Driving around Menlo Park, it seems as though Teslas and other electric vehicles are a dime a dozen. And the numbers bear this out: the International Council of Clean Transportation reports that 15 percent of all new vehicles registered in Menlo Park in 2016 were electric, placing Menlo Park fourth among California cities that year. But as the share of individuals and households with green vehicles rises, the city has to figure out how to make sure there are enough charging stations to go around, on both public and private lots.

One way to do this is to make installing infrastructure for electric vehicle charging a condition for new developments throughout the city. But just how many parking spots, and what infrastructure needs to installed to be ready for a future with more electric cars, are questions the city’s Planning Commission grappled with at a recent meeting June 4.

Ultimately, the commission voted to move forward with a complex framework for when to require developers to install electric vehicle charging systems and infrastructure in new or renovated buildings throughout the city.

The system would have two tiers of requirements, one for new buildings and one for renovated structures. Developers proposing to alter buildings would only have to add electric vehicle infrastructure for the amount of square feet they are working on, not necessarily the entire building. The policy would also be implemented in phases over three years, slowly increasing the percentage of parking spots that would need to be charging spots for electric vehicles. Building additions or alterations between 10,000 and 25,000 square feet would eventually need to have 5 percent of the overall parking dedicated to electric vehicle charging spots, while larger additions or alterations would have a requirement of 10 percent.

The policy also states that the chargers have to be universal for electric vehicles and can’t be proprietary – for instance, a developer can’t install Tesla-only chargers.

The plan is to bring the proposed policy to the City Council at coming meetings, with plans to adopt a final policy in August.

Commissioner Henry Riggs pushed for flexibility in the kind of charging systems mandated. “There may be a shift to a system that hasn’t even been envisioned,” he said. “I don’t want to put something in 2018 terms that would look like a goof in 2022.”

The discussion also yielded a pro tip for the parking-bereft: according to city staff, it’s a violation of city policy to park traditional gas-powered vehicles in electric vehicle charging spots on city lots, but there are no such restrictions for private parking lots.

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