Sebastopol exploring potential ban on new gas stations

By Zoë Strickland, Managing Editor, , August 6, 2021

gas pumps

Council directs planning commission and climate action committee to explore potential ban

Sebastopol may be following in the footsteps of Petaluma and Santa Rosa as it moves forward with exploring what a ban on new gas stations might look like.

The Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) unanimously passed a motion at its meeting on July 12 to direct its staff to return with a resolution prohibiting new gas stations and the expansion of fueling infrastructure at existing gas stations. As part of the resolution, the RCPA board is asking jurisdictions to consider implementing a similar ban. During its meeting on Aug. 3, the Sebastopol council unanimously supported moving forward with the creation of its own ban.

“I’m anticipating with the unanimous vote that other cities are going to be jumping in, and I would like Sebastopol to be third after Petaluma and Santa Rosa,” said Vice Mayor Sarah Glade Gurney.

Mayor Una Glass asked if the city could just clone the ordinance that Petaluma and Santa Rosa passed, or if the city has to spend time developing its own ordinance.

Kari Svanstrom, Sebastopol’s planning director, said that she’d like any potential prohibition on new gas stations to be included in the city’s zoning ordinance, requesting that the council send the topic to both the planning commission and the city’s climate action committee before having it come back to the council.

Svanstrom said that there are three zones in the city where gas stations are still conditionally permitted, and that enacting a ban would mean changing those three zones to no longer allow conditional permits for gas stations.

No longer allowing the zoning would be a “negative climate action,” said public commenter and climate advocate Woody Hastings — meaning that instead of proactively doing a climate-saving action like planting trees or prioritizing bike lanes, the council would be undoing an allowance.

“Thank you for taking this issue up,” Hastings said. “I certainly do hope that, given the climate emergency that the city recognizes we face, that stopping digging the hole that you’re in is the first step. It’s really the city stopping the process of accepting applications for and processing permits for new gas stations.”

Hastings, who said he was at the meeting where Petaluma implemented its ban on new gas stations and watched them try to address what to do with existing gas stations, recommended that the Sebastopol council take as simple an approach as possible to implementing the ban.

During a short deliberation period, council members all gave thumbs up to the idea of having the planning commission and climate action committee move forward with exploring the topic.

“I certainly think we should move forward with this. I’m hearing a lot of support for this,” said Glass, adding that, as a separate issue, she’s also concerned about gas stations that get put outside of city limits in green belts that exist between cities.