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Both environmental activists and healthcare professionals applauded the city's approval of a green building electrification code. Courtesy photo
Both environmental activists and healthcare professionals applauded the city's approval of a green building electrification code. Courtesy photo
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Encinitas first city in San Diego region to approve ‘green building’ ordinance

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council this week approved the final version of a “green building” electrification ordinance, the first of its kind in San Diego County.

The city’s reach code (a building energy code that exceeds the state’s minimum requirements for energy use in building construction, design and functionality) was approved with the council’s unanimous support.

The ordinance will strongly limit the use of fossil fuels in new developments, essentially banning natural gas from future homes and buildings and replacing it with electric-only water heaters, cooking ranges and other appliances.

Once the ordinance is fully adopted, Encinitas will be the 50th city in California with a building electrification reach code.

When the draft ordinance was first brought before the City Council last month, the proposal’s language included several exceptions that allowed for some new construction projects to continue using fossil fuels. But the council later directed staff to remove most of the exceptions.

Local advocates, specifically the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition, have worked closely with city staff during the drafting process of this ordinance.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the active community is crucial to getting codes like this right for the city of Encinitas.

“Having this supportive environmental community that turns out, that reads closely, that recommends changes, that works with us to reach farther with our reach code, is really the key to our success,” Blakespear said.

Kelly Lyndon, one of the volunteers for the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition, expressed her gratitude to the city for working closely with them and removing a number of exceptions to the ordinance.

“Our organization would like to commend the city for taking the lead on environmental issues,” Lyndon said. “We applaud the council for removing the most significant exceptions which would have allowed the continued build-out of gas infrastructure and expanded the use of fossil fuels in homes and businesses.”

Aside from environmental supporters, public health and safety advocates also joined in applauding the city for the move. Some healthcare professionals’ said that homes using natural gas can be harmful particularly for child development.

“This ordinance is very important in helping us move the community away from methane gas which we know has many adverse health effects,” Dr. Sally Kaufman, a doctor with Kaiser San Diego and Scripps Coastal Medical Group and the co-chair of San Diego’s American Academy of Pediatrics Climate Change and Health Committee said. “This all-electric green building ordinance is a wonderful opportunity for Encinitas to continue to lead the way forward and take a step in the right direction.”

When the ordinance is fully adopted, as it is expected to be next month, all new residential and commercial developments will need to comply with new regulations limiting the use of natural gas lines for major appliances. The council decided to allow all projects with applications submitted prior to the ordinance’s adoption date to be exempt from the ordinance, which likely includes several major developments currently under review by the city.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz, the longest-serving member on the City Council, offered a historical perspective, noting the process started nine years earlier following the council’s ideological shift that allowed greater focus on environmental issues.

“So here we are on that continuum that was begun and I’m really proud of all of the work that has been done,” Kranz said. “A lot of work has gone into this and I’m really looking forward to getting all the bureaucratic hurdles out of the way and getting this adopted.”