Berkeley, California is moving toward banning the sale of most new gas-powered cars, but not as quickly as first envisioned.
The proposal calls for the city to phase out the sale of new gas-powered passenger vehicles, with at least 80% of car sales in Berkeley being electric vehicles. The conversion was first proposed to occur by 2025 but now aims for 2030 to be in line with the city’s goal to be fossil-free by 2030, said Councilmember Kate Harrison in an interview.
“As long as we end with the 2030 date, we would be in good shape,” she said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The proposal also would end the purchase of gas vehicles for the city fleet, converting it to electric cars only. The proposal also clarified the ordinance would only include the sale of “new” cars, not used cars.
The council agreed Tuesday night to have city staff draft an ordinance, referring the proposal to the city manager and city attorney’s office. The city attorney will review any potential legal issues in connection with the legislation.
Council members also indicated they received a confidential memo sent from the city attorney discussing the legality of such a ban, but it was not publicly revealed what the memo said.
Cheryl Davila, the former councilwoman who proposed the legislation before she lost her seat to now-councilmember Terry Taplin, spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, accusing the council of “watering down” her legislation.
“(Dealerships) should be selling electric vehicles in Berkeley; that can replace the gas cars for the dealers that are in Berkeley,” she said. “That should be something that should be easily remedied and with no loss of revenue to the city.”
Other changes to the legislation include the addition that it would cost the city approximately $9.76 million to change the city fleet to “green” vehicles over the next year, compared with $8.34 million if they were replaced by gas or hybrid vehicles. That includes $300,000 already allocated for the cost of charging stations for the electric cars. It would also include information on the availability of electric vehicles from manufacturers with dealerships in Berkeley.
The changes were submitted by Harrison, and the council agreed to include them in the proposed legislation.
The legislation also says that reductions in sales tax revenue from fossil-fuel vehicles would be offset by the sales tax collected for electric cars.
Despite this, Councilmember Susan Wengraf asked the city manager to return to the council with more information on the potential loss in sales tax revenue to the city, since Berkeley would be adopting this change earlier than at the state level.
“I don’t want to push business away from Berkeley,” she said.
Harrison, however, reiterated that the sales tax revenue would be comparable to what there is now since dealerships would still sell cars, just electric ones.
Some people speaking at the meeting applauded the council for such a ban, including Annie Leonard, executive director of Green Peace USA. She said transportation is a big chunk of fossil fuel usage and supports the phase-out of fossil fuels.
“It wouldn’t solve the problem, but it gives us a fighting chance,” Leonard said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in September a statewide ban on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. But Harrison, in an interview with this newspaper last week, said the “time is now,” to start making changes at the city level.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an interview last week questioned whether the initial 2025 goal was feasible.
“I think we need to explore how we can do this as quickly and equitably as possible, and transition our city vehicles off of gas. So as an aspirational goal, it’s a good one to set, but when the rubber meets the road so to speak, we need to get into the details,” Arreguín said.