Mayors for building electrification: Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft

A champion for affordable and sustainable development, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft is leading the way for all-electric buildings in her home city Alameda, California.

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Emily McCabe

Clean energy intern

As a city located on an island in the Bay Area, Alameda is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft is highly aware of this fact: “We view sea level rise as an existential threat. We need to be working now – in fact, we needed to be working yesterday – for policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ashcraft grew up in Alameda, California, the city that she now serves as mayor. Under her leadership, Alameda is encouraging all-electric new construction that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help ensure a more livable climate.

Even before being elected mayor, Ashcraft was heavily involved in public service. As a planning board member, and then as a council member, Ashcraft focused on bringing sustainable development to Alameda. She worked closely with developers who wanted to do projects in the city. While she had their attention, she told them: “We need to start phasing out the use of gas appliances in our buildings.” 

Now, as mayor, she serves on the League of California Cities statewide policy committee on Housing, Community, and Economic Development, where she continues to push the conversation of building electrification to her colleagues.

Under the leadership of Mayor Ashcraft, Alameda passed landmark ordinances to encourage clean energy homes. In 2021, the city passed a local law requiring all new development to be built with electric technologies instead of those powered by fossil fuels. During our interview, Ashcraft spoke with admiration about a beautiful new residential building in the city that is all-electric. She also mentioned that buildings in the city are powered by 100% clean energy. This is because Alameda Municipal Power, the utility that serves the city, uses a combination of geothermal, hydroelectric and wind energy, and landfill gas to power homes and buildings. Now, when a new building is built with electric technologies, it is completely carbon-free.

Although requiring all-electric new construction is an incredible achievement, Mayor Ashcraft recognizes that modifying existing buildings is trickier. Much of the housing stock in Alameda is Victorian, including her own home. Still, the city is continuing to lead the way on building electrification. For example, the city’s Equitable Building Decarbonization Plan will reach a final draft in September of this year. The plan’s intention is to shift natural gas use in existing buildings to electric technologies. It includes new policies and programs, expanded financing options, rebates for electric technologies and community outreach. Ashcraft believes that all aspects of the plan are essential to its success: “Community education and outreach are important – sometimes people don’t even know that these options are available to them.”

In her personal life, Ashcraft is leading by example and creating her own clean energy home. Even though her house was built in the 19th century, Ashcraft was able to successfully replace her own natural gas water heater with an electric one.

For Mayor Ashcraft, climate action is a top priority, and building electrification is not the only policy change that needs to happen. “We’ve got to make sure that we have good public transportation and access to it… we need to make sure that we have electric vehicle charging infrastructure in place.” 

As for the new all-electric development projects, Ashcraft has a laser focus on equity. She prioritizes affordable housing development, and is always thinking of people with lower incomes and those who are renting. “The benefits of electrification are there for all of us, health wise and environmentally, so we want to make it accessible for all of us”.

Even during her childhood in Alameda, Mayor Ashcraft was environmentally conscious. She recalls hanging clothes out to dry with her mother instead of using gas-powered washers and dryers.  Now, as she serves her home city, she is supporting the development of the all-electric buildings of the future. 

I don’t fear change. These new buildings are environmentally friendly and all-electric. I’m excited. Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
Mayor of Alameda

Emily McCabe

Clean energy intern

Emily McCabe is an undergraduate at the University of California Berkeley studying Society and Environment. During her college career, she has worked to promote environmental education at high school and college campuses around the globe. Emily is passionate about a wide range of environmental issues, and has specifically worked on the issue of plastic waste from both a business and policy perspective through student research. Most recently, as a Clean Energy Intern with Environment America, Emily testified in support of climate policies for the state of California. In this blog series, Emily has worked to advance building electrification at the city level with outreach to local elected officials.

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