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SDG&E reacts to customer’s high bill

 July 14, 2023 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Friday, July 14th.


How S-D-G-AND-E reacts to a high natural gas bill brought to their attention. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The San Diego County Water Authority has voted to negotiate with two North County districts that want to leave it to save money.

The districts are in Fallbrook and Rainbow.

As we reported previously, the districts want to go to a water wholesaler in Riverside County.

An analysis shows the move could save them more than seven million dollars a year.

But the water authority says it could leave the rest of the county with a tab of roughly two hundred million dollars over the next decade.. and they were considering a lawsuit.

In a vote yesterday, the water authority decided on negotiation…. rather than litigation.


The county is joining in this weekend’s Pride celebration with services for attendees.

County Public Health Services will have the Live Well on Wheels set up outside the Pride Festival grounds on Saturday.

And free M-pox and COVID-19 vaccines will be offered from 11-30 a-m to 5 p-m, and appointments are not needed.

Inside the festival, the County will also be offering rapid H-I-V testing from noon to 7 p-m on Saturday, and from 11 to 6 p-m on Sunday.


If you’re a registered voter living in District 4, keep an eye out for your ballot in the mail next week, for the upcoming special primary election.

The August 15th election is to fill Nathan Fletcher’s vacant seat on the county’s board of supervisors.

Early voting begins Monday.

You can send in your ballot through the mail or vote in person.

And starting Tuesday, you can drop off your ballot at any of the Registrar’s official ballot drop boxes around the district.

If no candidate receives a majority of the vote during the primary, a special general election will be held on November 7th.


How S-D-G-AND-E is reacting to an oversized natural gas bill, after KPBS alerted them of the issue.

“There's no doubt, once there was human intervention that we could have done better.”  

More on that story, coming up, after the break.


Yesterday we told you about Jack Babbitt’s nearly 13-hundred dollar natural gas bill from January.

Babbitt reached out to KPBS, looking for answers he couldn’t get on his own.

Environment reporter Erik Anderson has the story.

Jack Babbitt’s decades old trailer home sits in a Fallbrook Valley that was pretty cold this past winter.  But cold temperatures are not enough to explain his 12-hundred-82 dollar and 53 cent natural gas bill in January.  Babbitt’s Grandson said Jack has questions. Douglas Gastélum Babbitt’s Grandson “Nobody follows the rules better than Jack.  You know.  Retired Navy chief.  He’s used to taking orders and he’s used to doing what needs to be done. But he’s also used to things being in order.” Gastelum called SDGE after the big bill and the utility told him the bill was accurate and nothing else was done. Babbitt’s home has an analog gas meter that can only be read if someone actually comes out to the property. His San Diego Gas and Electric bills show that did not happen for nine months before the huge January bill dropped. Anthony Wagner San Diego Gas and Electric “The bill says that there were nine estimates in a row, but in reality, we went to mister Babbitts home two or three days after we sent him the bill.  And that happened several times.  So while the bill identified an estimate. In reality, truthfully we missed one estimate and that was in November.” It is an explanation Gastélum is still struggling with. “They told me that… they did estimates, yes it says we did estimates for all these months, but really we sent someone out to really read the meter a few days after the estimate.  Ah..  which just doesn’t make sense to me and, ah, so that’s mysterious too.” Estimated bills indicate much lower gas use in the six months before the January bill. Usage in January was 274 therms. Anthony Wagner SDG&E “He had a legitimate frustration and there’s no doubt, once there was human intervention that we could have done better.  And we have attempted to work with KPBS to work with mister Babbitt’s grandson in order to make it right.” KPBS contacted San Diego Gas and Electric on June 27th.  The utility conceded the high gas usage in the months before the January bill was not accounted for in its computer’s estimated readings. “ In October November December he actually used 274 therms.  But it charged him the 274 therms when the rate was the highest, in January at $5.11 cents.” That rate was more than double December’s natural gas rate.   Two days after KPBS brought the oversized bill and the estimated readings to the utility’s attention SDGE inspected the mobile home. “We forensically looked at mister Babbitt’s bill and then we went out to the home and checked each appliance.  We shut off each appliance so no gas was going to the home and then we checked the meter to make sure the meter was not registering a leak somewhere.” Gastelum found a faulty heating duct three months after the big bill which likely contributed to the unusually high usage. SDGE turned down the water heater temperature.  Babbitt got information about low-income and medical bill assistance and he was promised the utility will bring in a third party contractor for a complete home energy audit.   The bill review also prompted the utility to recalculate the January bill, spreading the gas usage over the previous three months. The result was a 351 dollar bill credit. “We did everything in our power to make sure that his bill was accurately addressed.  And that we signed Mister Babbitt up for other programs to defray the future cost of his bill.  But we care. We get it. And we could’ve done better.” Gastélum appreciates the bill credits, home inspection and information about ways to control gas bills in the future.  But he’s disappointed he couldn’t get the same response on his own. “But we should not have had to talk to you to get the right result.  We should’ve been able to do that by talking to SDGE and that’s the part, I think. Other people might be interested in….you know, if you call SDGE and you have this problem and there’s this mystery….I don’t know if they’re reading from a script or what they’re doing, but you’re not getting an answer that answers your question.” Gastélum says he is looking forward to the energy audit and he hopes future bills are smaller and rely less on estimates, so Babbitt isn’t hammered by an oversized  bill next winter. Erik Anderson KPBS News.

TAG: The San Diego based utility consumers’ action network regularly mediates bill issues with S-D-G-AND-E and its customers.


The Village Health Center at Father Joe’s is now open after flooding caused major damage this past spring.

Reporter Melissa Mae tells us it’s just in time to treat its homeless clients who are experiencing the effects of the high temperatures.

MM: In March, a large pipe burst in the waiting room of the Village Health Center at Father Joe’s. It caused major damage to the first floor of the facility. MM: The health center provides services including primary care, dental and behavioral health services including substance use disorder treatment. Megan Partch is the chief health officer at the health center. MM: She says the reopening comes at a critical time. More people seek out care when temperatures rise. MP “On average when we see the heat beginning, that’s when a lot of folks really want to get out of the heat and that’s sometimes when those barriers to get into treatment seem a little less insurmountable. So anecdotally, we do commonly see that more individuals will come in when it’s very very hot or when it’s rainy.”    MM: Walk-ins are welcome and no unsheltered individuals will be turned away if they cannot pay. In fact, the center has the resources to help secure insurance and identification too. Melissa Mae KPBS News.


The city of Chula Vista is one step closer to having its own public four-year university, after overcoming a legal barrier with the state.

Reporter Jacob Aere explains how a California law almost designated the university land as space for affordable housing.

Local leaders like Senator Steve Padilla are celebrating the return of 383 acres of land in east Chula Vista for a future university and technology park. It comes after getting an exemption from the Surplus Lands Act, which says surplus public land must be made available to affordable home developers. “There should be a university, an institution, or institutions of higher learning in this part of the region. And I think that the basis for the exemption is to really help that move forward more quickly, because the demand and need is now.” Chula Vista is the only city in California with a population greater than 200,000 residents that does not have a non-profit or state university within its city limits. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


Coming up.... A local artistic director talks about why she chose to study the transgender singing voice.

“So that’s my role then, is to, how do I help my community love their voice, find music that speaks to where they’re at and what they need to say.”

We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.


Music is an important part of the curriculum in the San Diego Unified School District, but it wasn’t always that way.

33-years ago, a local music teacher decided to do something about that.

Reporter John Carroll tells us about the “Band at the Beach.”

In the band practice room at correia middle school in ocean beach, rehearsal is underway for the band at the beach… not literally at the beach, but close enough.  retired music teacher dell schroeder founded the yearly camp back in 1990, and she still plays right along with the kids today. “i love to play with the kids.  it’s fun, it makes me do better.” ‘what do you get out of doing this?’  there’s a three letter word for that, it’s called joy.” 36 kids and several music teachers are participating this year.  the music teachers function as section leaders. “i play the alto saxophone.” that’s 15-year old maggie mcateer… she plays the alto saxophone.  she says getting a week of intense practice during the summer is great, but that’s not the only reason she loves this band camp. “you build a sort of community, cause there’s the people, even if you don’t necessarily go to the same school as them…it all wraps up friday afternoon at 3:00 in the correia theater.  admission is free. jc, kpbs news.


San Diego Pride will recognize several community leaders at this week's festival.

One of those annual awards is the Larry T. Baza (Baw-za) Arts and Culture Award, named after the local longtime arts and L-G-B-T-Q advocate who died in 20-21.

This year's recipient is Lindsey Deaton, a local musician, playwright and conductor who is a leading expert on the transgender singing voice.

She's founder and artistic director of the San Diego Queer Youth Chorus, and before that, she founded the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles.

She spoke with my colleague Jade Hindmon about her story, and why she chose to study the transgender singing voice.

Let's start with your background. You're a musician, and you'd been a conductor for decades before your transition. Would you mind sharing with us a little about that journey?

And how has your own story influenced the work you do today?

Can you talk about why you've committed to studying the transgender singing voice? Is there a lot of research? 

TAG: That was Lindsey Deaton, founder and artistic director of the San Diego Queer Youth Chorus, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host, Jade Hindmon.

If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Suicide and Crisis lifeline at 9-8-8.


That’s it for the podcast today. This podcast is produced by KPBS Producer Emilyn Mohebbi and edited by KPBS Editor Joe Guerin. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

San Diego Gas and Electric is reacting to an oversized natural gas bill, after KPBS brought the issue to their attention. In other news, the Village Health Center at Father Joe’s is now open after flooding caused major damage this past spring. Plus, a local artistic director talks about why she chose to study the transgender singing voice.