The City is committed to achieving carbon neutrality through bold and thoughtful programs and policies that make it easier for our community to take sustainable actions. Together we are acting locally to make global change.

Below is a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach the City’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

These efforts include electrifying transportation, switching from vehicle to active transportation, improving infrastructure to support telecommuting, and decarbonizing the energy and building sectors. 

Pathway to carbon neutrality

Check out a few current efforts the City is taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our community’s three main sources:  energy & buildings, transportation, and waste.

Reach Codes – Building Code Enhancements

Roughly 40% of Santa Barbara’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions comes from the building sector, mainly because they account for nearly all of the City’s energy use. Soon these associated emissions will be greatly reduced with the launch of Santa Barbara Clean Energy, which will provide the City with 100% renewable electricity content. However, to fully decarbonize the building sector natural gas consumption must be addressed. Natural gas is primarily methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and leakage along the natural gas system contributes concerning amounts of GHG emissions. 

The State allows cities to enhance the California Building Standard codes to make them more restrictive, provided that required findings are made.  To date, over 40 CA jurisdictions have adopted code enhancements, also known as reach codes, that encourage or require all-electric buildings for new construction. By design, reach codes can be highly flexible and cater to a local jurisdiction’s needs through exemptions and stipulations. 

Our City is exploring enhancing local building code for new construction as one pathway to Council’s recently adopted carbon neutrality goal by 2035. Click here to see Council’s 01/12/2021 Reach Code Study Session.


Reach Codes

No, the City is only exploring Reach codes for new construction.Existing buildings, including remodels, additions renovations won’t be impacted by these code changes, even if the building changes use.

There are two central reasons why these reach codes can still  have a big local impact, despite not having much new construction. First, buildings are long-term assets which essentially “lock-in” their carbon emissions for long periods of time. Over time the aggregated emissions are significant. Second, it is important to provide a market signal to the industry that they should invest in electric technologies and advance the occupant experience as the State transitions to all-electric buildings.

Yes! We plan on addressing existing buildings with a different approach. We plan to use a combination of incentive and funding programs coupled with educational opportunities to encourage a transition to all-electric existing buildings as owners are able.

Currently, a significant portion of electricity in California is generated from natural gas. However, the State mandates an increasing amount of renewable content over the next few decades, ultimately resulting in 100% renewable by 2045. This means the electric grid is moving away from natural gas as an electricity resource. In Santa Barbara, we are accelerating that timeline by launching Santa Barbara Clean Energy in October of 2021 which will ultimately procure 100% carbon-free electricity on behalf of all of Santa Barbara.

This used to be the case but not anymore! Modern electric appliances have gained significant efficiencies and are actually up to four times more efficient than natural gas appliances. This means that they use significantly less energy than both natural gas appliances and the electric appliances of the past.

Promising advances are being made to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in natural gas. The most promising is renewable natural gas (RNG), which mostly comes from sources such as dairies and landfills. This biogas is cleaned up and injected into the system. Unfortunately, there are not enough sources of RNG within California to meet all of our current natural gas needs. However, RNG is a very good solution for interim and hard to electrify applications such as existing buildings, heavy industry and freight.

Another promising resource is hydrogen, which can be injected in small amounts into the natural gas distribution system. The natural gas distribution system can only handle small amounts of hydrogen injection before significant and costly upgrades need to be made.

The bottom line is that there is no way currently to completely decarbonize the natural gas system.

YES! Electric appliances have come a long way in the last decade. When we think of cooking on electric stoves we think of uneven and cumbersome heat distribution and an unpleasant cooking experience. New electric stoves are induction and provide incredibly even and controllable heat, while eliminating indoor air pollutants and burn risks (induction cooktops don’t get hot!) associated with gas cooking.

Additionally, space and water heating technologies have made significant improvements. Electric appliances of the past used to use electric resistance technologies to create heat and this was a very inefficient and expensive process. However, today we use heat pump technology which is up to 400% more efficient than standard natural gas appliances and can even provide thermal storage and both space heating and cooling, so can replace both a furnace AND an air conditioner.

Jurisdictions are allowed to provide exemptions to code amendments based on local context. Council will consider a number of possible exemptions that could make sense to implement here in Santa Barbara.

The City hosted two Reach Code Webinars in February 2021.

Below is the recording of one of the sessions in English and Spanish.

On-Demand Permitting – Solar Photovoltaic with Optional Energy Storage

The City is improving the permitting process for solar photovoltaic with optional energy storage system projects with On-Demand Permitting (ODP). ODP removes the plan check phase, as long as the proposed project meets minimum requirements. Solar photovoltaic systems rated less than 10kW AC CEC with optional energy storage systems less than 27kWh are now available through ODP. 

Get your on-demand permit through the Accala Citizen Access here:

Workforce and Resident EV Charging Permit Pilot

Access to reliable and convenient charging can be a major barrier when considering a switch to an electric vehicles (EV). This is especially true for those with longer commutes, as well as downtown residents without charging infrastructure access at home. 

To reduce these barriers, the City is piloting a permit program for rooftop electric vehicle charging at the Granada Garage, conveniently located in the heart of downtown.  This program features reduced permit costs with no active charging requirement, which means no 4 hour shuffle to avoid a ticket for staying in one parking stall too long! 

The program offers three permit choices to accommodate the needs of EV drivers. Workforce commuter permits allow charging during the workdays between 8am-6pm and offer a 50% discount on the monthly permit fee. The resident permits receive 30% off the monthly permit fee and full access to the garage 24/7.  The income-qualified permits receive a 75% discount on the monthly parking permit price.  

There are 15 commuter, 5 income-qualified, and 5 residential permits available starting February 1.

To get your electric vehicle charging permit and learn more about downtown parking go to:​.

Coming soon!