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File #: 2019-7369   
Type: Consent Calendar Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 11/5/2019
Title: Adoption of Resolution Limiting Natural Gas Infrastructure for New Residential Construction on City Owned Property. (Planning, Building and Transportation 481005)
Attachments: 1. Resolution, 2. Resolution - REVISED, 3. Correspondence - Updated 11-5

Title

 

Adoption of Resolution Limiting Natural Gas Infrastructure for New Residential Construction on City Owned Property.  (Planning, Building and Transportation 481005)

 

Body

 

To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

The proposed resolution represents a first, but important, step toward implementation of the City of Alameda’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP), adopted by the City Council on September 3, 2019.  The CARP identifies the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the use of natural gas in existing and new residential buildings in the City of Alameda (City).    

The proposed resolution would establish a City Council policy to limit the use of natural gas in new residential buildings constructed on City property. Ultimately, the resolution might be replaced by citywide ordinances, but in the interim, the policy serves to establish immediate regulations on land owned by the City.  Given that the vacant lands owned by the City at Alameda Point represent a major portion of the remaining vacant lands in Alameda that may be developed with residential uses, the resolution serves to immediately implement a major CARP GHG emission reduction strategy.

BACKGROUND

 

In March 2019, the City Council declared a climate emergency and joined a global effort to get to net zero emissions as soon as possible.  In September 2019, the City Council adopted an updated and revised Climate Action and Resiliency Plan for the City with the goal of lowering citywide GHG emissions 50% below 2005 baseline levels by 2030 and achieving the vision of net zero emissions as soon as possible.  The CARP recognizes and implements strategies and actions to address: 

 

                     A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finding that human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C; and that global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate; and that climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C; and that pathways to limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems; and that these systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options.

 

                     The Federal Government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment that found that climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth; and that without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century; and that communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower GHG emissions and implement adaptation strategies; and that while mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.

 

                     The State of California’s Fourth Climate Assessment finding that by year 2100 the average annual maximum daily temperature is projected to increase by 5.6°F-8.8°F, with heat waves in cities causing 2-3 times more heat related deaths (by 2050), and hotter temperatures increasing electrical demand; water supply from snowpack is projected to decline by two-thirds potentially causing water shortages up to 16% (by 2050); the average area burned by wildfires could increase by 77%; 31-67% of Southern California beaches may completely erode and make hundreds of miles of coastal highways susceptible to flooding. 

 

                     In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown issued executive order B-55-18, pledging that the California economy will be carbon neutral by 2045. Assembly Bill 3232 requires the California Energy Commission to create a plan by 2021 to reduce building sector emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.   

 

                     The City’s CARP found that natural gas and the infrastructure needed to transport it to City homes and businesses is a leading source of GHGs in Alameda, responsible for 25% of the GHGs released in the City. The only source sector with more local GHG emissions than natural gas is the transportation sector.  According to the CARP, use of electric heating and cooling infrastructure in new buildings could result in a reduction of 14,396 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 in the City. 

 

DISCUSSION

 

Natural gas infrastructure and combustion contributes significant GHG emissions to global warming and climate change. Burning natural gas generates carbon dioxide, a GHG. Significant additional carbon emissions are also caused by methane gas (CH4) released into the atmosphere from leaks in the natural gas infrastructure.  According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, “[p]ound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 [methane] is more than 25 times greater than CO2 [carbon dioxide] over a 100-year period.”  During the first 20 years after it is released, methane has a global warming potential 84 times that of carbon dioxide. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that “[a]bout 25% of the manmade global warming we're experiencing is caused by methane emissions.” (Sources: “Overview of Greenhouse Gases,” https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases#methane <https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases> and “Methane: The other important greenhouse gas,” Environmental Defense Fund, <https://www.edf.org/climate/methane-other-important-greenhouse-gas>).

 

In addition to its contribution to climate change and global warming, natural gas infrastructure also could contribute to the loss of homes and property in the event of a natural disaster. Fires resulting from natural gas infrastructure caused significant losses of homes and property after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and the San Bruno disaster in 2010. 

In 2018, the University of California adopted new regulations governing the use of natural gas on University-owned property.   According to the new university regulations, “[n]o new UC buildings or major renovations after June 2019, except in special circumstances, will use on-site fossil fuel combustion, such as natural gas, for space and water heating.”

 

In support of the City Council’s March Emergency Resolution and the September action to adopt and implement the CARP, this recommended City Council resolution would ensure that all future leases, sales and purchase agreements, Development Agreements, and Disposition and Development Agreements for City-owned land will limit natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed residential buildings. 

 

Given that much of the City’s future residential development will occur on former Naval Air Station property that has been, or will be, transferred from the Federal Government to the City before it is conveyed or leased to private entities for development, the resolution will have an immediate impact on the City’s ability to regulate gas infrastructure in newly constructed residential buildings as recommended by the CARP.

 

The resolution would not impact any private development on privately owned property or new development with pre-existing Development Agreements or other vesting entitlements for development on City-owned land. Furthermore, under the resolution, the City Council would be able to make exceptions for individual residential projects on City land, if deemed necessary to address other Council objectives, such as housing costs.  For example, if an affordable housing project on city land needed limited gas infrastructure for a commercial kitchen or other facility that would be difficult or expensive to provide without gas infrastructure, the Council would have the ability under this resolution to make an exception on a case by case basis. 

 

As recommended by the CARP, staff does plan to prepare Citywide ordinances that would limit new gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings and encourage or require “electrification” in existing buildings.  However, these ordinances will take some time to prepare and implement. Staff is currently working closely with residential developers throughout Alameda to learn more about the cost implications to housing construction costs of an outright prohibition on the use of gas in all residential structures.  In the meantime, staff is encouraging them to limit the use of natural gas infrastructure in their developments.  The 52-unit market rate townhome project on Clement Avenue in Alameda, the 21-unit, lower income townhome project on Eagle Avenue in Alameda, and the 357-unit townhome and stacked flats project being proposed on the Alameda Landing Waterfront were either built without natural gas infrastructure or are proposed to be built without natural gas infrastructure.

 

In conclusion, staff believes that the resolution will:

 

                     Provide clear direction to staff to continue to negotiate for electrification of new residential projects on City land.

 

                     Protect the public health safety and welfare by minimizing the expansion of the natural gas infrastructure and use of natural gas in the City on City-owned land.

                     Establish the City Council as a leader in the fight to combat climate change by establishing limitations on its own land before imposing similar regulations on private lands.

                     Immediately implement actions to reduce GHG emissions from development of City-owned land. 

 

ALTERNATIVES

 

                     Approve the recommended policy.

                     Approve a modified version of the policy.

                     Do not approve the resolution and consider directing staff to develop a modified approach.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

There are no financial impacts associated with the adoption of the proposed policy.  The financial implications of the policy will be included in all new leases and purchase documents for new development on City lands, which will provide the opportunity to weigh any climate change benefits against financial impacts on a project by project basis. 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

The recommended resolution implements the CARP action requiring the City to prepare ordinances for the “electrification” of the new and existing building stock. 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

The proposed resolution would have a beneficial impact on the environment by reducing GHG emissions on new development and implementing the City’s Climate Action Plan.   The resolution would not increase or decrease the amount of development that may or may not occur in the City, and therefore would not have any impact on other environmental considerations other than air quality and GHGs.  For these reasons, the proposed resolution is exempt from environmental review pursuant to Section 15307, Actions by Regulatory Agencies for Protection of Natural Resources, and Section 15308, Actions by Regulatory Agencies for the Protection of the Environment. 

CLIMATE IMPACTS

 

The proposed resolution will help to implement the City’s Climate Action Plan.  Natural gas and the infrastructure needed to transport it to City homes and businesses is a leading source of GHG emissions in the City, and responsible for 25% of the GHGs released in the City.  According to the Climate Action Plan, use of electric heating and cooling infrastructure in new buildings could result in a reduction of 14,396 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 in the City.

RECOMMENDATION

 

Adopt the Resolution to limit natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings on City-owned property.

CITY MANAGER RECOMMENDATION

 

The City Manager recommends approval of the proposed policy as a first step.  It is consistent with the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan and would meet a first year benchmark. 

 

We continue to work through a variety of issues related to the policy and potential impacts to other goals and visions established by the City Council.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Thomas, Planning, Building and Transportation Director

 

Financial Impact section reviewed,

Elena Adair, Finance Director

 

cc:                     Eric Levitt, City Manager