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San Francisco power outage: Mayor, supervisors rebuke PG&E over lack of communication

By KPIX Staff

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    SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — San Francisco civic leaders are excoriating PG&E over what they say is the company’s failure to keep them informed during and after a five-day power outage in the city’s northeast neighborhoods.

In a letter sent to PG&E Wednesday, Mayor London Breed, Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin, City Attorney David Chiu, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission general manager Dennis Herrera asked for information about the outages “that created significant public health and safety risks, as well as economic disruption” in the city.

The outage, which initially impacted 9,454 customers, was reported at about 9:15 p.m. April 26 and appears to have involved some kind of underground equipment failure near Clay and Montgomery streets in the city’s Financial District.

By 6 a.m. April 27, nearly 3,000 customers had their power restored, with more people coming back online over the course of the day, but according to city officials, power wasn’t fully restored until five days after the initial blackout.

At the time, PG&E said it brought in extra crews and resources to help get the power back on, apologized for the inconvenience and said it would continue to provide restoration updates.

That clearly isn’t enough for some of the city’s top leaders, who said PG&E failed to “provide crucial, timely information to emergency professionals and first responders, residents, and City officials,” according to a news release sent out by the mayor’s office Wednesday.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for PG&E to withhold or delay any communication that would help inform the City’s emergency response and management,” Breed said.

The power outage and apparent lack of communication prompted Herrera to renew calls for the city to take over PG&E’s “dysfunctional” operations in San Francisco.

“This most recent outage only underscores the need for San Francisco to buy PG&E’s electric grid in the City so we can reinvest in the system to ensure that electricity is safe, reliable, and affordable for all San Franciscans,” Herrera said.

“Unlike PG&E, we are a not-for-profit utility. That allows us to keep our rates lower than PG&E’s,” he said. “Rather than paying a CEO $51 million, as PG&E did in 2021, that’s money that we would reinvest into the safety and reliability of our system.”

Peskin, who represents the district where the power outage occurred, said some residents had to throw out medication, couldn’t access dialysis treatment, charge phones or even flush toilets during the outage.

“Candidly, it was all exacerbated by a frustrating lack of communication or accountability from PG&E, which will be the subject of a hearing at the Government Audit and Oversight Committee later this month,” Peskin said.

In an emailed statement Thursday, company officials said that delivering “safe and reliable service to our customers, including in San Francisco, is a top priority for PG&E.”

“We’ve received the letter, and recognize and understand the concerns raised by city leaders,” company officials said. “We continue investigating the recent local outage and look forward to meeting with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to discuss the incident.”

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