San Francisco Celebrates the Passage of an All-Electric Building Ordinance For Newly Constructed Buildings and Framework for a Just Transition
San Francisco, CA -- On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to pass the all-electric new buildings ordinance introduced by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and co-sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston, Gordon Mar, Shamann Walton, and Matt Haney.
San Francisco is the largest city in the state to pass an all-electric building ordinance and joins more than 30 other cities in California to begin phasing gas out of buildings. Now the ball is in the hands of the California Energy Commission to phase out gas in new construction statewide and those of the Governor and Legislature to accelerate the decarbonization of California's existing buildings in an equitable manner.
The ordinance enforces newly constructed buildings to be all electric starting June 1, 2021. If the project includes a new restaurant, developers can receive a permit waiver for cooking equipment that would be available until the end of 2021.
San Francisco Climate Emergency Coalition member Daniel Tahara released the following statement:
“Phasing out natural gas from new buildings opens the door towards addressing existing buildings, which represent 44% of San Francisco’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Tackling them equitably and cost effectively will be the challenge of our time, but scientists are clear that we cannot afford to wait. We’re excited to continue our work with the City of San Francisco, frontline communities, labor organizations, regional governments and the State on immediate next steps to establish a city hub and fund to transition communities off natural gas at an emergency pace.”
Months of advocacy led by the San Francisco Climate Emergency Coalition brought us to this historic victory. Most importantly, in the spirit of solidarity, labor -- namely the plumbing trades -- and environmentalists in San Francisco joined forces to lay the groundwork for a Just Transition. A habitable climate does not have to result in working people losing their jobs amidst an historic economic depression. The all-electric requirements and corresponding steps to expand the use of recycled and gray water systems is a blueprint for the rest of the state and country. Labor and environmentalists can support one another in securing good jobs for workers and building safer, healthier cities without fossil fuel infrastructure at the same time.
This ordinance showcases a key relationship and understanding that can help foster legislation phasing out gas in other jurisdictions and policies aimed at equitably retrofitting all existing buildings. Partnership will be critical in moving California towards clean and efficient electric heating, cooling, cooking and conserving precious water resources in the face of climate-driven drought.
For Immediate Release
June 30, 2020
SAN FRANCISCO— Climate and public health advocates led by the San Francisco Climate Emergency Coalition seek to amend and strengthen the all-electric new buildings ordinance introduced today by San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.
Months of advocacy by the Coalition and allies yielded a draft ordinance which applies across building types in new San Francisco building projects applying for permit on or after January 1, 2021, but there are two caveats. A blanket exception for new commercial restaurants until 2022 benefits developers of new facilities while leaving workers, owners, and occupants with the downsides of harmful emissions, excessive heat, and imminent retrofit costs. Beyond that, the granting of exemptions is in the hands of the Department of Building Inspection.
Climate activists don’t want developers to be able to petition DBI behind closed doors, especially to get exemptions from the first real Climate Emergency legislation to come out of the Board of Supervisors. “We have less than ten years to cut emissions in half” notes Coalition member Helena Birecki, “and especially with lung problems being brought to the fore with Covid, it’s criminal for developers to argue they can’t afford to build clean!”
A transparent and accessible exceptions process based on the public interest is key to an all-electric ordinance that aligns with San Francisco’s public health, safety, and climate goals. Nearly 40% of San Francisco’s carbon emissions arise from natural gas use in buildings, and pollution from gas appliances and infrastructure is a significant public health and safety hazard. Let’s stop adding fuel to the fire.
COVID-19 has provided a stark reminder of the intersection between social, economic, and racial injustice. Air pollution and climate impacts disproportionately burden our most vulnerable communities. Every exception to the ordinance endangers lives.
The Coalition appreciates the Supervisor’s leadership and persistence and looks forward to working with the full Board to produce an ordinance that protects all San Franciscans, effective January 1, 2021. When San Francisco becomes the largest city in the country, and the first California county, to ban natural gas in new buildings, it should be without loopholes. Then San Francisco would truly lead on building electrification, and on addressing the global climate emergency.
The San Francisco Climate Emergency Coalition is composed of concerned citizens from all Supervisorial Districts of San Francisco who promote the realization of the goals of San Francisco’s Climate Emergency Declaration.
While we celebrated this Earth Week physically apart, but we are still writing history together. This update invites you to take action online, and ends with a few recommendations for worthwhile climate videos/webinars.
Across the world, young people especially are collaborating in online campaigns to move towards a healthier, more just, and more livable future.
Sunrise Bay Area shows why we need a Green New Deal, especially in light of Covid 19.
Fridays for Future hosts a podcast featuring Vanessa Nakate and Acham Evelyn from Uganda
Greta Thunberg encourages us to change our behavior for the greater good of society.
Quick action! Share with your friends and social media circle!
Even as Covid-19 is pummeling low income communities of color and healthcare professionals, both are continuing to sound the alarm that the crises of climate change and public health cannot be treated separately, and that the same climate-change causing fossil fuel pollution likely makes this pandemic deadlier.
Frontline leaders demand public health leadership on oil drilling.
Hanna Saltzman: Lesson from the pandemic is to prioritize clean air
Quick action! Amplify these voices-- share with your friends and social media circle.
Earth day challenge: Further amplify the clean air solutions we have, including all-electric buildings, by responding to the SF Chronicle article with a letter to the editor to the editor. (New to letter-writing? Tips here.)
Our coalition continues to work inside San Francisco to push our City to walk its talk on the Climate Emergency. On Friday we had an online meeting with staff from SFE and Supervisor Mandelman regarding his upcoming all-electric new buildings legislation. Here’s the summary:
The good: The legislation is intended to be applicable “at permit”-- which includes developments already generally approved by the Planning Department that have not yet filed Building Permit applications. This could capture more of “the pipeline” than even Berkeley’s ban in terms of strictly banning new gas infrastructure, if it weren’t a year delayed.
The bad: The Supervisor shows no intention of amending the Green Building Code to require all units in the pipeline to be at minimum electric ready.
The truth: We have more to do to continue to spotlight the connection of pollution and climate change to public health, now and in the future.
Community action! If you haven’t yet, send a letter to Supervisor Mandelman and your own Supervisor to let them know how important comprehensive building electrification is to you. Thank you!
Stay motivated! Bill Weihl discusses discusses how his new organization Climate Voice is building a movement to get companies to go "all-in on climate," and Dr. Cynthia Mahoney explains in under two minutes what the Covid crisis teaches us about the public health crisis, and encourages us to "flatten the climate curve. Invest in climate, health, and equity."
Be well and thank you for all you do in these difficult and important times
This post is excerpted from our campaign site, SF Gas Ban. Click here to read the full article.
Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis are increasingly coming to terms with the reality that current federal and state governments have no tangible plan to deliver us from climate evil.
Though presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders proffer exceptional justice-oriented climate policies, even under the best of circumstances we are at least three years out from achieving a national political environment conducive to a habitable planet. At the same time, we are already two years into the twelve-year window for climate action, without having achieved much.
While there is some virtue in tending one’s own garden, cities that have declared climate emergency are acting now knowing full well that they alone cannot turn the tide; a city with zero emissions makes a negligible dent on the global crisis.
Instead, advocates believe that a single city’s legislative resolve against fossil fuel and environmental injustice might cause dominos to fall in other cities, bolstering a larger movement to drag, shame and compel higher legislative bodies with more authority and resources to do what must be done in the precious interim.
In this way, the climate emergency is, in theory, the opposite of the fossil fuel industry’s calling card: denial.
In addition, just as the United States is responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions and is ethically bound to lead in reducing emissions as compared to less profligate and wealthy countries, it stands to reason that cities of vast wealth and consumption, such as San Francisco, ought to respond accordingly.
Continue reading at our campaign site, SF Gas Ban
I recently met with a group fervently advocating their key climate solution. Wonderful! Along the way though, they started dismissing other parts of the puzzle with comments like “Oh, that will take care of itself.” It made me think.
It’s time to stop expecting other (issues, projects, people) to take care of themselves. It’s time to consciously take care of each other. As Project Drawdown so clearly shows, our goal cannot be achieved by either-or thinking— we have to say yes to a multitude of important solutions. Additionally, the IPCC suggests that maintaining a livable world actually relies on cooperation, and solving the problems of inequality and poverty.
“Pathways that are consistent with sustainable development show fewer mitigation and adaptation challenges and are associated with lower mitigation costs. The large majority of modelling studies could not construct pathways characterized by lack of international cooperation, inequality and poverty that were able to limit global warming to 1.5°C.” (D.6.3, 2018 report)
Project Drawdown and the IPCC report what is essential for global solutions. In San Francisco, we have an opportunity to show that this works on the smaller scale. There are so many projects among which explicitly highlighting their connections can lead to more streamlined and more successful outcomes. For instance,
So how do we make this grand coordination happen? It’s not about anyone dropping what’s important to them in order to “be part of the team.” Most of us can make the biggest impact in the areas we’re passionate about. Still, even Olympic sprinters benefit from having their swimmer team-mates cheering them on. And the most brilliant quantum physicist can’t do any research without the efforts of those who built the particle accelerator. In the same way, the call for each real remedy to our climate crisis is amplified when others say, “That’s important to me too. These solutions go together.”
Why not celebrate these triumphs of community, through community? We don’t need to silo ourselves. We can reach out, cheer each other on, answer each others’ questions and get answers to our own, and help elevate the voices that should be heard in the halls of power.
My hope for a better future lies in our common cause.
--Helena, Steering Committee member
The Year in Review 2019: San Francisco’s Grassroots Campaign for Rapid and Equitable Building Decarbonization
This post originally appeared on the SF Gas Ban campaign site.
This website was launched as part of a grassroots movement to push San Francisco’s elected officials to ban natural gas in all new San Francisco buildings and to enact legislation to see that all existing buildings are equitably and justly retrofitted to run on low-carbon electricity. These demands are born out of the necessity of confronting gross inaction in the face of a spiraling human-caused climate crisis. Buildings represent a significant share of local, state and national greenhouse emissions gases.
2019 was a landmark year for the building decarbonization movement in California and beyond. For example:
As encouraging as these developments were, the sobering reality of climate science commands much more aggressive action on buildings and other sectors at the local, state, national and international levels. Nevertheless, in 2019, the City of San Francisco could not even manage to make the most painfully incremental and inadequate progress on new buildings:
Updates about our actions, relevant news, and more.