Roundtable: SDG&E Power Plays, Short-Term Rental Mess, Homeless Campground

Friday, October 27, 2017
By Mark Sauer, Pat Finn

SDG&E'S POWER PLAYS

The Story

This week the California Public Utilities Commission was scheduled to decide yet again whether to let San Diego Gas and Electric send its ratepayers a $379 million bill.

That decision was yet again postponed. It's rescheduled for November 9.

The amount in question is leftover costs related to the 2007 Witch, Guejito and Rice wildfires, which were caused by SDG&E's power lines.

The state’s investigation concluded that SDG&E’s equipment was improperly designed, built and maintained. SDG&E has asked the CPUC twice before to let it divide the bill among its ratepayers and been refused twice.

This year the request went to trial, where two administrative judges once again said no, because “SDG&E did not reasonably manage and operate its facilities prior to the 2007 wildfires.”

Farther north, Pacific Gas and Electric in the Bay Area and Southern California Edison in Los Angeles are supporting SDG&E’s position before the CPUC. The outcome will impact the cost of providing power to vulnerable backcountry areas.

SDG&E is also working on fire-prevention tactics in the backcountry, replacing thousands of wooden power poles with steel ones, creating its own weather service, and clearing brush and trimming trees.

The Discussion

-If two judges ruled on the court case, how is it that SDG&E can ask for a different outcome?

-If the CPUC says the utility's stockholders must pay, how will that decision affect ratepayers?

-Why are environmental groups concerned about replacing utility poles?

RELATED: State Regulators To Consider SDG&E’s ‘07 Wildfire Cost Reimbursement Thursday

RELATED: Why 2 other California utilities have joined SDG&E's push to make consumers pay for 2007 wildfire costs

RELATED: SDG&E, Environmentalists Are at Opposite Poles on One Fire Prevention Method

SHORT-TERM RENTAL MESS

The Story

Creating city regulations for short-term rentals seems to be a long-term difficulty in San Diego.

After two-and-a-half years of trying, new regulations seemed in sight.

But not so fast.

The special City Council hearing on short-term rentals scheduled for Monday of this week was cancelled. The San Diego City Attorney found legal problems with the two competing proposals.

The proposal from Councilmembers Scott Sherman, Chris Ward, Mark Kersey and David Alvarez allows owners to rent up to three properties on a short-term basis with a three-night minimum stay in coastal areas.

The other, from Councilwoman Barbara Bry, is more stringent, allowing short-term rental only of an owner’s primary residence and for no more than 90 days a year.

City Attorney Mara Elliott’s memo last week raised the question of “equal protection” for both proposals, which Elliott says include different regulations for different types of rental hosts.

Elliott also noted that enforcement fees could be construed as taxes and therefore need voter approval.

The Discussion

-How much does the availability of vacation rentals affect housing - or lack of it - in the city?

-Do the proposals on the table include enforcement of noise and nuisance codes?

-If the City Council voted today, what rules would we end up with?

RELATED: City Council hearing on Airbnb regulations abruptly canceled

RELATED: City attorney memo dampens prospects for consensus on short-term rental rules

CHILDREN MOVE IN TO HOMELESS CAMP

The Story

In response to growing concern over both the increasing number of homeless living on San Diego streets and the related outbreak of hepatitis A, the city has acted.

San Diego opened a temporary campground for 200 people near downtown two weeks ago. It has also opened a parking lot where people living in their cars can park overnight.

One unexpected outcome for the new shelter is the dozens of children that have moved in. There are 40 of them, making up a quarter of the camp’s population.

The camp holds 150 tents and includes showers, toilets, hand-washing stations and some medical care. Parents are transported downtown and kids to school via shuttles.

The January, 2017 homeless count found 169 children sleeping without shelter in the county.

The Discussion

-This campground is supposed to be transitional. What are the chances that families will find permanent housing?

-Are there other such facilities in the works?

RELATED: Homeless Campground In San Diego Providing Lifeline For 40 Children

RELATED: San Diego Launches Campground For The Homeless