City Leaders Call on PG&E to Address Recent Power Outages Impacting Thousands of Residents

Issues were communicated in a letter sent to Pacific Gas and Electric's CEO noting a lack of critical information to residents and City officials during recent power outages, raising safety concerns
May 03, 2023

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed joined City leaders to request information on recent power outages that created significant public health and safety risks, as well as economic disruption, in a letter sent today to Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) CEO, Patricia Poppe.    

Signed by Mayor Breed, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, City Attorney David Chiu, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) General Manager Dennis Herrera, the letter details PG&E’s failure to provide crucial, timely information to emergency professionals and first responders, residents, and City officials during recent power outages.     

“The safety and wellbeing of our residents and businesses is our first priority, and as a fundamental principle of good government, it’s our duty to deliver services San Franciscans expect and deserve,” said Mayor London Breed. “Timely information, especially when unforeseen events arise like recent power outages, is critical to how we respond in emergency situations. It is absolutely unacceptable for PG&E to withhold or delay any communication that would help inform the City’s emergency response and management.”    

"The most recent PG&E electrical fires and five-day power outage that impacted every aspect of life in San Francisco’s northeast quadrant could have been avoided with a reasonable state of good repair,” said Board President Aaron Peskin, who also represents the district where the power outage occurred. “From essential traffic signalization that was out for days to patients who had to throw out their insulin or couldn’t access dialysis treatment, the impact was dramatic and widespread. I had monolingual SRO residents and seniors who couldn’t flush their toilets, take showers or charge their cell phones. Candidly, it was all exacerbated by a frustrating lack of communication or accountability from PG&E, which will be the subject of a hearing at the Government Audit and Oversight Committee later this month.”    

“PG&E has continually failed to meet its obligations to provide the City and residents with information during power outages,” said City Attorney David Chiu. “This is basic common sense—first responders and emergency management staff need timely information during an emergency. Gatekeeping information during a power outage only puts the public in harm’s way. We are calling on PG&E to work with us during these outages for the safety of all San Franciscans.”    

“The reality is, PG&E continues to fail to meet its basic obligations to California customers," said SFPUC General Manager Dennis Herrera. "Right now, PG&E is too big and too dysfunctional to effectively prioritize what needs to get done. They are too big to succeed. This most recent outage only underscores the need for San Francisco to buy PG&E’s electric grid in the City so we can reinvest in the system to ensure that electricity is safe, reliable, and affordable for all San Franciscans. Unlike PG&E, we are a not-for-profit utility. That allows us to keep our rates lower than PG&E’s. Rather than paying a CEO $51 million, as PG&E did in 2021, that’s money that we would reinvest into the safety and reliability of our system.”    

Recent Power Outages   

On April 26, the City’s northeastern neighborhoods experienced a prolonged power outage with many residents and businesses without power for up to five days. PG&E has cited the outages were caused by an underground explosion and fire but did not provide adequate details and information for the cause of the explosion, or an accurate timeline for restoring power in impacted residences and businesses. During the outages last week, City emergency professionals and first responders lacked crucial information to manage the impact on residents, raising safety concerns for San Francisco residents and businesses.     

In an emergency situation such as significant power outages, San Francisco emergency management staff, first responders, and medical professionals require a range of critical information, including timely and accurate information about the cause and duration of an outage in order to keep critical infrastructure running and ensure the safety of residents and the public.    

Additionally, many parts of the City experienced power outages earlier this year. In one such instance, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital went without power for 15 hours, and PG&E failed to communicate to the City – despite repeated requests - the reason for the outage and when service would be restored. Leaving the City’s only Level 1 Trauma Center without power and without an explanation, raises serious public safety concerns.     

City officials are seeking more information about the recent events and a commitment from PG&E to provide timely and accurate information to residents and City officials during future outages.