building sector. This increase complicates the investment that the SF Department of the Environment says we need to retrofit the existing stock of fossil fuel units at a rate of 3% per year. Why approve obsolete new fossil fuel buildings if we know they need to be all-electric, if not electric-ready, today?
Join us at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting on December 9, 1:30 PM at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Legislative Chamber, Room 250 to pressure the Board to amend the reach code ordinance to include an electric-ready provision and ban gas in new buildings to meet San Francisco’s climate goals.
You may also email your comments before the meeting (File #190974 in the subject line) to Erica Major, Clerk of the Committee: email@example.com. Please also sign the petition to ban gas in SF: https://sfgasban.org/.
Interested in joining the Ecosocialist Committee? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.