Gas burner.
Goleta soon expects to join at least 74 cities and counties in California, including Santa Barbara, Ventura County and San Luis Obispo, that have implemented ordinances banning or reducing natural gas use in buildings. Credit: Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo

The Goleta City Council took the first of two votes Tuesday evening to approve an ordinance prohibiting fuel gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings in order to promote electrification and decarbonize buildings.

According to the item’s staff report and presentation, buildings are responsible for about 25% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of Goleta’s community-wide emissions.

At least 74 cities and counties in California, including Santa Barbara, Ventura County and San Luis Obispo, have implemented similar ordinances to ban or reduce natural gas use in buildings — both residential and commercial — and encourage all-electric buildings.

However, Goleta’s decision came just a day after a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously overturned a similar action in Berkeley, ruling that the Bay Area city had overstepped its authority.

Goleta’s ordinance prohibits the use of fuel gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings — which the city defines as a building that has never been used or occupied before or “a construction alteration that includes replacement or addition of over 50% of the existing foundation for purposes other than a repair or reinforcement” — and does not apply to portable propane appliances for outdoor cooking or heating.

The ordinance also ensures that staff will revisit the ordinance at least every three years for evaluation and potential updates.

Possible exemptions to the gas ban include physical infeasibility — when no electric alternative is available — or if including fuel gas is in public interest, such as in clean rooms or labs, or for backup generators in critical facilities.

Commercial cooking equipment also will be exempt, but approved exemptions would expire on Jan. 1, 2026, allowing time for electric appliances to be more widely available.

Attached accessory-dwelling units and junior accessory-dwelling units that are within the existing building footprint where gas infrastructure is already used also will be exempt.

Many of these exemptions do still require prewiring for electrification to allow for future conversion to all-electric when possible.

Several community members spoke during public comment and sent in written public comments, all in support of the ordinance.

“I agree with so much of what has been shared about Goleta being a leader on environmental issues, and this step certainly is in that spirit of our values,” Councilwoman Luz Reyes-Martín said. “I have been, of course, very moved by the climate change aspects of this and that there are so many other cities in California that are moving in this direction, but I really do want to underscore the public health issues. … If we are going to have new construction and new housing in our community, it’s our responsibility to make sure that the housing is healthy for the families that will move in there, that we are supporting a healthy community and healthy families, so that’s a very compelling community benefit that I see of us moving in this direction.”

Other than reducing greenhouse gas emissions, city staff said that some benefits of electrification include improved indoor air quality, reduced hazards to public safety in natural disasters, and reduced construction costs.

“I think that this ordinance and the steps that the city has been taking — they reflect our hopefulness,” Councilman Kyle Richards said. “You’ve heard them saying, ‘Think globally, act locally,’ and this is us thinking globally and acting locally. This is us doing our part.”

A second reading of the ordinance by the City Council will take place at a later date, and if it is adopted, the fuel gas ban would begin implementation on Oct. 1.