San Francisco Just Banned Natural Gas In New Buildings

No new natural gas!
No new natural gas!
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

San Francisco is banning the use of natural gas in any new buildings, requiring them to rely on the electric grid instead. That makes it the second-largest city yet to ban new natural gas hookups. Hell yeah.


The city’s board of supervisors unanimously approved the ordinance on Tuesday. It will go into in June 2021, applying to more than 54,000 homes and 32 million square feet (3 million square meters) of business space that are slated to be constructed.

Before the legislation passed, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who introduced the ban, made some last-minute compromises on it, including delaying its enactment by six months and letting restaurant developers apply for 18-month exemption waivers. Even with the tweaks, this is still a big win. A dozen other cities across the U.S., most of which are in California, have passed legislation banning gas for new development. The largest city to pass a gas ban is San Jose, which did so last year. But San Francisco’s prohibition is the most strict and the quickest to be passed.

The ban is great news to reduce the city’s climate impact. Natural gas is the city’s second-largest source of climate-warming pollution accounts for roughly 40% of San Francisco’s overall emissions, according to data from 2017 that was cited in the city-owned buildings ordinance from earlier this year. Overall, natural gas use is responsible for 80% of its buildings’ emissions. Beyond the climate benefits, as gas stoves are a huge source of indoor air pollution, and swapping them out in new construction will have public health benefits, too.

“Over 800,000 San Franciscans will be able to breathe cleaner air, without the nitrogen oxide pollution from more gas appliances,” Denise Grab, manager of Rocky Mountain Institute’s carbon-free building program, said. “San Francisco will avoid building out more gas infrastructure that would increase greenhouse gas emissions and make the climate crisis even worse.”

The ordinance faced opposition from developers and the gas industry, two moneyed, formidable opponents in San Francisco that make up a major part of the city’s economy. But the ban is a huge boon to the people who live in the city. Grab said it will save money for residents.


“All-electric new construction will also save money, both through cheaper upfront costs and by avoiding unnecessary spending on gas pipes that would drive up gas utility bills,” she said.

The measure’s passage is the latest sign that the movement to electrify everything is picking up steam in California. Thirty cities across the state have passed restrictions to limit the fossil fuel’s use. The state’s energy commission Governor Gavin Newsom are also considering a similar statewide policy. In addition to natural gas bans, the state has already announced a plan to phase out gas-power vehicle sales by 2035 and ensure its highways are ready for electric vehicles to stay charged and on the move.


“Hopefully, San Francisco’s commitment will inspire other cities and states, in California and beyond, to move toward all-electric buildings and the climate, health, and economic benefits they provide,” Grab said.

Earther staff writer. Blogs about energy, animals, why we shouldn't trust the private sector to solve the climate crisis, etc. Has an essay in the 2021 book The World We Need.


David E. Davis

California should first be looking at building out and making its electrical grid much more robust to handle these new electrical loads from buildings and cars before adding more load to an overstressed grid.