Mayor London Breed Announces Legislation to Accelerate Electric Vehicle Charging in San Francisco
Updates to the City’s Planning Code will provide a designated pathway for permitting of electric vehicle charging locations in San Francisco, promoting adoption of this zero-emission technology by making charging more readily available to the public
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today unveiled legislation to update San Francisco’s Planning Code to create a clear pathway for the creation of new electric vehicle (EV) charging locations. EV charging locations are standalone facilities where the public can charge their electric vehicle, and can also include other amenities like restrooms, self-serve vending machines, and limited retail amenities. This legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Catherine Stefani, Gordon Mar, Myrna Melgar, and Matt Haney.
Mayor Breed’s legislation modernizes San Francisco’s Planning Code to expedite the creation of a more robust EV charging network for San Francisco residents and visitors. This legislation revises land-use zoning to move San Francisco from fossil fuel-based transportation to an all-electric future and creates a clear zoning pathway for sites with existing automotive uses such as gas stations or parking lots to convert to an EV charging location.
Enabling the expansion of a public charging network in the City to encourage adoption of EVs is a key strategy in Mayor Breed’s recently released Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP identifies strategies and supporting actions to reach net-zero emissions citywide by 2040, including specific actions in the transportation and land-use sectors.
“San Francisco continues to be a national leader on environmental policies as well as finding innovative solutions to address the climate crisis,” said Mayor Breed. “Getting the City on a path to a healthier, cleaner, and more equitable future will require significant investments in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. As we seek to transition to EVs and eliminate emissions from our transportation sector, we must update the Planning Code to make it easier to open standalone charging locations.”
The transportation sector is responsible for nearly half of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the majority coming from private vehicles. The City is focused primarily on reducing emissions from transportation by investing in the public transportation system and supporting walking, biking, and other non-car modes of transportation. However, for those trips that must be made by car, the CAP includes strategies to encourage people to make the switch to electric vehicles.
San Francisco has set a goal that by 2030, vehicle electrification will increase to at least 25% of all registered private vehicles, and 100% of all by 2040. Expanding access to affordable and convenient charging options will be the primary way the City supports these goals, especially for low-income households and renters who do not have access to at-home charging. Nearly 70% of San Francisco residents live in multi-unit dwellings, and most do not have access to off-street parking or home charging. For those residents, public charging anxiety is a very real obstacle to EV adoption, and this legislation seeks to address that challenge.
“Public electric vehicle charging stations are essential to ensuring widespread and equitable access to EVs across San Francisco,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who serves as the Chair of the County Transportation Authority. “The federal infrastructure bill includes at least $384 million for electric vehicle charging in California, and we have to be prepared to make good use of that investment at the local level. This ordinance will lay the groundwork and remove regulatory barriers for EV charging citywide.”
“This is a practical yet exciting step towards making it easier to transition to electric energy as we transition away from dirty carbon producing fuel,” said Supervisor Myrna Melgar. “I am grateful to Mayor Breed for prioritizing our Climate Action Plan goals, and moving on actionable, implementable tools to get our City to meet them.”
Under this legislation, auto uses like gas stations or parking lots could be converted to EV charging locations, helping to modernize fossil fuel-based infrastructure and more efficiently using the City’s scarce land. This legislation will also reduce delays and additional workflow for the Planning Department, while expanding opportunities to deploy publicly accessible EV charging stations.
Specifically, Mayor Breed’s legislation adds a definition of “Electric Vehicle Charging Location” to the “Automotive Retail” land-use category and specifies where this new use is permitted, either as of right or with a conditional use authorization. This legislation does not alter the current permitting pathway for installing EV charging stations as an accessory use at an existing site, such as adding several charging stations to parking spaces at a grocery store parking lot. The legislation also regulates fleet charging facilities, where zero-emission commercial vehicles can get “on the way” charging away from their home base charging location so that they can finish their delivery routes.
“Accelerating EV adoption requires access to reliable and convenient EV charging. In cities, especially dense cities like San Francisco, this starts with expanding where charging locations can be built,” said Jonathan Levy, Chief Commercial Officer, EVgo. “We applaud the City of San Francisco and the Mayor’s office for collaborating with us closely on this effort as we work to bring the benefits of greater charging infrastructure to this community and others like it across the country, and we look forward to continue to expand access to EV charging for fleets and individual drivers benefitting from zero emissions EVs.”
“The Mayor’s legislation to update zoning regulations to better accommodate EV charging definitions will help speed up the installation of chargers in the city and reduce the time of the overall permitting process,” said Elena Engel with 350 San Francisco, a local organization of residents advocating to eliminate carbon pollution and achieve a clean energy future. “This is critical if we are going to meet our urgent needs to reduce carbon emissions from the City’s transportation sector.”
Existing land use categories in the Planning Code were intended to address conventional fueling facilities and are an imperfect fit for this new use. They impose more appropriate limitations for facilities with a greater negative environmental impact than EV charging stations. Therefore, applications for an EV charging locations currently require an EV service provider and the Planning Department to work out a permitting pathway, on a case-by-case basis, using Planning Code provisions designed for gas stations.
Electric vehicles currently account for about 11% of new car registrations in San Francisco and need to be 50% of new registrations in four years. Based on a study conducted in collaboration with the International Council on Clean Transportation, the transition from fossil fuel to clean electricity will necessitate an increase of public charging stations to 2,000 by 2025, and over 5,000 by 2030. San Francisco has 1,016 public charging stations in operation to date, so it is necessary to continue to add more publicly accessible EV charging locations throughout the City.
Over the coming years, San Francisco will pursue a multi-pronged approach to promoting EVs. This includes expanding publicly available EV charging and the following complementary actions:
- Launch a public awareness campaign about the benefits of transit, active transportation, and EVs
- Develop a plan to spur zero-emission delivery, drayage, and longer haul trucks
- Establish a pathway to incentivize zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) for passenger service vehicles operating at SFO
- Advance the use of ZEVs, e-bikes, and other low-carbon modes for goods and meal delivery services
- Create incentives for the use of renewable diesel and zero-emission technology for construction equipment
- Launch a pilot project to test the use of accessible bicycles, e-bikes, and e-scooters for commuting and recreation
In addition to accelerating the adoption of ZEVs and expanding public charging infrastructure, Mayor Breed’s Climate Action Plan identified the following as the top climate solutions in the transportation and land-use sector:
- Invest in public and active transportation projects
- Increase density and mixed land use near transit
- Utilize pricing levers to reduce private vehicle use and minimize congestion
- Implement and reform parking management programs
The Mayor’s legislation will be heard by the Planning Commission before moving to the full Board of Supervisors.