Santa Barbara City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to ban natural gas construction for projects with building permits issued after January 1, 2022.
The new rules do not apply to full building permit applications submitted on or before December 31, 2021. The regulation does not apply to secondary apartments or junior secondary apartments.
Projects of public interest, restaurant and commercial kitchens and laboratories are also excluded.
The theme is part of the city’s overall drive to become more environmentally sustainable. Santa Barbara and other local communities are joining Community Choice Energy programs that bring more renewable, zero carbon electricity to their customers through existing providers (PG&E and Southern California Edison in Santa Barbara Counties).
Energy use in buildings is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California, accounting for about 25% of nationwide emissions and about 37% of emissions in Santa Barbara.
The emissions from buildings come from two sources: purchased electricity and the direct combustion of natural gas for heating and cooking.
“This is a really exciting game changer,” said Katie Davis, chairwoman of the Sierra Club, Los Padres Chapter. “The combination of carbon-free electricity from Community Choice Energy and this move to electrification, as 40% of Santa Barbara’s emissions come from buildings, makes those two things truly groundbreaking.
“We will all benefit from this because it is a better experience to live in an electrical house.”
Roy Reed, president of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, protested the city’s decision.
“We are a bit disappointed with the proposed regulation, which would mean a total ban on natural gas infrastructure in new properties,” said Reed. “We would greatly prefer an education and incentive program for developers and builders and designers of these new properties.”
Councilor Mike Jordan said it is time to make the transition as it will benefit his children and grandchildren.
“Gas, like anything you burn, is not clean,” said Jordan. “We just have to stop burning things and look for other ways to do it. This is probably an equally good and effective method that we will see.”
Sneddon votes against project employment contract
Surprisingly, Councilor Kristen Sneddon voted against the city’s project employment contract on a point that should be routinely approved as it was on the approval calendar.
“I’ve always supported this with the caveat that there were no double payments to social benefits, health care and pensions,” said Sneddon. “My support for this was based on this.”
The plan is a collective bargaining agreement with workers’ organizations known as a project employment contract or community works agreement. The city must use unionized labor on construction projects worth $ 5 million or more.
She said she supports the unions but “cannot support double payment for benefits and it’s too hard for local businesses to have to do both”.
Employers who accept the construction contracts would have to pay into a separate collective employment contract for health care and pension provision for the duration of the project.
Project employment contracts are pre-contractual collective agreements that define standard conditions for construction projects.
They are usually negotiated between the client and the local building union council as well as individual building unions. The agreements are negotiated before each tender. The contractor and all subcontractors at each stage must sign the agreement before carrying out the covered work.
The proposal has sparked a philosophical debate about where the city of Santa Barbara should turn for its major construction projects.
Supporters of a PLA say that companies wanting to do business with the city should use local, union-trained workers. Critics say the effort to move towards a PLA is a union money creation driven by the Democratic Party and its backed candidates. They also say that non-union workers carry out their jobs at a high level, and it is wrong to assume that unionized workers are better qualified.
The vote to approve a PLA for urban development projects turned out to be 5-2, with Sneddon and Jordan objecting. Sneddon previously supported it at a meeting in January.