Will 49er tailgating burn the Alice Griffith Housing Project?


By Sarah Phelan

Residents of the Alice Griffith Housing project were a tad upset when they learned that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s retooled effort to stop the 49ers from dumping San Francisco could involve their homes being demolished. A resolution that came before the Board the day before the Mayor’s Sex scandal hit, included the surprising news that over the past 18 months developer Lennar, working in cooperation with the 49ers and the City, had created a preliminary plan that would provide a world-class stadium 49ers stadium and related mixed-use development. This development would consist of about 6,500 housing units, including affordable units and the replacement of the Alice Griffith Public Housing Development.
According to a letter from Newsom that was included with the Feb. 6 Board of Supes package, “The city and the Bayview in particular will benefit from extensive jobs and economic development opportunities, over one thousand units of affordable housing–including replacing the Alice Griffith housing project for the benefit of Alice Griffith residents.”
The problem was that Newsom hadn’t share this vision with the Alice Griffith residents and the few that showed up to the Feb. 6 Board meeting, which took place during the workday, expressed outrage at being left out of the loop.
As one lady said, waving a copy of the resolution in one hand, as she pounded the public comment lectern with the other “It’s not OK to have this in here without my input.”
Another, a single mother with four kids, recalled having to fight for four years to get into the project, in the first place. “I don’t want you guys to knock it down,” she said.
As Lavelle Shaw of the Alice Griffith Tenants Association told the Guardian, ” a lot of things seem to be going in through the back door. We want to be at the table for the replacement housing. And it can’t just be affordable. We want it to be low-income.”
As a result of all this uproar, Sup. Sophie Maxwell demanded a hearing, during which the resolution was reworded, reports Shaw, to give AG residents greater input. That said, Shaw urges folks to show up at the Feb. 13 Board of Supervisors meeting, to express their feelings, fears and desires.

Don’t know about you, but i sure wouldn’t want to be roasting hot dogs when displaced folks descend

Bayview’s perspective


› steve@sfbg.com
Consider the perspective of Marie Harrison and her political allies in Bayview — including the owners and writers at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper — whose support for Proposition 90 has put them at odds with the progressive political community.
Harrison, who is running for supervisor against incumbent Sophie Maxwell, lives on Quesada Avenue just off Third Street, in a diverse neighborhood bustling with vitality. Residents have transformed the wide median on her street into a gorgeous community garden. Almost all the houses are owner-occupied and well maintained.
“Blight” is not a word that most people would use to describe this neighborhood. Yet that is the word city officials have used to justify their decision earlier this year to turn this neighborhood and the rest of Bayview–Hunters Point into the biggest redevelopment area in city history over the strident objections of Harrison and others.
Redevelopment is a process that collects annual property tax increases into a fund that the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency uses to subsidize favored development projects, usually working with big developers and often bundling properties together for them to use, seizing the land by eminent domain if need be.
“The Redevelopment Agency is like a monster,” Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, a physician who covers the environment for the Bay View, told the Guardian while sitting in Harrison’s house.
For Harrison and others who moved to this neighborhood after being forced out of the Fillmore by another redevelopment effort that began in the ’60s, redevelopment means one thing: displacement of existing residents, or “repeopling,” a disturbing term that Harrison said she found in some Redevelopment Agency literature. They see it as simply a land grab by greedy developers working in cahoots with Mayor Gavin Newsom and the political establishment.
“Yeah, we’d like to see our community built up and look nice. But does that mean I don’t get to live here?” said Harrison, who, like many Bayview residents, owns her home but struggles to get by: she works, and her husband has two jobs, but they still live month to month.
It is that fear that caused Harrison to support Prop. 90 even after editors at the Guardian and other progressive voices tried to convince her that the state measure’s damaging aspects far outweigh its protections against eminent domain.
While Harrison admitted, “I see some things in Prop. 90 that scare the shit out of me,” she said, “desperation has set in.
“They’ve taken all hope. I see that I have to protect my community. Somebody has to remove the fear…. In this community, [Prop. 90 is] a hope and a chance.”
Where Maxwell and city leaders who favor redevelopment see progress, Harrison and others see an insidious conspiracy to take control of Bayview away from the people who live there.
And the narrative that city government is out to get Bayview has recently been reinforced by other actions: Newsom’s announcement that he wants to use Bayview–Hunters Point as a staging ground for the 2016 Olympics; expanded plans for upscale housing development around Candlestick Park; City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s rejection of a seemingly successful referendum drive challenging the Bayview Hunters Point Redevelopment Plan and the refusal of the Board of Supervisors to allow a vote on the matter; city staffers issuing regular citations to Bayview property owners to make improvements or risk fines; the Housing Authority’s failure to properly maintain the projects it manages; Herrera’s decision this month to seek civil injunctions preventing the free association of purported members of the Oakdale Mob; and the Redevelopment Agency’s Oct. 17 decision to let Lennar Corp. out of its pledge to build rental units on Parcel A of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.
Add it all up, and it becomes understandable why many Bayview residents buy into the vision that Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff has repeatedly put on the front page of his newspaper: “the bulldozers are at our borders,” just waiting to turn Bayview into one more white yuppie enclave and make a handful of politically connected developers rich in the process.
Officials strenuously deny this is true, arguing that this redevelopment project is all about helping the area by building more affordable housing, infrastructure, and open space and noting how the plan strictly forbids the seizure of residential property by eminent domain.
“The agency has that historical baggage, but we haven’t done anything like that in many years,” Marcia Rosen, director of the Redevelopment Agency, told us.
That hasn’t allayed fears in Bayview or among its allies outside the community, most notably Brian Murphy O’Flynn, whose North Beach property was seized by the city in 2003 to be turned into a park.
“I thought, ‘These people are getting steamrolled,’” O’Flynn told us. “The people there are going to be displaced…. It comes down to money. [Powerful people] want that neighborhood. It’s right on the water, and it’s going to make some people rich.”
Nonetheless, O’Flynn has concerns about the other impacts of Prop. 90, so much so that he has parted ways with his Bayview allies on the measure and refused requests by Prop. 90 advocates to join the campaign.
“I have no position on 90,” O’Flynn said. “But I understand how it came about.” SFBG

PG&E’s candidates


EDITORIAL We’ve seen plenty of allies of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We’ve seen a few PG&E bagmen, PG&E shills, and PG&E fronts. But there’s never been anyone elected to the board in our 40 years who was actually a paid attorney for PG&E.
This year there’s at least one and possibly two candidates who have worked as PG&E lawyers — and that alone should disqualify them ever from holding public office in San Francisco. The most obvious and direct conflict involves Doug Chan, the former police commissioner who is seeking a seat from District 4. Documents on file with the California Public Utilities Commission show that Chan’s law firm, Chan, Doi, and Leal, has received more than $200,000 in fees from PG&E in just the past two years.
Chan won’t come to the phone to discuss what he did for the utility, won’t respond to questions posed through his campaign manager and press secretary, won’t return calls to his law firm, and thus won’t give the public any idea what sorts of conflicts of interest he’d have if he took office.
This is nothing new for Chan: back in 2002 he put his name on PG&E campaign material opposing public power and earned a spot in the Guardian’s Hall of Shame.
Then there’s Rob Black, who worked as an attorney for Nielsen Merksamer, the law firm that handled all of the dirty dealings for the anti-public-power campaign in 2002. Black worked with Jim Sutton, his former law professor and PG&E’s main legal operative, during that period but insists he did no work on anything related to PG&E or the campaign. That’s tough to believe.
All of this comes at a time when PG&E is going out of its way, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to buff up its image — and to fight the city’s modest but significant plans for public power.
As Steven T. Jones reports on page 16, the notorious utility is well aware that its future in San Francisco is shaky. The city is bidding to provide public electric power to the Hunters Point shipyard redevelopment project and preparing to provide public power to Treasure Island. There is a study in the works to look at developing tidal power. The supervisors are moving forward on Community Choice Aggregation, which will put the city directly in the business of selling retail electricity to customers (albeit through PG&E’s grid). And there’s talk brewing of a public power ballot initiative for next November.
PG&E president Thomas King met with Mayor Gavin Newsom this summer and sent him a nice, friendly letter afterward discussing all the ways the city and PG&E could work together.
But in fact, the utility is already opposing even the baby steps coming out of City Hall: PG&E has bid against San Francisco for rights to sell power to the shipyard, and that’s forced the city to cut prices and reduce the revenue it could have gained from Lennar Corp., the master developer. PG&E is trying to stop the city from selling power on Treasure Island and has financial ties to a private company that has rights to Golden Gate tidal power development until 2008. Meanwhile, the utility just hired the former secretary to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — a woman who sat in on every closed-session strategy meeting the panel held, including sessions dealing with litigation against PG&E.
In other words, PG&E is gearing up for all-out political warfare — and the mayor and supervisors need to start preparing too. From now on, people should see whatever PG&E does as hostile — and on every front the city needs to adopt an aggressive strategy to move forward toward eliminating the company’s private power monopoly.
For starters, it’s ridiculous that the city should have to fight PG&E for the right to sell power at the Hunters Point shipyard. The Redevelopment Agency should have made public power a part of the program from the start, and the supervisors should examine that plan immediately to see if it can be amended to require Lennar to buy power from San Francisco. Newsom needs to take to the bully pulpit and say that if PG&E gets this contract, nobody on the Redevelopment Agency Commission will ever be reappointed.
Meanwhile, when Chan and Black appear anywhere in public this election season, they need to be asked to fully disclose their ties with PG&E and outline their positions on public power.
And it’s time for the public power coalition to start meeting again, with the aim of crafting a ballot measure that will create a full-scale municipal system, perhaps as soon as November 2007. SFBG
PS PG&E already has one staunch ally on the board, Sean Elsbernd, a Newsom appointee who also worked in the late 1990s for the Nielsen firm. That’s three too many.
PPS If Newsom is really for public power, as he claims, then why is he pushing so hard for two PG&E call-up votes for the board? And why is he not publicly denouncing PG&E’s attempt to scuttle public power and lending his political capital to a new municipalization effort?
PPPS The SF Weekly’s Matt Smith last week all but endorsed Doug Chan — but made no mention of Chan’s PG&E ties. Did that somehow slip through Smith’s investigative reporting net?

PG&E’s extreme makeover


› steve@sfbg.com
Mayor Gavin Newsom called a meeting with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. president Thomas King in July to let the utility chief know that the city intended to pursue public power projects on Treasure Island and Hunters Point.
“It was just to tell him that we’re going to do it,” Newsom spokesperson Peter Ragone said of the meeting. “The mayor thought it was a gentlemanly thing to do.”
King used the occasion to start an aggressive new offensive — and to preview PG&E’s latest political strategy.
In an Aug. 10 letter to Newsom, King promised not to fight the city’s plans in court and pledged to develop a better relationship with the city.
“We know that it was in this spirit of cooperation that you approached us last month, and we want to foster this spirit and forge an even stronger partnership in efforts to protect our environment in the years ahead. That’s why I wanted to respond to your questions and suggestions — and to share with you some ideas of my own,” King wrote, listing one of those ideas as helping the city develop energy from tidal power at the mouth of the bay, which Newsom had recently announced a desire to pursue.
The day after PG&E wrote the letter, Newsom and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) head Susan Leal announced the city’s intention to supply public power, mostly from clean solar and hydroelectric sources, to the redevelopment project on Parcel A of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, where the politically connected Lennar Corp. (which is also part of the team with the rights to build on Treasure Island) has the contract to build 1,600 new homes.
“What we want to provide is a green community at a rate that meets or beats PG&E,” Leal told the Guardian, noting the history of environmental injustices that have been heaped on the southeast part of town. “We’re very excited about what’s going on at Hunters Point. . . . It’s important that the city do the right thing for that community.”
And just as PG&E was pledging cooperation, it aggressively set out to undermine the city’s plans with competing bids and continued its fiercely adversarial posture in another half-dozen realms in which it must work with the city, battles that have cost San Franciscans millions of dollars.
“This is a competitive world and this is fair game, don’t you think?” PG&E spokesperson Darlene Chiu — who used to be Newsom’s deputy press secretary — told us of company efforts to subvert the public power projects.
Last month PG&E also hired away SFPUC commission secretary Mary Jung, who had been privy to closed-session discussions about various city strategies for dealing with PG&E. Jung, who did not return a call for comment, was required to sign a confidentiality agreement and threatened with criminal charges if she spills city secrets, although city officials acknowledge that would be difficult to prove.
PG&E has also launched a high-profile public relations offensive designed to repackage the utility as a clean and green crusader against global warming and a supporter of community programs such as the mayor’s pet project, SF Connect, to which it contributed $25,000 last month.
“The company has a long and continuing history of fighting against the city rather than working with the city on issues involving municipal power, improved reliability, connecting city facilities, and protecting ratepayers,” Matt Dorsey, a spokesperson for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, told us. “If PG&E wants to demonstrate its good corporate citizenship, it can start by changing the nature of its relationship with the city.”
If anyone from the Bay Area needs a reminder about the big money, bare-knuckle approach PG&E uses when its interests are threatened, they need only look up the road to what’s happening in Sacramento and Yolo counties.
PG&E has so far spent more than $10 million fighting Propositions H and I in Yolo County and Measure L in Sacramento County, which together would allow the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to annex more than 70,000 customers in Davis and surrounding communities.
The PG&E effort has saturated mailboxes and the airwaves with messages that inflate the cost of taking over its transmission lines, imply threats of a drawn-out legal battle, and make bold claims of its being an environmentally friendly utility (for example, including nuclear power in its calculations of how “green” PG&E is).
“They’re trying to spread fear and confusion,” Davis-based public power advocate Dan Berman told us. “A new thing comes out every day. But we keep citing the message of lower rates and better service.”
In fact, SMUD has rates that are about 30 percent lower than PG&E’s and a power portfolio that includes significantly more energy from renewable sources than PG&E uses. Even King’s claim that PG&E is “the leading solar utility in the county, having hooked up more than 12,000 solar-generating customers” is misleading. The number is large because PG&E has the largest customer base in the country, but the solar rebates were state mandated and SMUD inspired and come from ratepayer surcharges.
Still, PG&E justifies its aggressive campaign in Yolo County in terms of warding off a hostile takeover of its customers. For residents there and new customers in San Francisco that the SFPUC wants to serve, PG&E’s Chiu repeats the mantra that “we have an obligation to provide services.”
Yet critics of the company say the campaign is about more than just holding on to those customers. Right now more than a dozen California communities are pushing for public power, most involving community choice aggregation (CCA) — which allows cities to buy power on behalf of citizens, potentially bypassing PG&E.
“That’s one of the reasons they’re pulling out all the stops in Davis, because if this goes through, it will embolden other communities,” Barbara George of Women’s Energy Matters told us.
San Francisco was an early city to pursue CCA, but plans to implement it have moved slowly, and now other communities — including Marin County and the cities of Oakland and Berkeley — are even further along.
“San Francisco is way behind in community choice,” George said. “The mayor is giving PG&E a lot of time to put out its claims to be green in order to fight this.”
Part of that push involves a slick 16-page mailer sent out in August by “The New PG&E” outlining “a proposal for an unprecedented and far-reaching partnership with the city of San Francisco to create the cleanest and greenest city in the nation.”
Sup. Ross Mirkarimi — a longtime public power advocate — is skeptical. “I welcome it, but I don’t buy it,” he said. “Their desire to work with us is typically predicated on the receding of our efforts to pursue public power.”
In fact, King seemed to say as much in his letter to Newsom when he wrote, “We see the investment of time, money and political capital in the public power fight as a distraction from the real need — providing clean, reliable and safe power to San Francisco.”
Chiu denied that there is a quid pro quo here, saying, “It is our intent to help San Francisco become clean and green, whether or not it comes with the city’s blessing.”
Yet Leal said the company seems more interested in stopping public power than going green. Rather than trying to undermine the city’s plans for the area, she questioned, “Why don’t they have the rest of Hunters Point, which are already their customers, be a green community?”
Lennar is expected to announce in the next week or two whether it will go with public power or PG&E at Hunters Point. “No final decision has been made at this point,” Lennar spokesperson Jason Barnett told us.
Yet it didn’t have to be this way. Lennar’s redevelopment project is being subsidized with public funds that could have been conditioned on public power. Even as late as Oct. 17, when the San Francisco Redevelopment Board agreed to change Lennar’s contract to let the company out of building rental units, public power could have been part of the trade-off. Agency chief Marcia Rosen did not return Guardian calls asking why the public agency didn’t take advantage of this leverage.
For her part, Leal said, “I’m not afraid of competition.” It was a point echoed by Ragone, who said Newsom believes the city shouldn’t be afraid to compete with PG&E on Hunters Point or Treasure Island or to stop a PG&E bid to help develop clean tidal power.
But Mirkarimi doesn’t necessary agree. “Why do they have that right?” he asked, arguing the city shouldn’t let PG&E take control of new energy resources or customers who should be served by public power. “The tentacles of PG&E haven’t receded any less at City Hall and we should always be on our guard.”
Leal and Ragone each acknowledged that competing with PG&E isn’t always a fair fight. After all, in addition to having the resources of nearly 10 million customers paying some of the highest rates in the country, PG&E is also alleged in a lawsuit by the city to have absconded with $4.6 billion in ratepayer money during its 2002 bankruptcy, in what Herrera called “an elaborate corporate shell game.” On Oct. 2, the US Supreme Court denied review of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling favoring the city, sending the case back to the trial court to determine just how much PG&E owes ratepayers.
That is just one of several ongoing legal actions between the city and PG&E, including conflicts over the city’s right to power municipal buildings, PG&E’s hindrance of city efforts to create more solar sites, and battles over the interconnection agreement that sets various charges that the city must pay to use PG&E lines.
A good example of PG&E tactics occurred during the July 26 meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is overseeing work on the Bay Bridge. As part of that work, a power cable going to Treasure Island needed to be moved, but the Treasure Island Development Authority didn’t have the $3.4 million to do it.
So PG&E executive Kevin Dasso showed up at the MTC meeting with a check made out for that amount, offering to pay for the new cable and thus control the power line through which the SFPUC intends to provide public power to the 10,000 residents who will ultimately live on the island.
“This deal with Treasure Island was really egregious. They came in like a game show host and held up a check to try to stop this baby step toward public power on Treasure Island,” said Sup. Tom Ammiano, who also sits on the MTC board. “It shows PG&E is not asleep at the wheel by any means, and anybody who’s elected is going to need to stay vigilant.”
Ammiano was able to persuade the MTC to loan TIDA the money and preserve the city’s public power option. PG&E officials are blunt about their intentions. Chiu said, “We both want to provide power to Treasure Island.” So officials note the importance of being vigilant when it comes to PG&E.
“There will be other meetings where PG&E will wave around $3.4 million checks,” Leal said. “And at some of those meetings, we won’t be there to stop them.”
So public power advocates are concerned that public officials are letting PG&E rehabilitate its public image. Newsom has recently shared the stage with PG&E executives at a green building conference in San Francisco and the Treasure Island ceremony where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the landmark global warming measure that PG&E long opposed before ultimately supporting. Ragone said neither these events nor PG&E’s contribution to SF Connect nor his direct dealings with King indicate any softening of Newsom’s support for public power.
“We’re going to do what’s in the best interests of the city of San Francisco,” Ragone said. “This is the first mayor to support public power, and that hasn’t changed at all.” SFBG
To see the letter from King to Newsom and other documents related to this story, go to www.sfbg.com.

Buried treasure


› gwschulz@sfbg.com
Despite the fast-moving urban centers that surround it on each side of the San Francisco Bay, not much about Treasure Island has changed since it was shut down as a United States naval station 10 years ago.
After the feds ceased operations on the island and at several other military installations in the mid-’90s, the idea was to give the land to local governments for redevelopment to fill the economic void of losing active bases. Since then, several plans for Treasure Island have been floated with great fanfare in the press, but all have become mired in the infamously contentious development politics of San Francisco.
Late last month, after three years of deadline extensions, the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) finally received a full-blown plan from the developer — a partnership between Lennar Corp., Wilson Meany Sullivan, and Treasure Island Community Development — that was given exclusive negotiating rights over the land three years ago.
The $1.2 billion redevelopment plan must now run a gauntlet of state and local approval, including consideration from the Board of Supervisors, which is expected to hold hearings and debate the plan by the end of the year. It isn’t likely that construction will begin on the island for at least a couple more years.
The latest proposal anticipates about 6,000 new homes, 1,800 of which will be targeted to low-income residents, including 750 units for households earning no more than 60 percent of San Francisco’s median income and 440 built as part of a program for the homeless. Plans include town houses, single-family homes, and high-rise residential towers, although at least half the properties will be limited to 65 feet in height.
Right now the island contains about 800 occupied units, over half of which are market-rate leases with the John Stewart Co., while about 200 are operated under the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative. By the time the project is done, according to the newest plan, the island’s population is expected to balloon to around 10,000 residents, plus around 3,000 new workers necessary to maintain the minicity.
Some of the existing housing stock will be demolished, or as the plan calls it, “reconstructed.” Current residents will have an option to move into the new units or be placed in a lottery if demand for certain types of units outstrips the supply. The plan calls for about 27 percent of the overall planned housing units to be rentals.
Private automobile use would be regulated by metering ramp access to the island during peak commute hours; assessing possible congestion fees for driving on the island; limiting residential parking; and emphasizing thruways that promote walking, bicycling, and public transit.
Much of the development is slated for the west side of the island — with its breathtaking and profitable views of the city — near an existing ferry terminal that would provide access to the city all day long.
Treading lightly, Sup. Chris Daly, whose District 6 includes the island, said he supports the environmental and housing components so far, but if existing island residents mount significant opposition for any reason, he’d consider opposing the plan.
“You don’t know how clean something is until you take it out of the wash, and they’re just now starting to throw it in,” Daly told the Guardian.
Rob Black, Daly’s main challenger in the upcoming election, lives on Treasure Island. He was similarly cautious. “I think people have finally begun to think in a more progressive way about making this a more sustainable neighborhood,” Black told us. “Past plans have been so poorly put together.”
On the local level, the plan must be approved in the coming months by both the TIDA board and the Board of Supervisors. After that, it will undergo an extensive environmental impact review by the city’s planning department before returning to the board for final local approval.
The developer and the TIDA board — which is composed entirely of mayoral appointees, three of whom work directly for Mayor Gavin Newsom — must still overcome other major hurdles as well, including the fact that the Navy hasn’t turned over any of the land yet and likely won’t without major concessions.
The Bush administration has stalled the transfer, pushing for some payment before giving up valuable federal land. One tentative option is to relieve the Navy of about $45 million in environmental cleanup costs for which it is currently responsible. Those costs would then be borne by the redevelopment plan and the developer, which has already pledged $26 million for remediation. The land became contaminated in part after decades of military activity that included emergency drills with radioactive materials.
David Rist, a project manager for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup, said that while there is some contamination where residents are living today, it doesn’t pose an immediate threat to human health. Identified contaminants include dioxin, lead, and PCBs. Rist told us the cleanup, regardless of who ends up paying for it, will be “significantly done in the next two and a half years.”
After mulling over ideas, TIDA finally brokered an exclusive deal in 2003 with a company incorporated as Treasure Island Community Development, a group of Democratic Party heavyweights with deep links to the current and former mayoral administrations and other top elected Democrats.
Jay Wallace, a project planner for Treasure Island Community Development, said the plan’s mammoth size and uniqueness have required considerable and time-consuming attention to specifics. Investors anticipate spending $500 million of their own money, but they’re looking to earn upward of $125 million in profits, according to the plan.
The remaining cost of about $760 million for infrastructure, open space, and transportation system improvements could be covered largely by tax increment financing from the redevelopment area and Mello Roos bonds, both of which would essentially be funded by future property taxes, according to the latest term sheet.
Wallace told the Guardian that his group “has worked in good faith and transparency throughout this project, with over 150 public meetings before reaching this milestone and presenting this plan to the city.”
Daly said that while “there are going to be a hundred issues that need to be worked out,” the green-meets-affordable-housing theme “is the right proposal for San Francisco.”
“Political connections to the Newsom juggernaut notwithstanding, these guys are politically savvy enough to know what’s wise and what isn’t,” he said. “On the actual merits of the proposal, it’s palatable if you’re OK with the concept of high-rises in the middle of the bay.” SFBG

Public power returns


EDITORIAL Just when it looked like the public power movement had stalled, along comes the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission with a surprise announcement that it will create a public power demonstration project in the most appropriate part of town and reinvigorate efforts to kick Pacific Gas and Electric out of the city.
The agency has tentatively cut a deal to provide power directly to the 1,600 housing units and businesses that Lennar Homes is about to start building on Parcel A of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard — bringing clean, green (it comes from city hydroelectric and solar projects), affordable public power to a part of town that has long been besieged with environmental injustices.
We commend director Susan Leal and the rest of the SFPUC for this project and their promise to do the same thing on Treasure Island, once that property is officially in San Francisco’s jurisdiction. SFPUC officials say they’ll be able to beat PG&E’s rates while delivering power that is more environmentally sustainable than what we’re getting from the company’s aging fossil fuel plants.
The agency is now finalizing details with Lennar and waiting for PG&E to sign an interconnection agreement to transfer city power to the site, something that federal law requires the company do for a “reasonable” fee. If all goes well, the contract will go to the Board of Supervisors for approval in a couple months, creating the first living example of how the city would be better off without PG&E.
As such, we fully expect the company to try to sabotage the deal, so we urge all city officials to help shepherd this one to completion. Mayor Gavin Newsom should help make sure Lennar doesn’t get cold feet, City Attorney Dennis Herrera should be ready to fight if need be, and the SFPUC should be on the lookout for more such projects. Good work! SFBG