When Sean Keighran, president of the Residential Builders Association, first heard of Rafael Mandelman’s proposal to ban natural gas in new buildings, he was against it.
The idea of a new building with all-electric heating and cooking equipment seemed far-fetched and costly. Also, it was far from clear that food-focused consumers in the Bay Area would be willing to give up the fiery satisfaction of a gas range for the cool efficiency of an electric induction range.
But the more he learned about technological advances in both all-electric heating systems and induction cookers – and the more he investigated the environmental benefits of turning off natural gas – the more he realized that his initial reaction was wrong. He said he now believes that the future of housing is all electric.
“The world is changing,” said Keighran. “I’ve seen buyers want that. Buyers will expect this. The mindset of the younger population is to want and demand it.
“This is ahead of its time, but not by much,” he said of Mandelman’s legislation. “Very soon the whole world will follow this path.”
On Tuesday, the San Francisco regulator unanimously voted to ban natural gas in new buildings. The ordinance applies to more than 54,000 homes and 32 million square feet of commercial space in the city’s development pipeline. San Francisco has already banned natural gas for every new city-owned building. Berkeley banned gas in new buildings last year – the California Restaurant Association sued the city over the ban.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman proposed the board-approved laws banning natural gas in new buildings.
Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
Natural gas accounts for around 40% of total greenhouse gas emissions in San Francisco and 80% of emissions from buildings. Mandelman said the demand for cleaner, all-electric buildings in new buildings will increase building safety, reduce emissions across the city and improve indoor air quality. An Executive Order 2018 from the then government. Jerry Brown mandates that the state be carbon neutral by 2045 and then maintain net negative emissions.
The measure extends to buildings for which a building permit is requested after June 1st. Planned buildings with retail space are exempt from the fully electric transition until January 1, 2022. After that, an application can be made to dispense with the construction of a mixed fuel building to allow flexibility for restaurants. Existing restaurants do not have to turn off their gas burners.
In a statement, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association said, “We understand the need to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, we have real concerns that a gas ban in new buildings would further limit the space available for restaurants. “
While the industry group welcomed the waiver that would allow the use of gas, Steven Lee, an entertainment commissioner investing in the historic Sam Wo Chinatown restaurant, said he understands why homes should be all-electric but said restaurants should be exempt .
“We are all for clean air and everything, but small businesses are hit hard by bills like this, especially Chinese and other ethnic restaurants,” he said. “There aren’t many options for mom and pop entrepreneurs. What if they want to go to a new building in the Chase Center or Pier 70 or Candlestick if that’s what they’re building? They won’t be able to – there is no way you are going to put a wok on an electric stove. “
Developer Eric Tao of L37 Partners, who is building a mixed-use hotel and condominium project at 950 Market St., said the restaurant space exemption and waiver process offers enough flexibility to support the legislation. He said developers rarely know, before a building is near completion, whether a retail space is being filled by a restaurant or other use. Allowing gas lines for this one room would allow developers to keep their options open.
“If we were prevented from running gas pipelines, the restaurants would never come,” Tao said. “We have to be able to install the gas line, grease separator and exhaust shafts in advance. It would be prohibitive to do this after the building is completed. “
Chris Naso of the San Francisco Climate Emergency Coalition praised the legislation.
“In terms of global warming, the federal and state governments have completely let us down, but local governments are now pointing the way to a fair and rapid decarbonization,” said Naso.
Like Keighran, housing advocates said it took them a while to convince them that the legislation wouldn’t make their job difficult.
Todd David, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, which advocates housing development, said his organization supported the gas ban after finding it would not make housing more expensive to build.
“We wanted to make sure there was no cost,” he said. “In the end, we were satisfied that in the worst case scenario it was cost neutral, and there are some signs that it could save money.”
Analysis by the San Francisco Department of the Environment found that all-electric construction is 13 cents per square foot less for a midsize building and $ 1.18 per square foot less for a three-story apartment building than buildings that use natural gas.
The ordinance has been pushed back by plumbers and pipe fitters who will lose their jobs when gas pipes stop running through buildings. So Mandelman agreed to the introduction of water recycling laws that would “lead to good union jobs”.
He said that while restaurant exemption compromises and some work issues helped smooth down the opposition, the effects of climate change – which has been all too evident in the past couple of wildfire seasons – have been compelling.
Mandelman called his regulation “a gradual but important step towards saving our planet”.
“Whatever reservations people had as developers or humans,” said Mandelman, “they live on a planet that seems to be changing in terrifying ways.”
JK Dineen is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter; @sfjkdineen