Electric vehicles are again in the zeitgeist, with gas prices skyrocketing and an increasing urgency to reduce CO2 emissions. And actually for sale. An opportunity to both have a new cool car and virtue signal “I am successful and care about the environment.” All of this is fine, except… In progressive planet-saving SF, no one at City Hall has planned for EV charging at your home.
SF has three primary places to park cars: The street in front of your house. A small, likely older garage. Or a large building’s shared garage. Your new Mustang-E, Tesla 3, or Rivian might be more remarkable than my daddy’s bitchin’ Camaro. However, when it’s time to top up your lithium-ion batteries, you’ll likely be unenergized in any of these places. While the Board of Supervisors and Building Department have spent decades eliminating parking from new homes (#transitfirst), no city agency has mandated EV charging in recent new construction. Also, there has been no plan for retrofitting EV charging in any of our three primary parking places.
Here’s my “state of the state” of EV charging infrastructure across the city and some ideas about what we can do to improve EV charging accessibility and reduce fossil fuel emissions, slowing down global climate change.
In Larger Shared Apartment & Condo Buildings Today
In San Francisco, condos and apartment buildings can be from 2-unit condo associations to 600+ residence buildings and corporate-owned apartments. SF condo buildings can be anything from conversions of the 1850s and 1860s Victorians to modern-day construction. Parking areas in these buildings come in every imaginable configuration, from one-car private garages to parking facilities designed to accommodate hundreds of cars. Some include space optimizations like mechanical stackers, car elevators, or valet staff.
In Single-Family Homes & Smaller Condo Buildings Today
In San Francisco, about 1/3 of off-street parking spots are in the garages of single-family homes and smaller (2-6 home) condo buildings. These garages are perhaps the easiest to electrify: lower maximum number of vehicles, fewer legal entities or owners involved, and a more direct benefit/relationship between the owner of the electric car and the investment for EV-enabled parking space. In addition, property owners can buy and install the infrastructure for their personal use on their timeline with their own money (and available subsidies).
On-Street Parking Today
Another 1/3 of car owners in SF have no garage and park their cars on the streets of SF (see photo above.) Upgrading street parking to support EV charging will involve the approval of many city agencies and public money to upgrade public infrastructure for all, but especially EV owners without overnight EV garage-charging. Expect progress when the politburo, er BOS, notices.
EV Charging Solutions
These are some primary and simple ways San Francisco can improve EV charging access for everyone. Reducing fossil fuel emissions is an integral part of slowing global warming. EV cars are a part of that solution and should no longer be orphaned and ignored by city agencies, the SF real estate community, existing HOAs, apartment owners, and developers.
Teamwork Makes the…
To the best of our knowledge, there are still no efforts between city agencies, the organized real estate community, building HOAs, apartment owners, and developers to create ways to help the city facilitate the retrofit of EV charging infrastructure in the most timely and cost-effective manner.
Let’s Make Adding EV Charging Infrastructure the CHEAPEST (but not HARD) for Large Apartments
Because of SF rent control requirements, this group is likely the most price-sensitive. The first significant challenge is persuading an owner to make an expensive capital improvement to benefit many tenants who may not yet request the retrofit.
The low-hanging fruit of this category may be newer buildings with more modern infrastructure and grid connectivity.
Let’s Make Adding EV Charging Infrastructure the EASIEST (but not EXPENSIVE) for Condominiums, TICs, and other Multi-Group Ownership with Shared Decision Making.
When many owners share building ownership and building decision-making, an upgrade that affects even one parking spot may require time-consuming debate, exploration, and approval. Buildings may also need to make upgrades for the entire building at one time or not make upgrades for any parking spot.
The city can create templated and easily understood permitting and approval processes for these buildings grouped by relevant criteria to help individual buildings through the process. Let’s not re-create the wheel or the EV charging retrofit plan.
These are some quick and straightforward ways San Francisco can improve EV charging access and encourage EV ownership. Reducing fossil fuel emissions is an integral part of slowing global warming. So what are we waiting for?