Clean Power SF still moving forward


Dec. 19 marked the 100th anniversary of the Raker Act, federal legislation that specifically called for San Francisco to directly distribute the water and electricity generated by the O'Shaughnessy Dam to its residents and for their benefit. The city does so with the water, through the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, but Pacific Gas & Electric used its power and connections to take control of the electricity and keep it, corrupting the political system for nearly a century in the process.

"The result: San Francisco has paid through the nose to PG&E for its power and the city loses about $30 million a year in profits it would get from a public system," journalist J.B. Neilands wrote in the March 27, 1969 issue of the Bay Guardian, the first of dozens of stories we've written on the topic, spanning many unsuccessful public power campaigns, each one dominated by millions of dollars in PG&E spending.

Meanwhile, San Francisco's longstanding effort to develop a municipal renewable energy program has been stymied by politics, but certain aspects of the plan are advancing nevertheless.

At a Dec. 13 meeting of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), a committee comprised of members of the Board of Supervisors that has been working to develop CleanPowerSF for years, Sup. London Breed called for putting out a Request for Proposals to develop a concrete plan for building out local renewable energy infrastructure. LAFCo adopted the motion.

With plans for solar panel arrays or wind power facilities that would generate hundreds of megawatts of electricity for the municipal energy program, the build-out is a key aspect of the plan that could lead to job creation and stable electricity rates in the long term.

Earlier this year, members of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, a body composed of mayoral appointees, refused to approve a not-to-exceed rate for the program, effectively obstructing any forward progress.

"This does not get around the political problem we have," said Eric Brooks, a longtime advocate of CleanPowerSF. "On Aug. 13, from [the SFPUC's] standpoint, they put the program on hold." Nevertheless, "the idea is to work on all the other things, and get those things done."

Project proponents plan to bring on a consultant to hash out more tangible goals with regard to job creation, and then use those shovel-ready plans to bring trade unions on board.

The political pressure against CleanPowerSF, fueled by groups associated with PG&E in political alignment with Mayor Ed Lee, is formidable. Yet Breed and others remain undeterred. "We want labor to be a partner on this," Breed told the Bay Guardian. "We want to make sure that it's clear, and more importantly, we want it to be a strong proposal. ... My goal is to make it difficult for them to oppose it."


did an end-run around the people. The mayor knows this and, with his 73% approval rating, is right to resist carrying on with the Shell game.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 24, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

As far as I can tell, I don't think there's much sentiment either way. But I suspect the mayor will cave. He has bigger problems. The affordability crisis and the mayor's insistence on doing nothing to fight inequality is starting to take a toll on his approval ratings. The 73% approval rating is old now (and probably never was that high because it was an online poll). It was in the 60s, however, but now it's fallen to barely 50%, and polls show that he only narrowly leads for re-election. If things continue this way, Ed's in big trouble.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 24, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

If the voters voted something down a number of times that you were not for and then the supervisors did it anyways, you would be fine with that?

Or it's OK as long as you agree with the outcome.

Don't jabber on about the environment and your self referential importance.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 25, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

not clean/public power, apparently.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 25, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

but it is futile with the true believers.

8 Washington is a good example.

This is typical of the true believer Greg like methodology, when things go your way it is democracy in action, when not going your way it's the conspiracy.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 25, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

It wouldn't matter if Tom Ammiano were in office vs. Ed Lee. Neither the mayor nor his commissioners have the power to unilaterally deny or cancel building permits based on their like or dislike of a project, if a permit meets the requirements of local and state law it must be issued or the owners can sue and a judge would order the permit issued. Tom Ammiano can't tell landlords not to Ellis their property because state law prevents that. He can't force tech companies to cancel their shuttles or expand rent control. He couldn't expropriate anything or mandate anything - the boom will roll on until it expires due to its own momentum and it doesn't matter one iota who holds political office.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 25, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

The true believers could then blame some other part of the conspiracy against them.

The majority of people in office are Christian and yet fringe right wingers complain they are persecuted.

The majority of people in office in SF are on the left, and yet the most persecuted people in town are leftists.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 7:32 am

agreed that inequality was undesirable (and we do not).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 25, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

The progressive view is that we should take public power from PGE and hand it over to labor?

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 24, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

Does the reporter of this article really know how the electricity generated by the O'Shaughnessy Dam is used by PG&E? Please do your homeowrk and do not report false information. The Hetch Hetchy power is not sold to PG&E at all. You can check the operational agreement between City of San Francisco with PG&E and operational agreement betweeb City of San Francisco between CAISO. The energy purchase/sell is transparency. Report wrong information is not a reporter should do.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 30, 2013 @ 8:31 am

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