San Anselmo could soon require all-electric utilities in new buildings in an effort to mitigate climate change.
Town officials are drafting a construction ordinance as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I think for me this is an easy yes,” Councilman Steve Burdo said at the Town Council meeting on March 8. “I think natural gas is something we need to be really progressively weaning off of.”
San Rafael and Marin County officials are also developing ordinances. Fairfax is the only Marin jurisdiction among more than 50 California cities that have approved similar ordinances.
Sean Condry, San Anselmo’s public works director, said the proposal has strong support from the town’s climate commission.
“This is actually kind of a preemptive to capture any new construction between now and the end of the year,” Condry said of the proposal.
Condry said town staff will return in the fall with new “reach codes,” which are energy codes for building design and construction.
“To meet town climate goals we need to change the way we do some things and stop the buildout of the natural gas infrastructure,” said Kathleen Gundry, chair of the climate commission.
“We support this because the principal component of natural gas is methane. It’s dangerous stuff,” she said. “If we want to get our hands around global warming we’ve got to stop producing or releasing methane.”
With state mandates to create more housing, Gundry said, there could be an uptick in construction. San Anselmo has to plan for 833 new residences under its required housing allocation.
Gundry argued that all-electric structures are less expensive to build and homes that meet the state’s energy codes should not have high utility costs.
Councilwoman Eileen Burke said she supports the plan but is unsure whether the ordinance should apply to remodels.
“I think it could be really cost-prohibitive to change over a whole house,” she said. “For new construction, I think it is kind of a no-brainer.”
Dana Armanino, a county sustainability planner, said she is working with San Rafael and San Anselmo staff on the ordinances. The county is inviting staffers from all of Marin’s jurisdictions to develop a consistent ordinance across the county.
“We are beginning the process now but hope to have a draft code developed and published this summer with the goal of adopting the updated code by the end of the year,” Armanino said of the county’s process.