- Environmental activists have announced they're calling for a ban on purchases of new gasoline-powered vehicles priced over $50,000 in the city of San Diego.
- To get the measure on the ballot for a vote in November, they will need 76,500 verified petition signatures, which the group behind the action, Breathe Free America, says it will start collecting in March.
- The city clerk, though, says it recommends groups usually start a year before the election to get everything collected and delivered in time.
It's still early days, but there's a move afoot in San Diego to ban anyone from buying a gasoline-engined car that costs more than $50,000 inside city limits. If you live in the city but want to be sneaky and buy your pricey fossil-fuel ride somewhere else, you'd have to pay a new 2.5 percent use tax for the privilege if this plan comes to fruition.
That's a big if. For now, this proposal is nothing more than a notice of intent to circulate a petition to make these rule changes happen. A group calling itself Breathe Free America is behind the initiative. The group says that it will soon begin collecting the 76,500 verified signatures it will need to get the proposal, called the Clean Vehicle Initiative, on the November 2020 ballot. The group says San Diego "could become the first city to start banning gas cars and start a nationwide movement," which explains the group's non-San-Diego-specific name.
The Clean Vehicle Initiative would ban the "sale, leasing, or transfer of any personal-use vehicles valued at over $50,000 pre-tax" while exempting fully electric and fuel-cell vehicles. Any vehicles primarily used for commercial purposes, government vehicles and some special use vehicles would also be excluded from the ban. It would also only apply to vehicles manufactured after January 1, 2021. San Diego already has one of the higher EV adoption rates in the country, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.
Breathe Free America says the new 2.5 percent use tax would raise up to $30 million for the city and that it will start gathering signatures throughout San Diego in March.
That may not be enough time, according to a public relations officer for the San Diego city clerk, who told Car and Driver that it usually recommends groups start collecting signatures for ballot proposals a year before an election. The deadline for the city to receive all of the verified signatures and to file them with the registrar of voters is 88 days before the election, or August 7. The clerk said that the city did have a group contact them about filing this petition, but nothing official has been submitted to the city clerk's office at this point.
As for why Breathe Free America wants to ban the sale of higher-price-tag gasoline cars, the group's website says that this initiative "would reduce CO2 emissions by 18,000 metric tons in the first year alone." As a city that has some of the worst air quality in the country, the initiative "would be an opportunity to improve the air quality and health of everyone in the community," according to the activists.
Who Are These People?
Breathe Free America is not keeping its mission a secret—its slogan is "Reject Extinction"—but the people involved are not eager to reveal themselves. There are no social media links or contact information provided on the Breathe Free America site, and the website's domain name is protected by the WHOIS Privacy Service. Submitting an email address to the group so far has only resulted in getting a confirmation email. Perhaps once the signature collection process gets rolling, more details will become available.