The Pasadena Building Electrification Coalition seeks to educate and build support for enactment of a comprehensive Electrification Code in Pasadena.
By Kate Bartlet
The California Legislature made history in 2018 by passing SB 100, the California 100% Clean Energy Act. SB 100 sets the bold but achievable goal of powering California – the world’s 5th largest economy – with 100% clean, carbon-free electricity by 2045.
Motivated by the climate crisis, air pollution, rising gas rates and gas safety risks (carbon dioxide and methane, among others), 54 counties and cities in California have adopted gas-free buildings commitments or electrification building codes (known as ”Reach Codes” because they go beyond California state building codes). Sierra Club tracks the building code efforts of those cities and counties at this link.
Pasadena is not on that list – yet.
Pasadena moving forward
At its meeting on April 4, 2022, the Pasadena City Council voted without opposition to move forward with drafting a building electrification policy as recommended by staff. The council requested additional input from the Municipal Services Committee, the Environmental Advisory Commission, and Pasadena Water and Power. The Council directed the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance and return within 60 days for a final vote on amending the Pasadena Municipal Code to require electrification of buildings in certain categories. The categories are:: new multi-family buildings greater than 3 units, new mixed use buildings, new commercial buildings (other than restaurants and food service facilities), and new additions to existing commercial buildings where the addition adds 50% or more to the existing square foot area (electrification then applied to the entire building). The City Council also asked staff to come back with a policy for single family houses and ADUs within a year.
Prior to the City Council action, various organizations and interest groups met with the Municipal Services Committee of the Pasadena City Council. The Pasadena Building Electrification Coalition requested that the electrification requirement include new single family homes and ADUs, apply to substantial remodels of residential and commercial buildings, and narrow the restaurant exemption to only cooking equipment.
Pasadena’s Climate Action Plan
Building electrification is a key step to realizing Pasadena’s Climate Action Plan adopted in 2018; the Plan outlined primary sources of emissions and strategies to reduce reliance on gas and fossil fuels. Gas accounts for 38% of emissions in Pasadena residences. All electric buildings are healthier for people, especially children, because gas stoves and furnaces produce pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, all of which are linked to negative health outcomes such as asthmas, respiratory illnesses, cognitive impairments and some cancers. A 2019 UCLA-led study of indoor air quality in older homes and apartments in the San Gabriel Valley found that homes with gas appliances had air pollution indoors that was commonly worse than outdoors, particularly in colder months. Of course, the economic costs of chronic illnesses is particularly burdensome for lower income families.
All-electric buildings are more affordable to construct and maintain than dual-fuel buildings. In addition to directly reducing home building and infrastructure costs, all-electric codes avoid the cost to ratepayers of future stranded assets.
Two developers already are focusing on building affordable all-electric housing in Pasadena. Heritage Housing Partners developed Summit Grove, Gill Court, Decker Court and Lincoln at Orange Grove, all with solar panels, all electric appliances and a heat pump. National CORE is proposing the Ramona Project across from Pasadena’s City Hall, an affordable, all-electric senior housing project.
The Pasadena Building Electrification Coalition is composed of interested groups in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley. To learn more about clean energy initiatives and supporting the adoption of a Reach Code in Pasadena, sign up at The Climate Realty Project.
[This article has been updated to include new developments at Pasadena City Council. April 7, 2022, 2:30 pm.]
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