Reach Codes
Posted on 01/22/2021

The City of Piedmont is currently considering the adoption of Reach Codes that help the City meet the Climate Action Goals set by the City Council in the City’s Climate Action Plan through reduced use of natural gas in buildings. 

At its meeting on July 20, 2020, the City Council approved the first reading of the reach codes ordinances, but directed staff to do additional public outreach and answer resident question before it considered the regulations for final approval. 

At its regular meeting on February 1, 2021, the Piedmont City Council will consider the second reading and final passage of an ordinance implementing reach codes, which are designed to promote efficient building methods in homes in Piedmont. The Council will also consider an ordinance requiring home energy audits under certain circumstances. When it approved the first reading of the ordinances in July 2020, the City Council directed staff to provide additional clarification about the proposed solar panel installation and renovation insulation/electrification requirements. Consequently, the February 1 Agenda Report provides additional information, including:

  • Which projects would trigger solar panel requirements, and what exemptions exist for solar panels.
  • How much insulation or solar panel installation would cost upfront, and how much these items would save homeowners over time.
  • An exemption for certain energy efficiency improvements with a Home Energy Score of 7 or greater.
  • Staff’s criteria for granting exceptions to these requirements.
  • Further clarifying the role and power of the building official in permit decisions
  • How lingering concerns are to be addressed.
Community members are encouraged to learn more about the proposed amendments by reading the information linked on this page and participating in the City Council’s discussion of the proposed amendments scheduled for February 1, 2021.

Documents

Background on Proposed Reach Codes 

On July 20, 2020, the Piedmont City Council considered a package of proposed local amendments to the California Electrical Code, Residential Code, and Building Energy Efficiency Standards. The amendments – collectively referred to as “Reach Codes” – would alter the requirements for home construction and renovation in Piedmont to facilitate building insulation, electrification, and solar panel installation, helping the Piedmont community reduce natural gas use in buildings and move towards community Climate Action Plan goals. The proposed amendments would also make homes more comfortable, decrease air pollutants, and provide homeowners with opportunities to save money. 

The City Council approved the first reading of the Reach Codes and directed City staff to further explain certain sections of the proposed requirements and provide more outreach to residents before Council considered the regulations for final approval. Noteworthy public engagement since July include the development and posting of a list of frequently asked questions on the City’s website and a virtual Town Hall held in early September. Through these efforts, City staff has worked to gather more input from residents and further clarify the proposed regulations ahead of the February 1 Council meeting. 

In November 2020, research firm FM3 conducted an additional city-wide voter survey to supplement the public opinion survey that was completed in June 2020. The survey asked hundreds of Piedmont residents their opinions on the proposed reach codes and how the codes would affect them. 

On January 19, 2021, the results and analysis of this survey to were presented to the City Council. 

Additionally, the November 2020 survey revealed that some members of the community have lingering concerns about the Reach Codes. Staff worked to address these concerns in the staff report for the second reading of the proposed Reach codes scheduled for the February 1, 2021 City Council meeting. To learn more about exceptions to the solar panel requirements, please read Attachment 3 to the proposed ordinance. 

Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan 2.0 sets an ambitious goal of reducing in-territory greenhouse gas emissions 80% between 2005 and 2050. The Piedmont community will not meet its 2050 target unless natural gas appliances are phased out of use (see below). Beyond releasing carbon emissions, natural gas appliances emit a variety of other dangerous pollutants when used. Decreasing natural gas use will decrease homeowners’ exposure to these dangerous pollutants. 

 
Graph of 2017 Emissions vs. 2050 Goal

In fall 2019, City staff began examining local amendments to the Electrical, Residential, and Building Energy Efficiency Codes as an approach to reduce emissions from natural gas appliances in buildings. In consultation with East Bay Community Energy’s Reach Code consultants, TRC, staff drafted an initial set of Code amendments to achieve greater building electrification and use of solar energy systems in Piedmont. Because the vast majority of Piedmont residences and businesses receive electricity generated by 100% renewable sources by virtue of being customers of East Bay Community Energy’s Renewable 100 electricity service, building electrification and solar panel installation, in turn, would increase the amount of building energy supplied from renewable electricity and decrease the amount supplied from natural gas.

In early 2020, staff launched a public engagement program for the initial Code amendment ideas in order for residents and local contractors to review them and provide commentary. Staff designed and posted a survey, which 186 people completed between early February and mid-March 2020. Staff also held five outreach events in January and February – a town hall-style Reach Code Forum and four follow-up workshops – to introduce the amendment ideas to residents and contractors and get detailed feedback. 

The results and information provided by the public engagement program informed revisions to the proposed amendments that will better serve Piedmont residents. The proposed regulations affect new construction and alterations to existing residential buildings, so that they are better insulated, use more electrical appliances, and have rooftop solar panels. The purpose is to provide opportunities for homeowners to reduce the cost of home operations over time, reduce natural gas use in buildings, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to the use of natural gas. These include the following new requirements:

  • Newly constructed low-rise residential buildings and detached accessory dwelling units will be powered entirely by electricity.
  • Low-rise residential buildings adding a new upper level, or increasing their total roof area by at least 30%, must install solar panels.
  • Renovations of Low-rise residential building with a construction value of $25,000 or more must include at least item from a list of energy efficient insulation or electrification measures.
  • Renovations of $100,000 or more in value must include two of the items.
Other Relevant Documents:

 

Members of the public are encouraged to participate by submitting comments and attending the Council meeting. Comments regarding the proposed code amendments may be sent to the City Council via email to: citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov. To send comments via U.S. Mail, please use the following address: Piedmont City Council c/o City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611. 

If you have questions about the proposed ordinances and policy, please contact Planning & Building Director Kevin Jackson by email at kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov. Any correspondence sent to the City will be considered a public record.