Council approves law to make homes electric-vehicle-friendly

Decisions made Monday also include penalties for stalled construction

Palo Alto adopted an ordinance Monday to require circuitry for charging electric vehicles in all newly built homes, a move aimed at helping make Palo Alto "the most electric-vehicle-friendly city in the world."

The City Council unanimously accepted the ordinance Monday night but left some of the technical details of the ordinance to be untangled at a later date. At issue was the inclusion of plastic tubing, called a raceway, to accommodate circuits of different intensity, which resident and electrician Richard Castle said would use more energy and cost extra money and ultimately discourage chargers.

The law would apply to the approximately 110 homes approved to be built each year, including teardown/rebuilds, in Palo Alto. Development Services Director Peter Pirnejad said the system would cost up to $500 to cover the conduit, utility box and panel capacity needed to install the new circuitry and the cost to add in circuitry for electric-vehicle charging after the building was completed.

Separately, the council also unanimously supported a series of fines for stalled, long-term residential construction projects, which can be eye-sores and a health hazard for youths who play in construction zones.

Under the new ordinance, penalties are assessed based on the expiration dates of building permits, with the fee increasing as time passes following expiration. After 31 days, the penalty would be $200 per day without an active permit. For days 61 through 120 the daily fee would be $400, and after 120 days the fee would increase to $800 per day. The city's chief building official would have the authority to modify or waive the penalty based on circumstances.

The law "is consistent with the overarching goal that construction not be permitted to languish, and avoids imposing harsh penalties on minor delays while ensuring that complaint-based enforcement is available to dissuade truly stalled construction," a city staff report states.

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Like this comment
Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

Haven't we had enough of "Pass it before you know what's in it" legislation in this country?

Like this comment
Posted by yesElectric
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I approve, city council. Thank you for taking a lead on this issue, especially for NEW construction. In this day and age, all new homes should have the most efficient stuff required... solar, for instance. Pennies on the dollar for the future.

Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I am no real estate/developer expert, but I have been to my share of open houses in the area. More than my share for a while since my girlfriend used to hold open houses in houses for sale all over this area. One thing I think I noticed is that most of the electrical stuff is now centered around the garage on the newer construction I've seen anyway ... so all this talk about how hard it would be to add in EV charging station after the house is constructed is hogwash. This is just another uptick in profit for builders it seems to me.

What are the stats for EV's registered in this area for the last 5 years? I am sure they are going up, but what percentage of homes have EVs. And what would that number be if you removed all the people who worked for Tesla or had a subsidy from Tesla or the government/state to buy an EV?

Maybe it would make more sense to mandate that all houses have room for some kind of average number of cars per square foot number derived from the rest of the city so we do not have such a lack of parking space. That makes more sense to me.

I wish the city council if going to play around it would play at thinking instead of playing at figuring out what future trends will be based on what financial interests feed them.

Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:20 am

If you want Palo Alto to be "the most electric-vehicle-friendly city in the world" get all the gas stations to install quick chargers. Then we will see if the council can walk the talk!

Like this comment
Posted by M. Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:57 am

Once again the Council is leaping forward with technology that may be outdated before it is implemented. This ordinance assumes that everyone will own an automobile when there are alternative approaches to getting around. We are a car driven society where the automobile rules the real estate. The narrow sidewalks are encroached upon by massive vehicles, the streets and freeways are widened to accommodate more vehicles, 2-car garages that are filled with Costco junk with the cars are parked on the street.... Consider the novel approach that we may move toward walking, bicycling, or using mass transit and car sharing. Owning a vehicle could become prohibitively expensive. Instead, the routine would be similar to the existing Zipcar; we find a car on the street and unlock it with a credit card.
This ordinance will add to the price of new construction, contributing to the already skewed demographics of our community.
Water conservation should be the focus of the council. Consider technology that recycles grey water, captures rainwater and effectively monitors and adjusts water usage.

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