City strikes a compromise over push for natural gas ban

Daily Post Staff Writer

Los Altos City Council struck a compromise last night over a push by environmental activists to ban natural gas in new homes.

Instead of a ban on all gas appliances, which council had been talking about since last November, Council decided to allow gas stoves and fireplaces in new single-family homes as well as multi-family complexes under 10 units. But any development over 10 units will have to be all electric.

However, the city will ban other gas appliances — such as heaters — in all new homes.

The ban will apply only to new construction and not to existing homes that need to be redone.

The ban, with exceptions for stoves and fireplaces, was approved by Mayor Jan Pepper, Neysa Fligor and Jeannie Bruins.

Anita Enander and Lynette Lee Eng voted against it, saying they didn’t want any ban on natural gas.

Bruins, who was among the three who wanted a complete ban last November, explained last night that she had heard the most complaints from residents about the ban on gas stoves. So she favored an exception for stoves and fireplaces.

Conflict of interest claims

At the beginning of the meeting, Pepper addressed complaints that she had a conflict of interest because she is CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy, a nonprofit that buys renewable energy, puts it into the state power grid and sells it to homeowners and businesses in San Mateo County.

A sister organization to Peninsula Clean Energy, Santa Clara County’s Silicon Valley Clean Energy, paid Los Altos $10,000 to put an item on its council agenda to change a range of energy-related ordinances including banning natural gas. The nonprofit said it was not paying Los Altos to impose the ban, just to consider changes to its codes related to energy.

Pepper said she ran for council as an environmentalist and supports green policies such as gas bans and increased recycling. Pepper said claims that she will profit from the gas ban are false.

Questions about whether the ban is legal

Councilwoman Anita Enander said she thinks a gas ban in residential homes is illegal because it won’t be cost-effective and state codes prevent cities from passing codes that increase housing prices.

Bruins said the California Energy Commission has already approved legislation for all-electric houses. She said Enander’s claim doesn’t hold water.

Bruins said she felt gas stoves and gas fireplaces should be allowed in single-family homes, but multi-family complexes with 10 units or more, they should be all electric.

Councilwoman Neysa Fligor asked her why the two types of housing are different.

Bruins said there are “different people” in the two types of housing and she doesn’t see any advantage for public safety and health in having gas in multi-family buildings.

Enander said she wants to let residents make their own choices because they are smart.

Fligor said leaders have to make decisions in the interest of community health. She said lots of city ordinances take away people’s choices.

Lee Eng said she is worried electric batteries and heat pumps will be noisy.

Bruins said they are similar to air conditioning.

At the start of the conversation, Pepper asked Lee Eng and Enander if they would consider an ordinance that allows gas but says the house has to be wired so it could be used for all-electric appliances in the future.

Enander said “yes” but Lee Eng said “no.” Lee Eng tried to go back and agree to that plan later, but Pepper and Fligor wouldn’t reconsider it.

Community Development Director Jon Biggs said he will write up an ordinance that reflects the council’s vote and bring it back for approval.

Residents spoke on both sides of the issue.

David Sue said the number one cause of emissions in the city is cars, not gas in homes. He said the council should empower residents to make smart decisions instead of passing bans.

Anna Budman, 16, said the ban is an important way to combat climate change and keeping the planet livable.

Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park have approved bans of natural gas in new construction previously. Last night, Redwood City joined that list.


  1. Bruins said Heat pumps are the same as AC which is not true. The heat pumps run all day and night while AC only runs during the day and in the summer time in LA. Also, how many AC units does a house needs to cool down? My neighbor has 5 heat pumps around his house. Is there any house in LA needs 5 AC units?

  2. Heat pumps and AC are the same when the heat pump is running in cooling mode, i.e., moving heat from inside the house to the outside. When a heat pump runs in heating mode it pulls heat from the surrounding outside air and transfers that heat to the house interior. Heat pumps will only run all day during the summer if they are in cooling mode and trying to cool the house below their capacity, or if something is broken.

    • Heat pump and AC are the same if people uses heat pump as an AC. Heat pump is different than an AC if people uses it to heat up and cool down the house. That is why heat pump can runs all day al night winter or summer. I am not talking about the heat pump runs continuously. I am talking about people can uses it all year round, day or night. If you have listen to a heat pump turns on and off the whole night, you will know what I mean.

  3. Contrary to the headline, this isn’t a “compromise” because BOTH sides didn’t get concessions. It’s a completely-new, SLIGHTLY-reduced, virtue-signaling restriction that hurts a minority of voiceless people– especially younger and lower-income people who are more likely to dwell in those 10+ unit buildings. It’s like saying that they were going to punch and kick new-home buyers, but they decided “compromise” by only kicking them.

    • Isn’t that the Los Altos way? Discriminate against the middle- and low-income residents? Bruins’ cringe-worthy comments about discriminating against low income “people” made me think this was a 1950s council meeting on the topic of keeping blacks out of the community. She’s the one who made the “you’re out of your cotton-pickin’ mind” comment, right?

  4. Hmm like saving $5 a month by using gas would make up
    for paying Los Altos rents on a brand new apartment
    The developers are going to charge $5K a month for a
    1 bedroom anyway. Why would the rent in Los Altos be
    cheaper than Mountain View?

    What we need to do is to construct more 30 year old apartment
    buildings and then rent them for only $3K per month. But
    the new ones will never rent that low.

  5. For other instances of Bruins condescension and racism, including to a minority council member…
    For racism in city hall and council and planning commission complicity…
    What to do about them Nov 3…

    • I’d like to get rid of Enander. Really incompetent to speculate like she did about cost neutrality issues of not allowing gas heating. FIrst she admits she does not know what is going on, and then she doesn’t hesitate to make authoritative pronouncements. She’s a right wing ideologue. She should go. Quick! We need someone more in tune with the majority of Los Altos citizens. After all, in the unlikely event that her guess is right, the state energy commission will let us know. But since the ordinance is just like the one already approved in Los Altos Hills, where does she get off thinking she can say they will reject this? She’s pandering to her base, trying to out-conservative Lee-Eng.

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