Oakland approves natural gas ban in new buildings

Newly constructed buildings in Oakland will be all-electric after the Oakland City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday night prohibiting the installation of natural gas in new structures.

City leaders said the ordinance is fundamental for Oakland to achieve its climate action goals, among them reducing greenhouses by 36 percent below 2005 levels.

If Oakland is to follow its own climate-change regulations and be a leader in reducing greenhouse emissions, “this must be part of our policies and solutions,” Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb said.

The ordinance was sponsored by Kalb, Mayor Libby Schaaf, and Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas.

Kalb added an amendment to the ordinance on Tuesday night that lengthens the amount of time that proposed buildings already with entitlements to add electric to their plans from six months to one year.

All-electric buildings are cheaper to build and operate than those fitted with natural gas, a city staff member said.

In a city which continues to be in the midst of a downtown building boom, despite the pandemic and recession, Oakland’s all-electric ordinance will not affect the rate and volume of new construction in Oakland, they added.

The local and statewide push for banning natural gas in new buildings started in Berkeley in 2019. Since then, several dozens cities, including San Francisco last month, have followed suit.

The next step in the move away from natural gas buildings in coming years may include existing structures. On Tuesday, Kalb said he believes retrofitting existing buildings will eventually come into play statewide.

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