Council suspends ban on natural gas in new buildings

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto City Council voted tonight (Feb. 26) to suspend its ban on natural gas in new buildings following a court decision striking down a similar ban in Berkeley.

City planners will instead try to regulate energy so that getting a building permit for a space and water heater isn’t practical. But buildings will be allowed to get a natural gas hookup for stoves, grills, fire pits and fireplaces, a report from Planning Director Jonathan Lait said.

“A mixed-fuel home would require the highest level of efficiency and the addition of on-site solar and storage to meet the standards,” Lait wrote.

Council members were disappointed to suspend their natural gas ban after just one year and said they still want Palo Alto to become an all-electric city.

“We have to look at this as a speed bump on the way to continuing to get to our climate goals,” Vice Mayor Ed Lauing said.

“This pains me to do this” Councilwoman Vicki Veenker said before a 7-0 vote.

Council is suspending its natural gas ban to avoid a lawsuit after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the city of Berkeley preempted federal energy law with its ban, the first of its kind passed in August 2019.

The April 2023 ruling applied to more than 70 cities that have banned gas hookups since then, Lait said.

Council wanted to pass new regulations as soon as possible, even if that means skipping a community meeting.

“The public is all behind us already,” Lauing said.

“In this instance, it does feel like its an emergency situation,” Councilwoman Julie Lythcott-Haims said.

Council will get a status update in two weeks on how long the new regulations might take. Planners will look to San Luis Obispo, San Jose and Santa Cruz as a guide, Lait said.

New buildings will need to follow the state’s building and energy code in the meantime, Chief Building Official George Hoyt said.

“We could conceivably have a flurry of people who file applications seeking to catch us in this window,” Lythcott-Haims said.

Six public speakers were in favor of restricting natural gas, including two representatives of the Palo Alto Student Climate Coalition.

Attorney Christine Wade made sure her client could now modify a building permit to get a gas hookup at 1325 Parkinson Ave.


  1. I don’t get this. The council is really disheartened to suspend their natural gas ban because of a law-suit threat? Yet how to go all electric with a crumbling, weakening electric grid that can’t take the current load? The council has to be aware that just because they can vote on a ban on gas does not equate to quality all electric, climate friendlier builds in the future. Unless the city incentivizes builders with rebates and such, I don’t see how this gas ban is going to work. The city is hampered, hemmed in and reverses decisions based on threats of lawsuits these days. Is California local, county and state governments not only not returning to job sites, are now entirely controlled by insurance companies and law suit threats. This is a sorry state of bloated budgets, high rolling staff and gridlock.

  2. Our out-of-step, woke council has been bailed out again. This would have been a disaster, especially when they saw their electric bills.

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