For anyone wondering whether it’s possible to run a city without dirty, dangerous methane gas, the answer has been hiding in plain sight in OC for more than 50 years. Since before Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, Leisure World Seal Beach has been all-electric, and Laguna Woods Village has been nearly all-electric. These two massive all-electric retirement communities are Orange County’s best-kept secret.
Above: Leisure World Seal Beach and Laguna Woods Village
According to Leisure World Seal Beach staff, developers of the 9,000-resident community decided to go all-electric in 1962 because of the safety benefits.
“With gas, there’s a big risk of people leaving on the stove, and a lot of Leisure World townhomes are side by side and connected with a shared wall, so it was a safety decision,” explained Nate, a representative in Leisure World’s onsite home sales office.
Leisure World developers were more right than they knew. In addition to fires and explosions, gas appliance pollution is connected to many acute and chronic health outcomes, including respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, poor birth outcomes, and adverse childhood development.
Methane Is A Danger To Our Climate & Communities
90% of the “natural” gas used in homes for cooking, heating and cooling rooms, drying clothes, and heating water is methane—a dangerous greenhouse gas. These gas appliances warm the planet in two ways: generating carbon dioxide by burning methane gas as a fuel and leaking unburned methane into the air.
New research from Stanford University finds that gas stoves constantly leak methane and other pollution into our most-used living spaces, exposing people to disease-triggering pollutants. Research has shown that more than ¾ of methane emissions occur while stoves are off because gas fittings, stove connections, and in-house gas lines leak.
Cooking with gas is closely linked with childhood asthma—a disease suffered by people of color and lower-income groups at much higher rates than the rest of the population. Research has shown that children living in homes with gas stoves had a 42 percent higher risk of experiencing asthma symptoms.
The gas industry knows that gas cooking is unsafe and has worked to hide those realities for decades while pushing gas stoves to keep making money.
“If we wait to promote natural gas stoves until we have scientific data that they are not causing any air quality issues, we’ll be done." - a gas industry executive in an internal memo
All-Electric Homes: Life In Laguna Woods
In Laguna Woods, Lee Goldstein, a retired optometrist and former member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors, says that his electric appliances are easy to use, work great, and are better for the environment. Goldstein explains that when Laguna Woods’ all-electric homes were built in the 60s and 70s, they had a gold medallion on the front door to convey that the home was innovative and 100 percent electrified. Nearby, Disneyland featured an all-electric “house of the future” at the time.
Above: Gold Medallion Home Badge from 1960s
Laguna Woods is home to 18,500 homes and is nearly all-electric. A small percentage of homes—the last few constructed in the community—have gas. For comparison, a recent search of homes for sale in this community yielded only one house with a gas stove, while the same search in Irvine yielded 153 homes with gas stoves for sale.
This existing example of all-electric homes is important because we cannot afford to build more buildings or buy any new machines that use methane gas as fuel if we want to stop the climate crisis. We must help existing homes replace gas appliances with electric appliances.
As Leisure Woods Seal Beach and Laguna Woods Village show, we have the technology to transition to a safe, clean all-electric future. We just need the political and community will to make it happen!