Reach codes proposal postponed until fall

The controversial reach codes proposal, which had been scheduled for review at Tuesday’s Los Altos City Council meeting, has been postponed to a meeting sometime in the fall, City Manager Chris Jordan said Monday. No date had yet been finalized. 

“That was a decision made by the mayor (Jan Pepper) and me,” he said. “We have the accessory dwelling unit ordinance on the July 14 agenda, and that could be time-consuming. We also have two appeals to be heard at the next meeting (Aug. 25).”

If adopted, the codes would require all-electric power supply and eliminate natural gas in new housing and commercial construction – part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions in the fight against climate change. The codes – which “reach” beyond normal energy-efficiency guidelines – also would provide infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles.

Proponents and opponents alike point to online surveys to validate their views. Opponents cite an early-spring survey the city conducted. It posed the question, “Are you in favor of mandating all-electric for all new construction?” Results showed nearly three-quarters of the 300 registered respondents were “somewhat unsupportive” or “very unsupportive.”

Proponents, however, point to a subsequent survey following an April 29 webinar with the city’s Environmental Commission, which posed different questions and options, and drew different results. This time, the question was, “Which of the following reach codes would you support?” Among the 266 respondents answering, 26.7% chose “a total ban on natural gas (including outdoor use)”; 46.1% said “all new construction and major remodels”; 29.6% favored “all electric for new construction only”; 20.4% selected “all electric for new construction with exceptions for cooking”; 29.6% advocated “mixed-fuel (gas and electric) with additional efficiency measure for new construction”; and 27.2% backed no reach codes.

Both polls were informal and nonscientific, however, and represent a small fraction of the Los Altos population. Still, the city has been flooded with correspondence over reach codes.

“My observation is that the council has received dozens and dozens of emails on both sides of the issue,” Jordan said.

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