Politics & Government

Tacoma to require electric vehicle charging stations

New commercial buildings in Tacoma will be soon be required to install electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots.

The Tacoma City Council approved new rules Tuesday that will require between 1 percent and 3 percent of parking stalls in commercial building projects to include charging stations for electric vehicles.

The new rules will cap the total number of required charging stations for office buildings at six, eight for shopping centers and 12 for larger projects such as auditoriums or stadiums.

The charging station requirements will apply to future commercial projects, but not ones that are already built or already in development.

Council members approved the changes as part of their annual update to the city’s comprehensive plan, a wide-ranging document that sets goals and standards for development and land use throughout the city.

The planning commission had recommended the charging station requirements, but the council eliminated them from the comprehensive plan update last month. Councilman Marty Campbell introduced an amendment to restore the requirements as a last-minute addition to Tuesday’s meeting.

The new rules governing electric vehicle charging stations will go into effect Aug. 10.

The charging station requirements won’t extend to residential projects. But the City Council is recommending — not mandating — that new multifamily housing projects set aside 50 percent of their parking spaces for electric vehicles.

“There’s no doubt it’s in there to make a statement,” said Brian Boudet, Tacoma’s planning division manager.

Campbell said electric vehicles are going to only increase in popularity in the coming years, and Tacoma needs to be able to accommodate them. He said soon the vehicles will become more affordable to buy and could help low-income people save money on fuel. That in turn could help raise people out of poverty, he said.

“I think we really need to take a look at what the future is going to be,” said Campbell, who drives an all-electric Nissan Leaf.

Five of the seven council members present at Tuesday’s meeting voted in favor of adding the new rules regarding electric vehicle charging stations. Councilmen David Boe and Joe Lonergan voted no, while Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Councilman Robert Thoms were absent.

Lonergan said he thought the issue should have been discussed more before the council approved new regulations.

Boe said he opposes placing yet another requirement on developers that he said could dissuade them from building in Tacoma. He said the plan to require charging stations was aspirational, but not realistic.

“We do not have a market that supports even the mixed-use requirements that we have now,” Boe said. “I don’t know if the market supports this.”

Boe said he would prefer that the city create an incentive program to encourage developers to build electric vehicle charging stalls, but not require it.