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Berkeley has long been a trailblazer and now one city lawmaker wants Berkeley to become the first city to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2027. 

It was back in September when Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new environmental initiative setting a goal to eliminate gas-only vehicle engines by 2035. Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison says Berkeley can reach that goal even faster. 

“We need a plan. We need to know when we’re going to get off these gas-powered cars,” said Harrison. 

She wants to ask the city to study what it would take for Berkeley to ban the sale of cars that run on gas or diesel by 2027. Used cars and the sale of trucks would not apply. 

“I think we all have to recognize the challenge we have before us. Dealers will make more money from electric vehicles than they make from gas powered vehicles. It will not affect our sales tax once the transition is made,” Harrison said.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin worries what this would mean for the city’s car dealerships – which each bring in a large chunk of the city’s sales taxes. 

“I’m not sure if 2027 is a realistic timeframe,” said Arreguin. “Our auto dealerships are an important part of our local economy. We need to do this in a way that is thoughtful.”

Arreguin says if the city wants to tackle carbon emissions, it needs to first convert its fleet of city-owned vehicles to all electric. “We also need to make our buses, and other vehicles electric as well,” said Arreguin.

He points out gas-powered cars tend to be more affordable than electric cars, raising the issue of equity. 

“Not everyone can afford a Tesla or the latest electric vehicle,” said Arreguin.

Councilmember Harrison says she’s going to refer city staff to look into this. But she says the goal is to set targets and have Berkeley lead the country in the fight against climate change. 

“We know this is happening right now,” she said. “We want to be at the front of the market.”