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The newly adopted Solana Beach ordinance will require electric power for heating and air conditioning, water heating and clothes drying systems. Courtesy photo
The newly adopted Solana Beach ordinance will require electric power for heating and air conditioning, water heating and clothes drying systems. Courtesy photo
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Solana Beach adopts green building electrification reach code

SOLANA BEACH — Solana Beach has become the 52nd California municipality to adopt a green building electrification reach code to help meet the state’s ambitious energy targets and achieve net-zero energy.

Encinitas recently became one of the first cities in San Diego County to adopt a reach code — building energy codes that “reach” beyond state minimum requirements for energy use — calling for all new construction to be built using electric power sources for water heaters, cooking appliances and more.

“This has been a long process, it’s been going on for a couple of years, and I am obviously so happy about this ordinance,” Deputy Mayor Kristi Becker said. “We have carefully analyzed and taken our time and crafted an ordinance that fits our city.”

For Solana Beach, the reach code will not go quite as far as the ordinance adopted in Encinitas. The Solana Beach ordinance will require electric power for heating and air conditioning, water heating and clothes drying systems but will not require it for cooking appliances.

The code will also include requirements for new construction to be electric-vehicle-ready.

A unique feature of the Solana Beach ordinance will be a definition of new construction. According to the city, since Solana Beach is mostly built out already, it does not see much fully new construction and instead mostly sees remodels of existing homes and buildings.

“Some remodels might tear a building to the ground and construct an essentially new structure. And there are also scenarios where a house is not completely scrapped but so much of it is altered, such as its roof or foundation or walls, that most of it is, in fact, new construction,” City Analyst Rimga Viskanta said.

The proposed ordinance would define residential remodels that alter 50% or more of major structural components, such as exterior or interior walls, rooftops or foundations, or that have an addition of 600 square feet or more as new construction.

For non-residential remodels, the ordinance will similarly define projects that alter 50% or more of major structural components or have an increase of 50% or more of floor area as new construction. Projects that have a permit valuation of $750,000 or more will also be defined as new construction and subject to the ordinance’s regulations.

Despite the Solana Beach reach code not going as far as Encinitas in terms of exceptions to electric power requirements, climate activists still praised the Solana Beach City Council for its work in drafting the ordinance.

“As always, Solana Beach is a leader in environmental issues,” Ann Feeney, co-chair of the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition said in a press release. “We applaud Solana Beach for voting to adopt this ordinance. Given the dire forecast provided by the International Panel on Climate Change in their recent report, and in the reports from COP26, it is clear that we must wean ourselves from fossil fuels as soon as possible, and the Solana Beach City Council took this to heart in passing this ordinance.

“Importantly, this is one of the first reach codes that includes major remodels, which is essential for accelerating building decarbonization.”

Mayor Lesa Heebner said she was pleased with Solana Beach becoming the 52nd municipality in the state to adopt a green building reach code.

“I think we did craft something that was custom to our city and made a lot of sense,” Heebner said.

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