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Mayor Gloria announces public forums on future of utility companies

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Posted at 8:15 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 23:15:01-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Mayor Todd Gloria announced Thursday the city will host several public forums to offer San Diegans an opportunity to provide feedback on the city's electric and gas franchises.

One way for the public to participate is by speaking at an upcoming virtual meeting of the council's Environment Committee, which will hold hearings on the energy franchises during its Jan. 28 and Feb. 25 meetings. The meetings begin at 1 p.m.

The franchises contracts between the city and a utility provider allowing for the provider to use city-owned land and infrastructure are due to expire June 1 after a 11th-hour extension on Dec. 30.

The 50-year franchise agreements with San Diego Gas & Electric were previously scheduled to expire Jan. 17.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously for an extension intended to allow Gloria and five new councilmembers some time to refine bidding criteria to include climate equity goals, conduct a public power feasibility study and take other actions to try to get a better deal for the city and its ratepayers.

"The city will have an inclusive and transparent process as we seek new agreements that will affect every resident and business in San Diego," Gloria said. "It is critically important that we have a collaborative conversation with our residents, businesses and community groups."

"We must ensure that any new agreements protect ratepayers, allow us to reach our climate goals, provide equitable access to environmental benefits for all our communities, and give us the flexibility to explore all options for how we supply energy in the future," he said.

SDG&E, whose parent company is San Diego-based Sempra Energy, has held exclusive franchises with the city to provide gas and electric service since 1920. Previous Mayor Kevin Faulconer opened a bidding period for the agreements last year.

Gloria rejected the bid on Dec. 18, a day after the sole bid a minimum $10 million for gas and $70 million for electric from SDG&E -- was revealed for the 20-year contracts. Faulconer, with guidance of the previous council, helped set the terms for the bid in September.

Gloria is asking councilmembers to partner with him in hosting virtual community forums to receive feedback from residents, businesses and community groups in their districts.

Initial community forums have already been coordinated with Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera, chair of the Environment Committee.

"It is crucial that we break down the walls of City Hall and amplify the voices of the people in this process," said Elo-Rivera, who represents District 9. "I look forward to working with Mayor Gloria, my council colleagues and the communities of San Diego in the coming months to identify criteria of the agreements that the people of this city deserve."

District 9 forums will be held Jan. 23 at 1 p.m., Feb. 1 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Any action taken by the council on the city's franchise agreements must pass with a two-thirds majority vote.