A group of city staff.


Though jurisdictions can each have their own approach, reach code development and adoption tends to follow a common, general process.

This page discusses the general steps that most local governments will follow to develop and adopt a reach code.

Develop idea for a reach code

Ideas for reach codes can come from several places. In some cases, local governments may have clear direction from an elected body, from a General Plan policy, or from a Climate Action Plan measure.

Even when a reach code idea is not clearly stated, General Plans and Climate Action Plans are good starting places to help identify what kinds of efforts will be most consistent with a jurisdiction’s goals and objectives.

Cities and towns may also want to coordinate with neighboring jurisdictions’ efforts in order to provide some consistency to help with implementation and enforcement. Model ordinances, if they exist, may be another good resource. See Other Resources for examples.

Work with stakeholders

Engagement with stakeholders is essential throughout the reach code development process. Both internal stakeholders, like local government staff and officials, and external stakeholders, like local developers, need to be considered.

Key stakeholders include, but are not limited to:

  • Elected officials
  • Building Official and building department staff
  • Any other staff who will be involved in implementing and enforcing the reach code
  • Local developers and contractors
  • Environmental advocacy groups
  • Energy code consultants
  • Residents and homeowners’ associations
  • Representatives of equity priority communities and community based organizations

Find or obtain a cost-effectiveness study

All reach codes must be shown to be cost effective. To be cost effective, the money saved from the reduced energy costs needs to be enough to cover the initial cost within a reasonable period of time. Cost effectiveness is usually demonstrated through a study prepared by a consultant.

Local governments can use any study that applies to the climate zone in which the jurisdiction is located. (Find out your climate zone.)

A cost-effectiveness study can be funded directly by a city, but most studies are developed under the auspices of the Statewide Investor Owned Utilities Codes and Standards Team (Statewide IOU Team) and funded by ratepayer funds.

You can find cost-effectiveness studies that have been completed through:

If you don’t find a study on an item your jurisdiction needs, you can request a cost effectiveness study from the Statewide IOU Team by emailing: info@LocalEnergyCodes.com. If the Statewide IOU Team cannot accommodate a local government’s request, BayREN may be able to fund a cost-effectiveness study. Contact codes@bayren.org for more information.

Develop and draft an ordinance

The cost-effectiveness study tells what measures may be legally required as part of a reach code, but the reach code ordinance itself still needs to be developed. Ordinances often include information on:

  • The purpose of the reach code
  • What types of buildings and actions trigger the reach code
  • Whether there are any exceptions to or exemptions from reach code requirements
  • Relevant definitions and interpretations
  • Any additional administrative requirements

Often, a good way to start when developing an ordinance is by looking at a model ordinance or an ordinance adopted by another jurisdiction. This can then be reviewed and customized as needed.

Developing a reach code ordinance will frequently involve working with the City Attorney, the Chief Building Official, the Planning Director, and other city staff who may be involved in implementing or enforcing the reach code.

Providing opportunities for input from both internal and external stakeholders while developing an ordinance can help to identify and work out potential areas of conflict early, to smooth the public process.

In addition, local governments can ask the California Energy Commission to review a draft ordinance and provide feedback before or at the start of the public process, so that any issues can be resolved before the ordinance is adopted.

Public process and revisions

Each jurisdiction will have its own public process for a reach code. In some cases, jurisdictions may have sustainability committees or climate task forces to work with, while in other communities the City Council may wish to drive the process.

What will be similar across jurisdictions is that, at this point, the draft ordinance will become public, often together with a staff report.

Local committees, residents, businesses, and other stakeholders will all have the opportunity to review the draft and provide comments and suggest revisions. In some cases, the draft ordinance may be revised and released for a second, or even third, round of comments, until the ordinance is ready for formal action.

Formal adoption process

Since a reach code is a local ordinance, it is adopted by the City Council, Town Council, or County Board of Supervisors using the usual procedure for local ordinances.

This requires public hearings, public notice in advance of the public hearings, and both a first reading of the ordinance and second reading of the ordinance at a public meeting. Some jurisdictions may include either the first reading or the second reading of the ordinance on a consent agenda.

Approval by and filing with state agencies

California Energy Commission (CEC)

Once the local reach code is adopted, but before it can be enforced, the ordinance must be submitted to the CEC. The CEC will verify that the reach code is at least as stringent as the California Energy Code and then post the reach code and accept comments on it for 60 days.

At the regularly scheduled business meeting closest to the end of the public comment period, the CEC will consider the reach code. CEC staff typically present the application, and Commissioners deliberate and vote. Local government staff do not need to attend this meeting, but can work with CEC staff to make arrangements to call in.

To submit a reach code to the CEC, a local government should create a ZIP file with the following attachments and email it to Danuta Drozdowicz at danuta.drozdowicz@energy.ca.gov and Peter Strait at Peter.Strait@energy.ca.gov.

  • Attachment 1: Cover Letter to CEC (Download a template.)
  • Attachment 2: Copy of final Staff Report
  • Attachment 3: Copy of signed Ordinance
  • Attachment 4: Supplemental documents, such as guides for applicants (this is optional, but helps illustrate the adopted policy)
  • Attachment 5: Copy of cost effectiveness study used. If multiple, a brief overview of which study was used for which portion of the policy is recommended.
  • Attachment 6: Notice of Exemption (Download a template.)
  • Attachment 7: Letter from Chief Building Official (Download a template.)

California Building Standards Commission (BSC)

All reach codes and other amendments to the California Building Standards (California Code of Regulations, Title 24) need to be filed with the BSC. One way to do this is to share the following documents in an email to ordinancefilings@dgs.ca.gov:

  • Attachment 1: Cover Letter (Download a template.)
  • Attachment 2: Proof of publication (as required by your jurisdiction)
  • Attachment 3: Copy of final Staff Report
  • Attachment 4: Copy of signed Ordinance

For more information, visit the BSC website.