San Jose lawmakers to discuss earthquake preparations

The Bay Area, home to more than 7.5 million residents, is notorious for its predisposition to earth-rattling quakes. As a result, San Jose leaders want to ensure residents’ safety in the event that the next “Big One” hits.

On Tuesday, lawmakers are slated to amend the city’s building standards code, as San Jose’s local climate, topography and proximity to the Hayward and San Andreas faults warrant additional building protections.

The move also includes the adoption of the most recent California fire code, enabling strict regulations on fire safety, fire sprinkler, installation and structural design requirements, which will be applied to future buildings intending to prevent the spread of a fire in the event of a quake.

“Fire standpipe and hose systems, centrifugal fire pumps, private fire service mains, fire alarm systems, clean agent extinguishing systems and fire protection systems in clean rooms” will also be modified to keep up to date with this year’s most recent fire code regulations, according to city documents.

“Severe seismic events could disrupt communications, damage gas mains, cause extensive electrical hazards, and place extreme demands on the limited and widely dispersed resources of the fire department resulting in challenges to meet the fire and life safety needs of the community,” wrote planning, building and code enforcement department director Rosalynn Hughey and San Jose fire chief Robert Sapien, Jr. in a joint memo.

“Approval of the ordinance will ensure consistency of the city of San Jose’s building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, historical building and existing building codes with state standards and ensure that city codes provide additional protection of the health, welfare, and safety of local residents required due to local climatic, geological, and topographical conditions,” they added.

If adopted, the codes will apply to all construction seeking a building permit for any new buildings in the city starting Jan. 1, 2020.

California electric vehicles project

Also on Tuesday, the San Jose City Council will vote on implementing the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP), a state-sponsored program that allows qualifying cities across California to build charging infrastructure for electric cars. The program falls in line with the city’s Climate Smart San Jose plan, which intends to reduce greenhouse emissions and transition to 100 percent carbon-free base power by 2020.

“Studies have shown a strong statistical link between electrical vehicle uptake and charging infrastructure availability. Although correlation does not imply causality, the statistical correlation implies that if San Jose does not have enough available charging infrastructure, electrical vehicle uptake will be negatively impacted,” said Lori Mitchell, director of San Jose Clean Energy. “Thus, it is important that the city of San José has available and accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure to meet Climate Smart’s ambitious goals.”

The program includes the implementation of two types of chargers — level 2 chargers and direct current fast chargers. Level 2 chargers require a 240-volt circuit, similar to an electric dryer or oven, and can be installed in single family homes, multi-family dwellings or workplaces. Meanwhile, direct current fast chargers act as “superchargers,” requiring a 480-volt connection, and can be installed in shopping centers, rest stops and gas stations, which will provide a charging speed of around 100 miles of range in 30 minutes.

Under the California Energy Commission, which helps cities cover the costs of building the infrastructure through grants, San Jose will build an additional 1,400 new level 2 charging ports and 100 direct current fast charging ports by the end of 2022. Currently, the city has 142 direct current fast charging ports and 1,062 level 2 charging ports across the city. The locations for the new charging ports has not yet been determined.

“Regrettably, California is falling short on electrifying the transportation sector, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing air quality benefits to all communities. Overall transportation emissions are still on the rise, accounting for at least 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Heidi Sickler director of Energy and Environment at Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a leading business organization that supports the program. “In San Jose, CALeVIP funding is critical as new multi-unit dwelling units must include more electric vehicle charging infrastructure to meet California’s 2030 climate goals.”

If adopted, the agreement requires local nonprofit San Jose Clean Energy to contribute $4 million in the next two to four years, in order for the California Energy Commission to provide the city with an additional $10 million in a grant funds to support building the infrastructure. In total, $14 million in funds will be used towards the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the city.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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