California bill would allow a duplex on most single-family parcels
Los Angeles Times – August 26
The California Assembly is considering a bill, authored by state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), that would require local governments to permit duplexes on parcels now largely restricted to one house, in effect eliminating single-family zoning that dominates in most suburban residential neighborhoods. Senate Bill 1120 is pitched as a way to ease a long-running housing shortage that has hammered low- and middle-class families throughout California but is drawing criticism from some homeowners concerned it will fundamentally change their neighborhoods. If the bill passes the Assembly it must go back to the Senate because it’s been amended slightly, but must pass both houses by August 31.
Compromise paves way to 31st California electrification ordinance
S&P Global – August 19
The Burlingame City Council passed building electrification requirements for new construction on August 17, becoming the 31st Golden State jurisdiction to join the movement. The final version requires all-electric systems in single-family home construction and substantial renovations that include heating, cooling, and ventilation system replacements. Council members debated allowing gas use for cooking, with some favoring a narrow exemption for outdoor appliances. They ultimately exempted both indoor and outdoor cooking appliances, an increasingly common provision as lawmakers aim to avoid pushback over consumer preferences.
San Luis Obispo passes updated climate action plan
The Tribune – August 21
San Luis Obispo’s City Council unanimously passed an updated climate action plan this Tuesday, laying out a series of measures designed to reach the city’s target of carbon neutrality by 2035. Citing feedback from residents and businesses who routinely rank climate change as an important issue, the council unanimously passed an initiative that aims to encourage measures such as no net new building emissions from onsite energy use by 2020 and a 50% reduction in existing onsite building emissions — after accounting for community choice energy — by 2030. The plan also calls for 40% use of electric vehicles by 2030 and 50% use of alternative forms of transportation such as walking, bicycling, and bus riding by 2030. The city also wants a 75% diversion of organic waste to the landfill by 2025 and 90% organic waste diversion by 2035, among other goals.
Palo Alto places big hopes on small cottages to meet housing shortage
Palo Alto Online – August 27
According to a recent report from Palo Alto's Planning and Development Services Department, the city received just 10 applications for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in 2015 and nine in 2016. The number of applications went up to 75 in 2019, spurred by new state laws and local policies that relax restrictions. The backyard units, which include converted garages as well as new structures, now make up about a quarter of the city's allocation for market-rate units in the current eight-year cycle of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process, which spans between 2015 and 2023. Next month, the City Council will consider ways to further accelerate the trend — including formally adopting zoning rules to allow two-story ADUs; eliminating a requirement that the homeowner occupies the main residence; and permitting the construction of junior ADUs, which are carved out of an existing home, without the need to create more parking.
High-speed rail heats up in California as Brightline eyes Las Vegas route extensions
Forbes – August 22
Brightline, the sole private passenger rail service in the U.S., has a green light from transit agencies to begin planning two extensions for its $5 billion high-speed train to Las Vegas that would tie it into existing Los Angeles-area commuter rail lines and, someday, California’s high-speed rail project. The board of Metrolink, operator of commuter trains that run from downtown Los Angeles to communities sprawled across six Southern California counties, unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding on August 21 to study linking Brightline’s XpressWest project to Metrolink stations in L.A. suburbs Rancho Cucamonga and Palmdale. Tying the private train project into commuter lines serving two Los Angeles suburbs could help ensure that it eventually reaches Brightline’s target of carrying 10 million passengers a year to and from Las Vegas.
U.S. air conditioning demand could increase 59% by 2050, analysis finds
Yale Environment 360 – August 18
As temperatures climb, demand for home air conditioning in the U.S. is expected to increase 59% over the next 30 years, increasing emissions, straining power grids, and financially burdening millions of American families who already struggle to pay utility bills, according to a new analysis from the research group Climate Central. Air conditioning demand in commercial buildings is expected to increase 17%. The analysis is based on data from 242 U.S. cities, tracking air conditioning use and a measure known as cooling-degree days (CDDs). As Gizmodo’s Earther explains, CDDs represent the difference between 65 degrees Fahrenheit — the meteorologist-accepted standard comfortable temperature — and the daily average temperature at a given location.