Seeking to bolster the city's reputation as a clean-tech leader and prepare for a surge of electric vehicles on city streets, Palo Alto officials this week adopted a new policy to encourage installation of charging stations.
Debra van Duynhoven, assistant to City Manager James Keene for sustainability, wrote in a report that the city "recognizes EVs as an important part of the solution for reaching its greenhouse gas emission reduction goal, and so has an interest in encouraging the use of EVs throughout the community."
"Progressive, early adopter residents and commuters are moving forward with EV purchases now," van Duynhoven wrote in the report. "The City can further its sustainability goals by positioning itself to support these emerging technologies."
The council passed the policy 7-0 Monday night (Dec. 19), with council members Larry Klein and Pat Burt absent.
The document proposed by staff includes seven policies, including encouraging partnerships between applicants and the city on creating charging stations, providing incentives for customers to charge their vehicles during off-peak hours and providing a "quick and efficient" permitting and inspection process.
The council also decided Monday to add a new policy stressing highlighting the importance of aesthetics in new charging stations. Councilwoman Karen Holman argued that the technology is still fairly new and that it is important for staff and developers to recognize the importance of an appealing design. She pointed to a recent proposal by AT&T to install antennas throughout Palo Alto -- a plan that has attracted heated opposition from neighborhoods where the equipment would be installed.
"At a time when the ATT antennas are such a topic of conversation and disagreement among the community, I think not to address the aesthetics of these installations would be a great oversight on our part," Holman said.
Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh agreed and said that good aesthetics can draw attention to the stations and encourage usage.
"Given the investment that the city is interested in making for these particular stations, ultimately we're calling attention to them," Yeh said. "We want them to be something that promotes and appeals to members of the public to actually use," Yeh said.
The city hopes the new policy will further underscore the city's position at the forefront of the electric-vehicle trend. The California Energy Commission estimates that Palo Alto will have between 3,000 and 10,000 electric vehicles by 2020. Palo Alto has already installed five electric-charging stations at city garages.
Palo Alto is already home to several electric-vehicle pioneers, including Tesla Motors and Better Place. Major employers, including Stanford Shopping Center, SAP and HP, have already installed charging stations and other companies are expected to follow suit.
Given the presence of these companies, there is a "strong impetus for Palo Alto to become a leader in EV support and adoption," van Duynhoven wrote.
"Green technologies such as EVs are an important part of the City of Palo Alto brand and the growth of these technologies supports the City's economic development objectives."