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Should Valley cities ban construction of gas stations due to public health concerns?
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Living Spaces in Manteca is the “fueling” station of the future.

Fourteen percent of its 456 parking spaces are prewired for charging stations.

It is a state requirement for new construction in California.

And it explains why the Chevron gas station under construction just down the road was never designed to be a charging station.

It is because it is completely insane to do so in a high growth area where new commercial development is subject to the `14 percent rule for including prewired parking stalls.

Slow charging — as opposed to rapid charging — means  longer battery life with current technology. And whether it is slow or fast charging, it makes more sense to charge one’s electric vehicle when they will be in store for a period of time such as looking for furniture of shopping  for groceries.

Most people aren’t exactly enamored with waiting around for 30 minutes or so to get a decent charge on their EV.

Plus, the proliferation of charging stations the prewired parking stalls will eventually allow will change the way people power or “fuel” their vehicles. They will likely do it more frequently.

It goes without saying some firm will have to invest in the actual charging stations and install them. Also, just because Living Spaces has roughly 60 spaces that can have chargers installed doesn’t mean all — or even any — of them will become  reality.

It all depends upon technology, the future trends, marketplace, and how effective home charging will eventually be in future generations of batteries.

The 900-pound gorilla, of course, is the pending state mandate that will prohibit the sale of new  vehicles that aren’t zero emissions in California starting in 2035.

It is not an all-out ban. And it certainly isn’t a requirement that all new vehicles be electric.

There is the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle technology out there.

There are 2.5 million EVs on the  road in the United States today versus roughly 16,000 hydrogen powered vehicles with virtually all of those in California.

 They take roughly the same time to fuel as a gas vehicle. Plus, they also typically have a 300-to-400-mile range on fill-ups. The biggest problem to driving them is the dearth of fueling stations.

All of this queues up the question: Is the time coming for Valley cities to take a cue from Napa Valley cities and ban the construction of new gas stations?






Eight cities in Napa and Sonoma counties have banned the construction of new gas stations or the addition of more gas pumps.

Next door in Marin County, Novato imposed a similar demand last week.

There are dozens of new gas stations in the works in cities across the Valley.

There is a small but growing number of people who believe the cities in the Napa Valley are getting it right.

When brought up in City Council meetings, the response is not favorable for a ban anytime soon.

The reasons mentioned ran the gamut from the market is best situated to decide such things and they can’t restrict types of business that can open as long as they are allowed within a specific zoning to the decision is above their pay grade.

While cities can’t dictate what type of legal businesses can open within their jurisdiction, they certainly can impose limitations as witnessed through the adoption of the legal marijuana dispensary ordinance.

As for the decision being above their pay grade, the cities banning new gas stations in the Napa Valley are general law cities just most in the Central Valley.

The argument for implementing a ban on new gas stations is two-pronged:

*The pending mandate to end fossil-fuel powered new vehicle sales in 2035.

*The issue of removing underground gas tanks when stations go out of business.

Neither are straight forward.

Based on data from the California New Car Dealers Association, there were 128,855 new EV sales within the state during the first six months of this year. That accounted for 15.1 percent of all sales.

It is clear between the existing 36.2 million vehicles registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles including 560,000 existing  EVs, there will still be a large number of gas-powered vehicles on the road long after Jan. 1, 2035. Keep in mind existing fossil-fueled vehicles can still be sold after that date.

Also, almost all air quality mandates in California have never been implemented on the original adopted target date. Usually regulatory boards, acutely aware of market, technology, and production conditions have pushed back absolute implementation dates on everything from yard care equipment to banning the burning of orchard trimmings.

Issues with environmental damages to soil and water from leaking underground tanks at gas stations have been reduced immensely over the years along with the help of  a significantly stepped-up inspection and monitor program.

The real issue — as it has always been — is whether it make economic sense to repurpose gas stations to other uses when it requires removing tanks and doing any protentional rehab work.

The answer with most of the stations being built now — especially at high traffic intersection locations — is likely yes. That is even more so if they are able to migrate at one point toward hydrogen fuel sales while weaning off fossil fuel sales.

From that aspect, one can argue that we shouldn’t ban new gas stations.

But you can also argue there should be a partial ban — or a cap placed on the number of stations per 10,000 households much like cities have done with legal marijuana dispensaries.

 It would seem to make sense not to overbuild the supply of fueling stations to the point that those not at high profile locations suitable for conversion to other commercial users will no longer be economically viable.

We’re talking about gas stations away from the freeways and major intersections.

Generally, it is not the city’s business to assure the success of business or to even regulate how many concerns in a particular category such as convenience stores a city may end up with.

But it is the city’s problem if it allows a situation to be created that leads to serious blight issue down the road that won’t pencil out for the market to address.

Such blight deteriorates the quality of life in a community. It can easily create a public health and safety concern that the city will be left to address.