City Climate Corner

Santa Barbara CA: Natural gas ban

Episode Summary

On July 20, 2021, Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to ban natural gas from all new construction in the city. A powerful partnership, encompassing grass roots activism, staff analysis, and city council support, led the way. We interview Council Member Kristen Sneddon, Acting Sustainability & Resilience Director Alelia Parenteau, and Sierra Club Santa Barbara Chair Katie Davis and learn how they did it.

Episode Notes

On July 20, 2021, Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to ban natural gas from all new construction in the city. A powerful partnership, encompassing grass roots activism, staff analysis, and city council support, led the way. We interview Council Member Kristen Sneddon, Acting Sustainability & Resilience Director Alelia Parenteau, and Sierra Club Santa Barbara Chair Katie Davis and learn how they did it.


Episode Transcription


Abby Finis  00:02

Cities produce more than sixty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Big cities get a lot of attention, but most household emissions in the US actually come from communities outside urban cores, making them critical players in climate mitigation and climate justice. City Climate Corner explores how these small- and mid-size cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. 

Abby Finis  00:21

I'm Abby Finis.

Larry Kraft  00:23

And, I'm Larry Kraft. We're co-hosts for City Climate Corner. 

Abby Finis  00:29

Hey, Larry!

Larry Kraft  00:30

Hey, Abby!

Abby Finis  00:33

Have you done anything to begin to electrify your home?

Larry Kraft  00:38

Yes, we've done some and I wanted to do more. We had a gas dryer, and that was replaced with an electric dryer. The thing I'm really pushing is to get rid of our fossil gas stove. I've been working on my wife a bit to get there, but I think we're just about there.

Abby Finis  00:55

What's the holdup?

Larry Kraft  00:57

Just being used to cooking on gas. A lot of people think about cooking on electric, the the coils, which is not what the current induction stoves are like.

Abby Finis  01:10

Yeah. We replaced our gas stove with induction just before COVID and the supply chain issues. We got it pretty quickly and love it. I wouldn't go back. It's way easier to clean, it's safer. You can up the temperature real fast, you can bring it down really fast, you can get more precision temperatures so I love it. I recommend it

Larry Kraft  01:34

It's so safer. You don't like sitting over a stove and breathing in all that lovely methane?

Abby Finis  01:40

Well, you know, I shouldn't share this, but we also don't have a hood. So my home was built in 1915 and it just doesn't set up for that kind of ventilation system. And so, and no, I'm still probably taking in some particulates from any oil or whatever that I'm cooking. But, I'm not breathing in all that the fumes from natural gas combustion.

Larry Kraft  02:02

Yeah. Natural gas, right? What a name. It's methane.

Abby Finis  02:06

Great marketing that goes into natural gas. It's very comforting. 

Larry Kraft  02:10


Abby Finis  02:11

I do have a gas dryer, we mostly will hang in the summer. 

Larry Kraft  02:15

Yeah, same. 

Abby Finis  02:17

We still have a boiler. And I do love radiant heat. I'm waiting for that air source heat pump boiler to come around so I can keep my hydronic system. But I'm experimenting this year. We got one of those cute electric fireplaces that you can put wherever. I have that upstairs in the bedroom. And then we just keep the temperature really low upstairs to try to reduce the natural gas heat. And then just use that cozy fireplace with our time of use pricing. 

Larry Kraft  02:46

That sounds cool. 

Abby Finis  02:47


Larry Kraft  02:48

I'm excited to really look at heat pumps for our home.

Abby Finis  02:51

Yeah, I mean, if you have forced air, it makes a ton of sense as your furnace goes out. 

Larry Kraft  02:56


Abby Finis  02:57

We're talking about natural gas for a reason. There are a number of cities that are looking to or are banning natural gas in new development across the country. And, today we speak with some folks from Santa Barbara about a recent ordinance there that is about to go into effect.

Larry Kraft  03:15

You know, remember one of our previous episodes on Lexington, Massachusetts, they were talking about it as well.

Abby Finis  03:22

Before we jump into the episode, we do want to put a little plug for our Patreon. And Larry, do you want to explain what's going on there? 

Larry Kraft  03:33

Yes, it does cost us something to put on this podcast. If you get some value from it and want to see it continue, would you consider becoming a monthly Patreon supporter? It's accessible from our website from this Support Us link at There's multiple levels, you can get cool gifts, like compostable stickers, a cool coffee mug with the logo on it as well as unisex and T shirts cut for women. And, if you just like the merch that we have, you can also get some of that and support us at our store, accessible from the Store link at

Abby Finis  04:12

Check it out. Let's go to Santa Barbara.

Start of interview

Larry Kraft  04:17

We are here today with councilmember Kristen Sneddon, Alelia Parenteau, and Katie Davis from Santa Barbara. Welcome all of you and let's start with each of you introducing yourself and your roles as they relate to Santa Barbara. We'll start with Kristen.

Kristen Sneddon  04:35

Hi, I'm really happy to be here today. I will say I'm a city council member, longtime Santa Barbara local, but I also teach environmental geology at our local city college. So I come from a science background and I really tried to bring that to everything I do on council also and just really happy to be here with you today.

Larry Kraft  04:54

Fantastic! Alelia.

Alelia Parenteau  04:57

I'm Alelia Parenteau and I'm the acting Sustainability Resilience Director for the City. When not acting, I'm the Energy and Climate Manager. And yeah, really excited to be here. 

Larry Kraft  05:07

And, Katie. 

Katie Davis  05:08

Hi, I'm glad to be here as well. I'm Katie Davis, I am chair of the local Sierra Club chapter. And I got involved in that, really, I think, when I had kids and became more concerned about climate change in the future that I was leaving them and feeling like I needed to do more. Also a longtime resident. I grew up in this area. I love this region and want to protect it doing that through the activism and advocacy.

Larry Kraft  05:36

That's great. Well, your kids motivation strikes close to home here as it's mine as well. Kristen, can you give us some background information on the City of Santa Barbara?

Kristen Sneddon  05:46

You know, we really pride ourselves on being one of the birthplaces of the environmental movement. And, we're very environmentally minded. One of those reasons is because we have such a beautiful and environmentally sensitive area. I mean, we're on a coastal community and land locked by mountains on one side and a rising sea level on another side. We also have offshore oil exploration and sensitivities there. We have a really close knit community. A lot of people who grow up here, stay here, stay involved, a very involved community who cares for the environment and cares for each other.

Natural gas ban background

Abby Finis  06:23

So we wanted to bring you all here to talk about the recent ordinance that you passed that essentially bans natural gas in most new buildings. But first, we want to recognize that there's been a movement in California and other places where an increasing number of cities have been taking similar actions to eliminate natural gas from their communities. And, Katie, I know that you've been involved in this in the Sierra Club. Could you give us a little bit of background on what the Sierra Club's efforts have been around natural gas?

Katie Davis  06:52

Yeah. The Sierra Club has been encouraging cities in California to pass reach codes and encouraging the state to really tackle this issue. Building emissions are something like twenty five percent of California's emissions, and we have goals to achieve one hundred percent renewable energy in this state. If we're gonna have this clean energy, we need to figure out how to eliminate these huge emission source from buildings as well. It's been a real push. I think we helped convene a panel a few years ago at UCSB had a sustainability Summit with experts from Northern California who had been working on some of the building code updates there to introduce it to our area. 

Katie Davis  07:32

This is a place where they've passed reach codes before. I mean Santa Barbara has been an environmental leader ever since the 1969 oil spill that really devastated Santa Barbara that was sort of a peak moment in our history. It's particularly important in our area because most of the codes have been passed in Northern California where it's PG&E sells both electricity and gas. And they didn't really care what they sell so they endorsed the codes up there. So that was easier. Whereas here in Southern California, we're in SoCal Gas territory. And SoCal Gas has been one of the leaders in the fight against this kind of efforts to electrify buildings. It's important to have some wins in this area, I think as well.

Abby Finis  08:15

You said, reach code a couple of times. Can you explain what a reach code is?

Katie Davis  08:19

Maybe Alelia can?

Alelia Parenteau  08:20

Yeah. So a reach code, or sometimes called a stretch code, goes above and beyond the local or state building code. So often, you see it as an efficiency adder, you're asking people to be more efficient than the energy code. But in this case, we actually didn't do a reach code in this particular instance.

Abby Finis  08:37

So it sounds like there was some support from utilities in Northern California and not so much in Southern California. But, how do community members how do people kind of the general public respond to these types of ordinances?

Public reaction

Katie Davis  08:52

I mean, I think there is a lot of education that needs to be done. And Alelia did a great job. She had a number of webinars, there are initially a lot of questions. California's very reliant on gas in our homes. That's the default. I had to go through a learning process. When I realized, though, that you could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and with these efficient electric appliances, it was cheaper to build homes and cheaper to live in the homes and the health benefits. It's sort of a no brainer. And people get that immediately when they understand those three points. I mean, me for when I mentioned, my kids being my impetus for getting into the climate action in general. I had no idea that kids who grew up in homes with gas stoves are forty percent more likely to have asthma. And my kids had childhood asthma, and I had no idea it was contributing to that. So of course, I would rather live in a home that isn't making my kids sick. I think that people really are supportive when they know about the health impacts of combusting gas in our homes.

Staff’s role

Larry Kraft  09:57

The City has goals to be carbon neutral by 2035 and to achieve one hundred percent renewable electricity by 2030. Eliminating natural gas is is a key part of that goal. Alelia, how did the City decide to take this on and what was your role?

Alelia Parenteau  10:16

I think the advocacy from local groups like the Sierra Club and other we have a lot of environmental nonprofits here in Santa Barbara, you know, who were very vocal about wanting to move in this direction. That was the impetus for looking into it. And then we took it to our Sustainability Council Committee, which councilmember Sneddon is on and ran it by them. We gave a digest of what other cities were doing, and there are a variety of options when you're looking at electrification reach codes or ordinances. So you could have encouraged it and allowed a dual fuel development process or outright prohibited. 

Alelia Parenteau  10:52

We gave these three council members the option and asked for guidance. And they unanimously, right, Kristen said move forward with looking at a prohibition on natural gas infrastructure. And so we did that, we got a lot of feedback from the gas company on that initial presentation. We had taken a pretty light staff report to that committee because we were just exploring it and got a pretty ferment response from the gas company about how staff had not appropriately proposed the solution. I was prepared for that with our full council presentation. I wrote my one and only dissertation staff report, it was a twelve page long staff report that outlines the benefits that Katie just described. Just to be really transparent with the community as to why this was important. The emotional response to not allowing someone to build with natural gas is very strong, especially when talking about cooking. And so laying out the ancillary benefits was a really key strategy to communicating with the community why we were doing this.

Larry Kraft  11:59

Tell us more about the process for developing it. It sounds like you did an initial light version, and then you went into it in more detail?

Alelia Parenteau  12:06

Yeah, so initially, we didn't really know what you're getting into, right? We were just saying, alright, we can look at removing natural gas infrastructure from new builds. And we did a lot of a lot of research. Other jurisdictions, you know, around us have done similar ordinances. And so we gleaned a lot from their experience. Predominantly Berkeley and San Francisco that have both gone before us. And that was really, really valuable. But to Katie's point, it was different. We have a lot of reliability issues here in Santa Barbara. And so that was front and center for our community of how are we ensuring reliability for eliminating a fuel source? We had a lot of legwork to do around that. And, then we looked at other jurisdictions prohibitions. We went forward, not with the reach code option, which is what we've done before, but we went forward with a health and safety ordinance. It's basically the City's policing powers to in the interest of public health mandate that no natural gas infrastructure will be installing new buildings. And that's how we did it. It's not a reach code. A reach code sunsets every three years with the building code. And so you have to re up it every time. This one is in place until we repeal it.

Larry Kraft  13:18

Oh, interesting. Is the main reason you went that way, because you didn't have to worry about the three year?

Alelia Parenteau  13:23

Well, that's certainly a benefit. But, it's really because the ultimate intention was for the health and safety of our community. You read the ordinance that lays out a lot of reasons why this measure benefits our community. There's a climate impact as council members then pointed out, we are sandwiched between an extreme high fire zone and a rising sea. And we are feeling climate impacts dramatically here. And then the asthma instances that Katie just pointed out, and among other resource needs that we have here, this was a pretty clear cut health and safety issue.

Larry Kraft  13:58

With that approach, does the enforcement become different than if it were reach code?

Alelia Parenteau  14:04

No, it's still overseen by the Building and Safety Department. So they will enforce it through the permitting process, but we just don't have to re up it every three years, which is nice.

City Council role

Abby Finis  14:18

So Kristin, in your role on the council, you know, you have this ordinance coming in and what's your role in this decision making process? How do you all come to decide unanimously to adopt this ordinance?

Kristen Sneddon  14:31

I think there was a lot going on at that particular moment. And we had just really recently come off of at that time historic fire the Thomas fire, which we've had since then, other historic fires, each one more historic than the last and we'd also had the Montecito debris flow. In that event, when that debris came down the hillside, it pushed houses off their foundations and we had explosions and natural gas was a part of that. And for me, that was part of the decision making. When you have extreme high fire areas, you have debris flows, we're earthquake prone area as well. And, we know that that causes fires when you have those gas explosions. And so there was an emotional component to it of a community, wanting to make changes, and really committed to climate resilience, and that new concept of how we really need to be addressing this on all fronts. 

Kristen Sneddon  15:29

And then there was a misinformation campaign element, also, we got so many letters, that people would have to retrofit their homes to be electrified. There was a lot of misinformation about what this would mean to individuals and thinking, I just remodeled my kitchen, and you're going to come in and take my stove away. You know, it took a lot of political will, but also really, I have to commend a Alelia and the work that staff did, and such careful research and then the advocacy of Sierra Clubs of Katie. And we went through it pretty carefully at first having findings and I mean, there are over nine findings of natural gases, greenhouse gas contributor and coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. The health conditions were in a high fire area. When you started stacking those up and making the case for it, it became like how would you not do this and be a responsible leader in the community? And the community is set for these really ambitious goals to be as you said, you know, fossil free and carbon neutral and we're not going to get there unless we're making pretty bold actions. 

Kristen Sneddon  16:38

And, and then for me, it came to the point where when I heard that other local jurisdictions that were smaller than ours, were already doing this, and were ahead of us. And we're a fairly prideful, competitive community maybe and wanting to keep our place there. And that for me was both Ojai, is doing this, why are we not doing it? Then we had some builders come in, who do environmental building and saying, you know, this is really less expensive to do it this way, and safer and better. Having a groundswell of that type of people who've been doing this a long time because we're that kind of community who supports that just made it all that much easier to do. But there was this misinformation that we've just got so many letters and calls in from the community who just didn't understand what it was we were trying to do. And then I have to, again, credit Alelia for this outreach and education. I think one of the most favorite things that happened, I think that maybe Alelia could talk about it is that you can check out an induction oven and try it out. And maybe she could talk about that. But things like that, where people really see that it's not so impossible, and it's not a taking, and it's really a gradual, phased approach. And really, it's not even as aggressive as we could be. So I think it's going to be okay.

Combating misinformation 

Abby Finis  17:58

It's pretty incredible how effective the marketing strategies have been around natural gas that you can stack up all these benefits and consequences of natural gas, and just realize what we've been doing to ourselves and the possibilities of living without it. So that's pretty incredible. For the misinformation, where was that coming from? Was it coming from the community? Or was it directed to the community?

Kristen Sneddon  18:24

It was directed to the community from the gas company. There were texts that were going out to customers, and it was very widespread misinformation. And that was disappointing. I'd rather that we were really talking about the actual policy changes, it takes a lot of energy to counteract that. And people were rightly upset if we were going into people's homes and taking away there's stoves, right now today and said, "You have to retrofit at this great expense to yourself." That would be cause for outrage, and it just wasn't the case. So it was sort of misplaced concern.

Abby Finis  19:03

So how did you combat that Alelia?

Alelia Parenteau  19:06

Well, part of it was just a little bit of a non issue because they were just giving wrong information. So people were reacting to something that was not a real thing. As Kristen said the gas company engaged with a nonprofit called Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions that they are a primary funder of had them text. They texted every SoCal Gas customer within the City of Santa Barbara and said exactly what Kristin was saying that the City was going to come and take away your natural gas. They should click here to send a letter to council. And, that's why Council received seven hundred letters that were just exactly the same. It wasn't even accurate information. So we didn't really have to respond each of those. But, what we did do is we were very clear in the webinars and in our communications, our press releases, and we did social campaigning around it that this was for future building effort to mitigate future emissions and that it was related to our climate strategy. If we were going to go carbon neutral, why add greenhouse gas emissions into our mix? It was pretty easy. Once we had the nonprofits on board, they all used their platforms as well and they're a very big part of our community. So that was helpful.

Larry Kraft  20:18

Katie, did you get involved in helping to counteract this misinformation?

Katie Davis  20:22

I just want to point out the misinformation was broad, but it wasn't very deep. The people were not very informed, and they didn't show up to city council meetings. You know, I talked to someone who had signed one of these letters. When I spoke with them they actually supported the code it turned out. And, the support was really broad and very deep. There were something like thirty or forty organizations that signed on to a sign on letter. The architects were very, very supportive that AIA submitted a lot of letters and detailed thoughtful comments. We have a lot of environmental and social justice organizations in the area that signed on. There were renewable energy companies we have a lot of people who are employed doing solar and clean energy, and they're supportive. There was actually a lot more support than there was opposition. 

Katie Davis  21:11

Ultimately, we had many times more people speaking in support of the ordinance than against it at the city council meetings and the comments. Some of the opposition that was there initially, really didn't show up at the end. As people learn more about this they are much more supportive. And the people that know about it were passionately supportive. It's also noteworthy that Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions that sent those texts, there was some investigation of them by the regulators, because you're not supposed to just spam everybody. It's not even legal. So it's sort of a questionable move. And they didn't last that organization has since dissolved.

Alelia Parenteau  21:48

I didn't know that Katie, that's great news!

Katie Davis  21:50

Yes, they're not around anymore. Try to go to their website that had that incorrect report on it.

Builders and Architects support

Larry Kraft  21:57

Sounds like maybe they were misnamed, it should have been Californians for an Unbalanced… I also found it really interesting you saying how you had builders, developers that were saying, "Hey, this is better for us too." That's one of the arguments you often hear against it, that it's more complex for developers. That's really interesting.

Katie Davis  22:18

Yeah, the AIA in California has done a really good job of educating the architects and their members. They're so supportive and so helpful, and really committed to figuring out how to build in a sustainable way. That really did help.

Alelia Parenteau  22:33

And then in our research, we discovered as a surprise to us as well, that even the affordable housing developers, the major ones in California, were starting to predominantly and sometimes exclusively develop all electric developments. If the affordable housing folks can make it pencil, I think anyone can make it pencil.

Existing buildings

Larry Kraft  22:52

As we discussed, the ban impacts new developments. But, to achieve carbon neutrality over time, at least you have to address existing infrastructure as well. What are your thoughts? How do you plan on tackling that?

Alelia Parenteau  23:07

The existing buildings are definitely a tough nut to crack. We did reassure our community that we were not going to come in and rip out their natural gas infrastructure. And that's not the approach we want to take as a city. But we are really fortunate not only to have this carbon neutrality goal that sort of sets the stage for all of the decision making moving forward. But we also have our own community choice aggregator we, as of October, supply all of the city's electricity, both residential and commercial sectors. And, we have defaulted our entire community to one hundred percent carbon free electricity. In one fell swoop we decarbonized our electrical sector. That means that we can now invest in our local community to provide incentives to remove natural gas infrastructure from existing buildings, which is not a resource we had before. So we can provide financial incentives, education, workforce development, to do all of the things that are less cost effective when you're looking at existing building like panel upgrades, or replacing appliances at burnout. So that's really exciting for us. And because of that carbon neutrality goal, it's one of the two pathways we have to getting to carbon neutrality. You know, we have vehicle decarbonisation and building decarbonisation, and that's a main focus of ours.

Kristen Sneddon  24:21

I'll add to that too that I really do think that the history of the Thomas fire and the Montecito debris flow, and really a community need to be resilient and self reliant and moving towards micro grids and being able to have our own power and storage. These are all parts of that same big picture. That's something that I'm really pushing and wanting to move forward that we move closer and closer to that. These pieces all support that and I think you just had a community that was devastated by those events and then we continue to have these power shut offs and people are really dissatisfied with that. That was one of the concerns with electrification that if you went to completely electrify building, and then we keep having these power shut offs, you wouldn't be able to heat your home. We did have people calling in saying, well, I'll need to turn my stove on to stay warm in these power outages or to light my candles. And I think is we're, again, moving with the idea toward battery storage and self reliance, that you could actually not need either of those over time. That may be okay, in a power shut off without your gas, or without that external electricity delivery. I think that's the direction to be heading in with all of it.

Abby Finis  25:44

You know, we've touched on some of those benefits, and there's resilience benefits, there's health benefits, all sorts of good things that come along with these technologies. But there's also been a ton of improvements on the electric side of different technologies. I think on your website, have a really cool video on some of the upgrades that have happened in the electric sector. Does anybody want to touch on some of the examples of what we're talking about? What needs to be replaced in homes and commercial buildings? And, what are they being replaced with?

Katie Davis  26:17

I want to jump in too because what Kristen was saying about the resilience really resonates with me too, because with climate change and with the fires, it's also getting hotter here. A lot of places don't have air conditioning, we just have heating. We haven't really needed air conditioning in the past, but it's getting hotter, we're getting these heat waves. There was a terrible heat wave that caused a fire near me that burned down most of my neighborhood, definitely an issue. So with the new heat pumps, they can both do cooling and heating at the same time. So that's a huge benefit. I think that that would be something of interest to people in Santa Barbara, when they need to replace their heating furnace or switch to something that could both cool and heat would be great. So heat pumps, you can use these heat pumps for both heating and water heating. 

Katie Davis  27:04

For cooking, I recently made this transition when my stove died to an induction cooktop which cooks with magnets. It doesn't get hot, it's easy to clean. It's just a clean surface. It's very exact in the heating. And, I love it. I mean, I used to always set off the fire alarm kept going off whenever I cook. And I just have not had that problem since. There's no smoke, there's no heat, it just magically cooks. It's great. I mean, living without gas is actually a better experience, too. I think if we have the incentives and there is money being provided at the state level, maybe at the federal level too if they pass the Build Back Better plan there should be money in there too. That will help people make the decision when they have to replace heating or cooking or these appliances to go with electric versions, then you get to the retrofit, that way, it'll start becoming the default, I think.

Alelia Parenteau  28:04

Yeah, and a big need that we have here locally, and I'm sure everywhere has is workforce training. So currently, if you call a plumber to replace your hot water heater or your forced air unit, they won't necessarily recommend a heat pump. In fact, I just did this in my home. And I had to say, I would like a heat pump. And they're like, oh, yeah, that would work. But, they don't have the training or the experience yet to default to that. That's a lot of the work we have ahead of us. We're fortunate to have some regional partnerships that facilitate that, because you really need the salespeople to be advocating for it. Katie touched on this, but heating, water heating and space heating are the predominant sources of natural gas. Those are the ones for existing buildings that will focus on. But yeah, you've got to get that workforce trained.

Katie Davis  28:48

And the fire prone area, this is another reason to get off gas because it's highly explosive. It's methane. And, when I did have that fire in my neighborhood, the fire trucks wouldn't come down are in very narrow lane because they were worried about gas fires.


Abby Finis  29:02

Yeah, you guys have given me some different things that I hadn't even thought about, like the earth moving, shifting gas pipelines. I mean, it's not funny, I guess, but I don't think that we've hit on some of the exemptions that you're talking about using the induction cooktop. Some of the pushback sometimes comes from restaurants and wanting to have flame for different reasons. What are some of the exemptions that are included in this?

Alelia Parenteau  29:28

So we included restaurants, sort of blanket inclusion to cooking appliances specifically. So for hot water heating and space heating, they do still need to electrify. The reason for that particular exemption was that we were coming out on during COVID. And then on the heels of COVID when they'd already been through a lot. There was hackles raised out of the gates from them, but also there is some argument restaurant cooktops are just really, really used. The glass inductions are srufaces are a little bit more tenuous with those particular use cases. There's just not a lot of case studies where restaurants are using them. And so it's a little bit challenging to commit that particular industry to transition. So we did blanket exempt those. We exempted laboratories and clean rooms, because we would like to attract that kind of industry here to Santa Barbara, it is hard to fully electrify those industries. And then we just have a feasibility exemption. So if you can prove that a particular element of your design is not feasible to electrify, or would be cost prohibitive to do that you do have to apply for an exemption and the chief building official has to approve it.

Advice for other cities

Abby Finis  30:40

Sounds like you all are the ones who took the balanced approach here. And I think you've come up with a pretty solid ordinance. Congratulations to you. Larry's muted himself. But he's asking What other advice do you have for cities?

Larry Kraft  30:53

You stealing my question? Yes, so that is the question. And I'd ask you to think about it both for within California and maybe outside of California. 

Katie Davis  31:03

Well, I'll call out what Alelia said about defaulting everybody to carbon neutral energy. This thing with Community Choice Aggregators, this ability to have these different plans and people into the best plan. And if they want to opt down to something that's a mix, is really effective. And we've seen that happen throughout our region. I just saw climate presentation by 1000 Oaks, which is a very conservative city and Ventura County, and they set their default plan to one hundred percent renewable energy, the greenhouse gas emissions from their energy sector dropped by eighty percent in two years. So it was pretty remarkable what you can do with a default plan and let people opt to something else. And then if you can also encourage electrifying transportation and buildings, you're a long ways towards meeting these climate goals. And you have all these other auxiliary benefits of health and safety as well.

Kristen Sneddon  31:58

I would add to that too that I really think you hit on it with inviting these three guests. You really do need this trifecta of community support. And I know, Sierra Club and other environmental groups locally, have been talking about this for a really long time and building support throughout the community. And then really high level research at a staff level. I mean, I don't think you can clone Alelia, but she does is really phenomenal for giving us the information that we need and being really solid in all of her information that we can count on it. I think there was a time when it came to maybe council or subcommittee group and it just wasn't time yet because there wasn't enough of a community support yet. And it was before my time, but I think it seemed like it was going to be touchy bringing it forward. But, because of all the advocacy work, and then the careful research, and then really getting the council members, the facts and the research and that solid information that then there was that moment where we could all move forward, because that was all working together so well.

Alelia Parenteau  33:08

And I think I would just add that you don't have to reinvent the wheel, a lot of the work has already been done. And you can lean heavily on not only in California, but other places that have looked into it, to see examples. You know, there's all these different examples and iterations of this kind of work that you can lean on. And we have a very robust decarbonisation coalition here in California that's very eager to help, you know, move the needle nationally on this kind of thing. And they were a huge resource and asset to me in dealing with the opposition here and in Santa Barbara. So I would just say you don't have to do this on your own.

Katie Davis  33:50

I was just going to say there's a lot of great studies out there the LA Department of Water and Power commissioned a study that's really good. RMI is doing a lot of good work. So as Alelia says there's a ton of good information about the benefits of electrification.

Larry Kraft  34:08

Yeah, I was gonna say I love the the way the three of you have worked together on this. I almost see like a baton passing as it was going through the various parts of that process. 

Alelia Parenteau  34:19

It is kind of like that. 

Sustainability Department - interesting structure

Larry Kraft  34:21

The fossil gas ban relay here. Alelia, I would like to ask you about the structure of the sustainability organization there because as I've seen it, it's interesting in that it combines the sustainability work and materials management.

Alelia Parenteau  34:42

Oh yeah. In July of 2020, we founded our Sustainability and Resilience Department. We didn't have it before and initially moved two divisions into it that were the easiest to move. One is energy and climate because we were within facilities and that was because we were historically in facing. We had managed our own buildings and energy load, but when council passed our one hundred percent renewable electricity goal, and the carbon neutrality goal that shifted us to out facing, as did Santa Barbara clean energy. And so we didn't make sense in facilities anymore. So we were easy to move. And then Environmental Services at sort of toying with the name, materials management, which is solid waste management, was in finance. And that was sort of a weird location for them. And so they were easy to move. And so we were the first two divisions in the department, we are currently going through an evaluation process to see if anyone else should be moved into the department to meet these broad reaching sustainability goals, like the carbon neutrality goal the council has.

Kristen Sneddon  35:45

To add to that we were doing all of these major projects and individual departments, impacts of sea level rise, and then also our sustainability goals. And then we had just made big moves with our waste management to go to an anaerobic digester and separating out our organics from the landfill with the purpose of reducing the methane gas emissions. And all of these were in individual places. And then again, I really can't underscore enough, the life changing moment of the Thomas fire debris flow combination. And I know at the time that I was having a lot of conversations with our city administrator, that we really needed to be giving sustainability and resilience its own focus. And, bringing other departments into that focus and having it be its own. To his credit, and I think he could see the need for that. And we have the right people who could have a vision for it and make it what it needs to be. And it's in good hands, it remains to be seen what it will fully be. Again, it's that commitment to the focus that that's what we need for our community.

Katie Davis  36:55

And I also like to thank Santa Barbara, for having a sustainability committee with a subgroup of the city council members, because that provides a venue where these ideas can be vetted and previewed before going to the full city council. Not every city has that. And I think it's really important for cities to have that subcommittee that can look at these kinds of things.

Alelia Parenteau  37:16

Yeah, the value of that committee as a staffer is immense because I can go into the weeds with those three council members. And so when we go to the full Dyess, where there's seven of them, three of them are really, really well informed it can help bring their colleagues along. I agree, Katie, that is a tremendous benefit to the work that we do.

Larry Kraft  37:36

Oh, that's really interesting. Yeah, we don't have that. Something to think about.

Abby Finis  37:41

They're just gonna make it happen.

Larry Kraft  37:44

Well, this has been fantastic. What a great story. I love how the three of you have worked together.

Abby Finis  37:50

Thank you. 

Alelia Parenteau  37:51

Thank you for having us. 

Katie Davis  37:52

Thank you. 

Kristen Sneddon  37:53

Thank you. 

Abby and Larry debrief

Abby Finis  37:56

So what are your takeaways Larry?

Larry Kraft  37:58

Oh, I have a number. But I'll start with one. This was a stat that Katie put out there, that kids raised in homes with fossil gas, or natural gas, are forty percent more likely to get asthma, which is astounding. The natural gas industry, you can just calling it natural gas, gives it this lovely feeling when really, it's hurting health.

Abby Finis  38:26

You know, there's a lot of pollution, highways, road pollution, you know, from combustion, combusting energy sources that we just put up with for a long time. And we're on the precipice of changing that. And we can do that through electrification. And we can do that through decarbonisation of generating electricity as well. So that's very alarming, for a lot of reasons. But also, there's the vision of how it could be and breathing clean air is something that we should want for everybody.

Larry Kraft  39:02

Right. And as you've learned on the case of stoves, the newer induction stoves there seem to be better, better experience.

Abby Finis  39:10

One of my takeaways is just stacking all of the benefits of electrification that it becomes a no brainer. We're seeing a lot of cities pick up on that and move forward in what has becoming, you know, kind of an increasing fight from the natural gas utilities, but they're still moving forward. And it's because of this really good education around it and seeing the problems associated with natural gas that maybe we didn't think about before, as well as those benefits that come with replacing it. I just kind of love seeing the process from advocacy groups growing concern among citizens to getting it into the Sustainability Office, crafting an ordinance, educating council members and then unanimous decisions from these council members in the face of some strong opposition.

Larry Kraft  39:57

You mentioned these benefits. I mean, one of the things that struck me was Kristin that several times mentioned the Montecito mudslides and how it caused homes to explode from natural gas, which is disconcerting. We had some stuff here in Minnesota around explosions from natural gas, right?

Abby Finis  40:22

There are explosions that happen from time to time during the heating season especially, or carbon monoxide leaks that can be very hazardous to people. A few years ago, a high school here, just a couple days after I was playing some rec basketball there had a gas leak and explosion. Fortunately, students weren't there. It's a reality of working with a volatile fuel.

Larry Kraft  40:48

Yeah, one thing that was interesting to me was hearing how builders there and developers are saying, "Hey, it's actually easier for us, less expensive, safer, to build stuff without fossil gas infrastructure."

Abby Finis  41:03

I think that that's something that should be promoted. And we should start seeing more of that, because it's really important to keep those costs down, especially if there's some increases in costs for building more sustainable buildings. If those can be offset by reducing the amount of infrastructure that needs to go into those buildings, then you're not only bringing down the cost of building that, but you're also reducing those operational costs for the eventual tenants who will be in those buildings.

Larry Kraft  41:33

One other thing that really struck me about this episode was, as they talked about how they roll this out, and the amount of education that they did, around getting over people's objections, you know. They had events where people can try out induction stoves, working through concerns of electricity reliability, just pointed out the importance of doing something like this in a very well thought out fashion and bringing your community along.

Abby Finis  42:00

Yeah, it's really critical because, you know, there's a lot of misinformation out there popping up in places you don't even expect from Instagram influencers to fake people on Nextdoor. It's easy to dispel a lot of the misinformation but it's not easy to engage and have those conversations always having that really robust engagement and very straightforward conversations with people seems to be really impactful. 

Larry Kraft  42:29

Great stuff. 

Abby Finis  42:30

Yeah, good stuff, Santa Barbara. 

Abby Finis  42:34

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you're able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guests on our webpage If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  42:57

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis and me, Larry Kraft. Edited by me. Our Production Assistant is Maggie Morin. Music by ...

Abby Finis  43:05

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. 

Larry Kraft  43:08

Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.