Ojai City Council to review electrification Reach building codes at Tuesday, March 22 meeting

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By Kimberly Rivers, Ojai Valley News reporter

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Ojai City Council will hold its second review of the city’s “Reach” building codes — primarily to increase the use of electricity over natural gas in Ojai — at its Tuesday, March 22 meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. A “Reach code is a local building code that “reaches” beyond minimum state requirements when it comes to energy use.

The council meeting is online. Meeting link and agenda are online at: 

Ojai’s Reach codes were adopted in November 2020, with some exemptions that the citizen action group — Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee — recommends removing because, according to the committee, the exemptions reduce the codes’ effectiveness in limiting emissions that contribute to climate change. 

The review is on the agenda as a discussion item. 

In its March 16 report, the Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee stated its recommendation that the City Council remove previously adopted exceptions “to protect the health and safety of residents, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and help ensure that new buildings in Ojai are built and operated at lower cost by electrifying building energy systems and reducing the burning of natural gas.”

The committee is asking the City Council to remove several exemptions in the codes, including the exemptions for Accessory Dwelling Units and affordable-housing projects because, according to the committee as stated in its report to the City Council, “The exceptions for ADUs and affordable housing units are particularly problematic, as they will disproportionally impact renters and low-income residents living in smaller units with a higher concentration of these toxic indoor air pollutants.” 

The Reach codes require all new single- and multi-family residences, as well as all nonresidential buildings, with some exemptions, to be all electric. Versions of all-electric codes are being adopted in cities across California in an effort to combat climate change through a reduction in carbon emissions as a result of fossil-fuel-based energy such as natural gas. 

At the city’s first review of the codes, staff reported that the City Council approved one single-family residence and five ADUs. According to the staff report for the March 22 meeting: “None were required to install all-electric appliances under the city’s reach codes, because the single-family residence had applied for permits prior to adoption of the Reach codes, so they were not required to install all-electric appliances, and exemptions apply for ADUs,” 

Following that review, according to the staff report, Ojai has “approved one single-family residence and no commercial buildings. The single-family residence was required to comply with the Reach codes.” Since January 2021, 20 ADUs have been approved in the city, none of which were required to comply with the reach codes due to the exemption.  

Other exemptions include new or modifications for restaurants and new or replacement swimming pool heaters. 

The 2022 California Building Code cycle is anticipated to begin later this year, as the updates will be released in July and be effective Jan. 1, 2023.

The Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee, which was originally formed by the City Council to advise on climate-action-related matters, was disbanded as a city ad hoc committee in July, and reformed as a community-based group, which includes the original city-appointed members, Jim Selman, Steve Colomé, Michelle Ellison, Phil White, and Brian Holly. The committee has added three new members since: Marc Whitman, architect; Justin Pennington, mechanical engineer, and Erica Helson, energy conservation specialist. 

Other items on the council’s March 22 meeting agenda include:

— a review of the city’s Housing Element

— authorizing the city manager to enter into a $49,000 maximum per year contract with California Consultants for grant writing and administration services and an increase of more than $100,000 to remove more than 100 invasive trees as part of a grant-funded restoration project in Middle Stewart Canyon Creek. 





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