The Berkeley, California City Council has authorized paying a $273,341 annual salary to a new position dedicated to implementing the nation’s first ban on natural gas in new buildings.
On Tuesday, the council approved an ordinance proposed by Councilmember Kate Harrison, effective January 1, 2020, on any new buildings, requiring all new buildings built to have electric infrastructure and banning natural gas energy:
RECOMMENDATION 1. Adopt an ordinance adding a new Chapter 12.80 to the Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) prohibiting natural gas infrastructure in new buildings with an effective date of January 1, 2020.
2. Refer to the November 2019 budget process for consideration of allocating up to $273,341 per year from excess equity to fund a two-year position in the Building & Safety Division of the Department of Planning and Development. The staff person will assist with implementing the gas prohibition ordinance and reach codes, and perform other duties as specified in the Financial Implications section of this item.
The initial version of the proposal called for creation of a “career” (permanent) position, which was revised to a two-year job before passage. Under “Financial Implications,” the council explains the position’s duties:
Staff time will be necessary to implement the new permit regulations.
Staff estimates that the total annual staff cost for a two-year position to implement a gas prohibition ordinance and reach codes would be $273,341 per year, funded from excess equity. The position would be in the Building & Safety Division of the Department of Planning and Development.
The staff person would also:
- Assist the City of Berkeley in advancing its leadership in electrifying buildings;
- Assist in development of future code amendments would be the lead staff for managing implementation of new energy-related ordinances and codes, including the Deep Green Building Standards;
- Provide training to staff and assistance and consultation to applicants; and,
- Assist property owners with incentives (e.g., anything offered under the Pathways to Green Buildings plan, the electrification transfer tax subsidy ordinance).
Mayor Jesse Arreguín warned of the “cataclysmic impacts” of climate change in his endorsement of the ordinance at the council’s meeting, The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
“I’m really proud to be on this City Council to adopt this groundbreaking ordinance. ... We know that the climate crisis is deepening and is having cataclysmic impacts.”
One section of the proposal describes the “The Climate Emergency” the natural gas ban seeks to address:
F. The Climate Emergency
In June 2018, the Berkeley City Council declared a city-wide Climate Emergency, aimed at reviewing the City’s greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies, commitments and progress in light of recent political, scientific and climatic developments.16 In 2018, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested that to keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, governments must initiate a dramatic 45% cut in global carbon emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach global ‘net zero’ around 2050. The time for incremental emissions reduction strategies is over—policymakers must begin implementing “far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”