As Palo Alto revs up for a celebration for electric vehicles later this month, a trio of council members are calling for the city to consider a new law that would require every new house to include charger-friendly infrastructure.
In a memo unveiled Wednesday evening, Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilmember Gail Price are recommending a package of laws that they hope will further bolster the city's reputation as a national leader in green technology. These include making sure all new houses have the necessary circuitry to support electric-vehicle chargers and streamlining the permitting process for charging stations. The council members are also requesting that the council and staff explore new laws that would make sure all new hotels install charging stations and that may require existing hotels to install them.
The proposal from the three council members seeks to add another spark to the city's already robust electric-vehicle culture. Home to Tesla Motors and Prius-congested roads, Palo Alto has seen charging stations bloom in all parts of the city in recent years, including at city garages and Mollie Stone's Market. Residents are also installing them in their homes and, at least in one case, in front of a residential curb.
Sven Thesen, an Evergreen Park resident who installed a curbside "charging station" in front of his house, lobbied the council on Sept. 6 to institute the new requirements for construction projects. He argued that it costs far less to make new houses EV-ready than it is to retrofit them after the fact.
"When you're in a hole, the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging," Thesen told the council. "It costs about $200 to make a house EV-ready and anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 to retrofit later on. So let's stop digging by building houses without being EV ready."
The three council members aim to do just that. They claim that their proposals will "make a big difference" in Palo Alto's drive toward environmental sustainability.
"Because of the high concentration of electric vehicles in Palo Alto, the interest of our citizens in electric vehicles and supporting the environment and fighting climate change we believe that electric vehicles should be encouraged and supporters," the memo states. "Palo Alto is one of the leading cities in environmental sustainability and it is time to review our processes, ordinances, requirements and incentives for installation of EV stations throughout Palo Alto to ensure that we encourage and nurture the Electric Vehicle trend."
In addition to adopting the "necessary circuitry" requirement for new housing, the three council members are suggesting that the council's Policy and Service Committee consider other concepts to "ensure that Palo Alto is one of the most EV-friendly City in America." These would include a charging-station requirement for new hotels and possibly for existing ones. They also want the city to reconsider its permitting-fee structure for charging equipment "to reduce costs, or develop cost incentives for the permits in such a way that it is streamlined and efficient."
The memo also urges haste in adopting the new regulations. The city plans to hold a celebration of electric vehicles at City Hall on Sept. 25 and the three council members hope to announce that "Palo Alto will be a leader in the nation in the installation of EV stations by mandating that all new housing units be required to install the necessary circuitry."
The Sept. 25 event will be held at noon in front of City Hall and will feature electric-vehicle test drives and an exposition showing the latest electric vehicles and charging equipment.