A parking garage at 520 Mason St. that has electric vehicle charging stations inside. Pending legislation could see them added to many more garages. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Charging ahead to combat climate change

New legislation could add thousands of new electric vehicle charging stations to parking garages

Thousands more electric vehicle charging stations could come to San Francisco under a proposed mandate for private parking garages in an effort to combat climate change.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee will vote Monday on legislation introduced by Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Aaron Peskin that gives about 300 private parking garages until January 1, 2023 to transform 10 percent of their parking spaces into electric vehicle charging stations. The legislation applies to those private parking garages or lots with more than 100 spaces.

The Commission on the Environment voted unanimously last week to support the proposal, which is viewed as a necessary step to increase the number of residents who own electric vehicles.

Environment Commissioner Mike Sullivan said, “What is being proposed here is one of the most important things we can do to move the needle on climate.”

He requested annual reporting on the added inventory of electric vehicle charging stations. He also pushed The City to do more on installing curbside charging stations to address areas in the West and South neighborhoods.

The lack of electric vehicle charging stations is a deterrent for people to give up gas cars for electric cars, according to city officials. The proposal has the potential to add more than 8,000 level 2 charging stations, according to the Department of the Environment.

There are currently 750 public charging ports in San Francisco across 200 public charging locations, the analysis shows. There are 10,500 registered electric vehicles in San Francisco.

An alternative way for parking operators to comply with the mandate is to install two or more fast charging electric vehicle stations, depending on the number of parking spaces.

Of the 300 total parking sites impacted by the proposal, there are 287 private parking garages or lots in San Francisco with parking spaces ranging from 100 to 749.

These sites would have to provide 10 percent of the spaces as level two charging stations, between 10 and 75 spaces, or install at least two fast charging stations.

A fast charging station is defined as “an Electric Vehicle Charging Station that supplies electricity at a rate of 40 kW or higher.”

One of several electric vehicle charging stations at a parking garage at 520 Mason St. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Lowell Chu, Interim Energy Program Manager for the Department of the Environment, told the commission that “residents will need access to publicly available charging stations in order to build enough confidence for them to adopt electric vehicles on a large scale.”

The proposal comes as San Francisco has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. San Francisco has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to 36 percent below 1990 levels.

Currently, 57 percent of trips taken in The City are done by walking, bicycling or taking public transit, according to Chu. The City’s goal is to reach 80 percent by 2030.

Transportation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in San Francisco, comprising 46 percent, followed by natural gas at 35 percent.

Of transportation’s share of the emissions, 71 percent is caused by private passenger vehicles and trucks.

Debbie Raphael, director of the Department of the Environment, said, “We need to get off of fossil fuels whether that’s natural gas in our buildings or diesel and gasoline in vehicles.”

“When it comes to diesel and gasoline we know the very first thing we need to do is get people out of cars — that’s the most effective thing we can do — and then any vehicle that is left on the road needs to be electric,” Raphael said. “We know when we ask what’s the biggest barrier for people’s uptake of electric vehicles it is simply charging — especially problematic in a city that is as dense as ours with so many multi-family homes.”

Violation of the law could result in The City revoking a parking operators permit.

Meanwhile, The City is reviewing nine proposals from vehicle charging station providers to open up the 38 city-owned parking structures to private car charging stations. The proposals are under review by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Recreation and Park Department, according to Chu.

Zac Thompson, the zero emission vehicles analyst for the Department of the Environment, said that “we are seeing and hearing from these garage and lot owners that they are seeing a decline in the number of vehicles that are parking there and they are seeing a decline in revenue.”

“Something that this ordinance could actually help them with is shifting the use case from private vehicle parking to vehicle charging,” he said.


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