The move unanimously approved by the City Council on Tuesday comes as part of Berkeley’s move to become greener and do its part to fight climate change. Natural gas appliances account for 27 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, said Councilwoman Kate Harrison, who proposed the ordinance.
“We often talk about climate change as this scary terrible thing, and it is, but at the end of the day when we tackle this challenge, we’re going to have cleaner, healthier, more efficient, safer, cheaper homes and places of business,” Harrison said at the meeting.
Sierra Club campaigner Rachel Golden called Tuesday’s council vote a historic moment in the state, adding that more than 50 other cities in California are also looking to phase out natural gas infrastructure.
“Berkeley has a long history of leading the world in climate, environment and social justice,” she said. “This is one of those moments where we are going to show our leadership and inspire other cities in California and states across the country that we could phase out gas, and do so economically, with attention to environmental justice and in a way that’s going to support our communities to be safer and healthier.”
Exemptions to the rule include new units built in the basements or attics of existing houses, which will be allowed to use whatever fuel already is used in the home, and in construction that will “serve the public interest” as determined by the City Council or the zoning adjustments board.
The ordinance would apply to restaurants, but Harrison assured the public at Tuesday’s meeting that the city could “maintain its rich culinary culture” through the use of electric induction cooktops and ranges. She demonstrated this by having one of her staffers melt a chocolate bar in a pot over a hot plate during the meeting. The staffer put a piece of paper in between the hot plate and the pot to show how that it wouldn’t catch on fire, and handed out chocolate-covered strawberries to prove that tasty food doesn’t require a gas stove.
The council also voted to earmark $273,341 during the upcoming November budget process to hire a staffer for a two-year position in the city’s Planning and Development Department to implement the ordinance.
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