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San Diego Kicks Off Public Outreach On Pending Utility Deals

Power lines at an SDG&E facility in North Park are seen here on Sept. 26, 2017.

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: Power lines at an SDG&E facility in North Park are seen here on Sept. 26, 2017.

San Diego city officials Friday launched a public survey to gather feedback on what should be required of the city's electric and gas utility, with additional virtual town halls on the issue scheduled throughout February.

San Diego Gas and Electric currently holds the rights to serve homes and businesses in the city under a 50-year-old contract, called a franchise agreement, that expires on June 1.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

Activists have long been pushing the city to strike a harder deal with SDG&E — or even to take over the utility's gas and power lines and form a municipal utility. Mayor Todd Gloria has said he wants the next franchise agreement to include stronger commitments to support the city's goals of transitioning to 100% renewable energy.

Gloria has said he will unveil his "invitation to bid," with updated terms for a new contract, at some point in March.

The city’s survey asks respondents to choose what provisions are most important to them, such as good customer service, transparency and in bills, cheaper electricity rates or lower carbon emissions.

The nine virtual town halls that are currently scheduled in partnership with city councilmembers are meant to further educate the public on what's at stake in the franchise agreements and to gather more feedback.

Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera, who is hosting two more virtual town halls on Feb. 1 and 16, said the public needs assurance that city officials are acting in their best interest.

"I cannot tell you how important it is, for District 9 at least, to ensure that at the end of this process San Diegans no longer feel like big decisions are made behind closed doors and that big corporate entities are the only people who have a seat at the table," Elo-Rivera said at Thursday's Environment Committee meeting. "We want to open this process up."

Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer last year issued his own invitation to bid on the city's electric and gas franchises, and SDG&E was the only company to respond. Gloria rejected the utility's bid during his first week in office and announced he would restart the whole process.

The upcoming virtual town halls on the franchise agreements are:

  • Jan. 30 at 9:30 a.m. hosted by City Council District 1
  • Feb. 1 at 3:00 p.m. hosted by City Council District 9
  • Feb. 3 at 5:30 p.m. hosted by City Council District 1
  • Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. hosted by City Council District 2
  • Feb. 11 at 6:00 p.m. hosted by City Council District 7
  • Feb. 13 at 3:00 p.m. hosted by City Council District 3
  • Feb. 19 at 6:00 p.m. hosted by City Council District 3
  • Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by City Council District 9
  • Feb. 18 at 5:30 p.m. hosted by City Council District 5

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Photo of Andrew Bowen

Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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