Bekele: Preparing San Jose for a future full of electric vehicles
A charging station at a city-owned parking garage in downtown San Jose. Photo by Jana Kadah.

When the San Jose City Council meets on Jan. 30, it will have the opportunity to shape green transportation in our city for decades to come.

The council will be voting to update our city’s electric vehicle reach code for multi-family housing developments, which will determine the accessibility and affordability of electric vehicles (EVs) for all future residents of these apartments. Greater accessibility for all will mean expanded EV adoption across our city in the short term, a necessity both for improving air quality and mitigating climate change in accordance with our Climate Smart goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.

As our state moves toward an EV-only future by requiring all new cars sold in California to be zero emission by 2035, the accessibility of EVs for multi-family housing residents is essential for transportation equity.

To create the most equitable and sustainable future for residents and the communities they will be driving in, we ask that the San Jose City Council require each multi-family residence with parking to have a specific parking space with an EV-Ready receptacle directly wired to that residence’s panel or meter. This should be required whether the parking space is included in the rent or a separate cost.

This will ensure that each resident can pay for their charging as part of their electricity bill without significant third-party markups, and will allow them to access the same time-of-use and income-qualified CARE discounts available to single-family housing residents. Additionally, having an assigned space allows residents to avoid the uncertainties and hassles of shared charging, such as having to move one’s vehicle as soon as charging is complete.

I am a member of the San Jose team of the student-led advocacy organization Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action. In partnership with allies like Mothers Out Front and the EV Charging for All Coalition, our members from all 10 city districts dedicate our time and effort to advocating for policies like the upcoming reach code because we know that if we don’t, our futures will be filled with degrees of environmental uncertainty no previous generation has faced — and which would remain the fate of every future generation to come.

We want the city we’ve grown up in to endure. That can only happen if we halt climate change, which we can in turn only accomplish by rapidly cutting our emissions of greenhouse gasses. Thirty-nine percent of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, the most of any single category. That means a 39% share of the wildfires, floods and droughts that have swept our city and the planet since our members entered elementary school.

We must take every opportunity we can to build a sustainable transportation system, and it is just such an opportunity that our city council has when it decides on the EV charging options that will be available for residents in all future multi-family developments.

In order to create an equitable and sustainable EV future, I and other members of Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action urge the San Jose City Council to direct city staff to require EV Ready receptacles wired directly to each resident’s meter, with no exemption for unbundled parking. We also encourage our neighbors to contact your city councilmembers in support of this plan, as well as attend the council meeting on Jan. 30.

Let’s take this opportunity to forge a brighter, cleaner and more equitable future, built on thoughtful decisions we can look back on with pride.

Mila Bekele is a student at UC Santa Cruz and a member of Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action. She was born and raised in San Jose.

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