Pasadena has failed to implement a 2015 state law requiring cities to streamline permitting for electric vehicle chargers and public charging stations.
By William J. Kelly
California continues to have “an incredible patchwork” of local permitting requirements, said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) at a recent webinar. Chiu authored AB 1236, the state permit streamlining law for electric vehicle chargers.
Shifting to electric vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions is a top state priority, butlocal complications remain a barrier to the popularity of electric vehicles. “We have to do more immediately to build out the charger infrastructure,” Chiu said. Plentiful charging stations are needed to eliminate electric vehicle range anxiety, currently a major hurdle for motorists when it comes to buying electric cars.
Brian Fauble works on electric vehicle charging infrastructure for the California Energy Commission. He said that he has seen local permitting delays of up to a year for charging stations. Without further streamlining and more funding for electric vehicle infrastructure, Fauble said that California will fall short of its goal of having 250,000 chargers installed by2025.
Pasadena is hardly alone in ignoring AB 1236. Indeed, it’s one of 259 cities in California that haven’t followed the law, according to state officials. Only 131 of California’s 540 cities have fully streamlined the permit process, according to Kielan Rathje, a special advisor in the Governor’s Office of Business & Economic Development.
In the San Gabriel Valley, Azusa stands alone as a city that’s followed the law.
Statewide, another 150 are either in the process of permit streamlining or have partially streamlined the process, including South Pasadena, and Alhambra. The key hurdle, according to Rathjen, is that city planning departments become involved, not just city building departments, and the planning process tends to be slow.
It is no wonder then that the average wait time for local EV charger permits in California is 70% longer than the national average. Currently, it takes an average of four months to obtain a local permit in California. In other states the average time is just weeks.
Permitting in California, say state officials and electric vehicle industry executives, is slowed by local requirements, which often dwell on aesthetic concerns, and drive up the installation cost anywhere from 24 to 39%. AB 1236 essentially requires cities to restrict charger permit applications to building department review, with consideration focused solely on health and safety concerns. The law is designed to take city planning departments out of the picture, except in rare situations.
Meanwhile, city inaction has frustrated legislators, according to Chiu. Consequently, state legislators currently are considering passage of AB 970. That legislation would deem local charger permits to be approved by default when a city takes longer than 20 days to act on applications.
In general, cities in the Bay Area, along the Central Coast, around Sacramento, and in a few mountain areas have done the best job of permit streamlining. Cities in other areas have lagged, including many in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which are major markets for electric vehicles.
The Governor’s Office has rated cities on permitting. The ratings can be viewed on this interactive map.
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