World-Famous Chef May Leave Palo Alto Over Natural Gas Ban

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May 16, 2023

A California city may lose out on a new restaurant from world-famous chef José Andrés because of its ban on natural gas.

The owner of the mall where Andrés was set to open his Mediterranean restaurant Zaytinya is threatening to sue Palo Alto over the ban, which starting this year prevents new buildings from having natural gas connections.

The restaurant relies on "traditional cooking methods that require gas appliances to achieve its signature, complex flavors," said Anna Shimko, a lawyer representing the group that owns the Stanford Shopping Center where Andrés leased space for the restaurant. Palo Alto city council members discussed the letter behind closed doors on May 8 but took no public action.

Shimko said the building's plans were approved by the city in 2019, years before the gas ban was imposed. She added that some of the appliances the restaurant staff needs "do not have electrically powered equivalents."

"Without a gas connection and appliances, Zaytinya would be forced to alter its signature five-star reputation," Shimko said, adding that if the ban is enforced, "Zaytinya will likely choose not to locate within the city."

Andrés is a renowned chef who has earned Michelin stars and owns restaurants across the United States. The José Andrés Group did not respond to a request for comment.

"This would be an unfortunate loss for the residents of Palo Alto, as well as a compensable loss for which SPG would be forced to seek redress," Shimko said in the letter.

Andrés himself advocates for fighting climate change. He created a $1 billion fund to fight climate disasters and teamed up with politicians to create other climate initiatives.

"Climate change is real! Food sources will drastically disappear," Andrés tweeted last year.

The backlash against Palo Alto's gas ban comes after the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a natural gas ban in Berkeley in April. The court said the ban conflicted with federal law.

New York is also preparing to ban gas stoves in most new buildings starting in 2026.

Eleven Democratic attorneys general urged the federal government last week to regulate gas stoves. "The emissions from gas stoves pose severe health risks, especially for sensitive groups and underserved communities" the letter, led by Washington, D.C., attorney general Brian Schwalb, said.

Published under: gas stoves