Proposed natural gas ban in new Sacramento construction raises concern among Asian cuisine restaurateurs

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sacramento City Council moved forward Tuesday with a plan to begin banning access to natural gas in newly constructed buildings under four stories.

The proposed ordinance has some Sacramento restaurants raising a red flag, especially among owners who feature Asian cuisine.

Many professional and home chefs prefer cooking with gas and for those who cook Asian cuisine, some consider a gas-powered flame a necessity.  

“It is an aromatic desirable taste,” explained celebrity chef David SooHoo. “There is no other word for that in English.”

The city ordinance does away with natural gas in new buildings beginning in 2023, aimed at reducing carbon emissions. 

“To decarbonize society and ensure that we can maintain healthy, livable community,” explained Jennifer Venema, Sacramento’s Interim Climate Action Lead.

Sacramento’s new electrification ordinance for new buildings exempts existing restaurants, but Asian restaurant operators worry about expansion plans and the loss of cultural traditions. 

“We pretty much shut out that segment of an ethnic restaurant coming into a newly constructed building,” said Frank Louie of the Stockton Boulevard Partnership.

City officials recognize that restaurants of all kinds use gas and open flames to sear meats and vegetables. 

The ordinance allows for temporary exemptions until electric cooking technology catches up. 

“We have over four years to be working with those folks before those exemptions go away so we are very mindful of considerations and concerns,” Venema said.

Restaurant owners and chefs say gas-fired woks are about efficiency as well as flavor

Fiona Duong went from serving 400-person banquets at her Happy Garden Restaurant to surviving on take-out business during the pandemic. 

“I believe that there is no equipment that can replace my wok,” Duong said.

She says high-temperature, flash-frying wok techniques cook quickly and in volume, which is not possible with electric stoves.

“Time efficiency and energy efficiency is created just because of the fact that we are able to use gas,” Duong explained.

Louie, who owned a Chinese restaurant for nearly 30 years, says he hopes a new innovation center could test electric cooking replacements before the ordinance is fully implemented. 

“We’re going to ask our businesses to invest in a technology that hasn’t been proven,” Louie said

If the ordinance is approved, Sacramento will join 44 other California cities that are implementing natural gas bans on new construction.

Most of the other cities have temporary exemptions of one kind of another for restaurants.

The Sacramento City Council will vote on the ordinance June 1.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't miss

More Featured

Latest News

More News