San Jose Now Largest City to Require All-Electric Buildings

On Sept. 18, the San Jose, California city council unanimously passed a proposal to require new construction of detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs), single-family, low-rise and multifamily buildings in the city to be all-electric starting Jan. 1, 2020.

“San Jose becomes the largest city in the nation to act to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of its new buildings by up to 90 percent,” said the city in a press release.

In addition to banning natural gas in all new construction of ADUs, single family homes, low-rise and multifamily buildings, the mayor and city council are also recommending that all new multifamily buildings include 70% electric vehicle-capable spaces, at least 20% electric vehicle-ready spaces and at least 10% electric vehicle service equipment spaces.

In addition to reducing GHG emissions, the mayor reported that the new standards will:

  • Lower costs for renters and homeowners in new all-electric buildings, which are projected to be more cost-effective than mixed power (electric and gas) buildings over their lifetimes;
  • Lower costs for new developments due to installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure at the time of construction instead of retrofitting later;
  • Reduce fire risk from gas leaks; and
  • Improve indoor air quality from using electric appliances.

Looking forward, the mayor and council are also asking city staff to explore:

  • Offsetting the cost of installing solar and battery storage, electric vehicle infrastructure and electric appliances in new, affordable housing construction;
  • Prohibiting natural gas infrastructure in all new municipal construction; and
  • Options for potential fee and tax reductions for new all-electric high-rise multifamily and commercial building constructions.

According to Cheryl Wessling, communications manager for the city’s planning, building and code enforcement department, the new requirements only apply to permit applications and plans submitted on or after Jan. 1, 2020. Buildings that have already been planned using natural gas, but have yet to be constructed, should be able to proceed as planned.

“Anything submitted before Jan. 1, such as permit applications, plans under review, or projects under construction, are not subject to the new requirements,” said Wessling.

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