City prepares for life without utilities board

City staffers may temporarily make decisions about energy, water and wastewater projects — without the oversight of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — starting next month.

The five-person commission is set to be dissolved Aug. 1 as a result of a ballot measure voters narrowly approved in June that calls for members of the oversight group to hold specific qualifications.

The Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee, however, which vets commission nominations, is next scheduled to meet Aug. 7, according to acting committee clerk Gail Johnson. It’s “conceivable” the committee could meet earlier, she said.

The SFPUC is overseeing multibillion-dollar projects to update The City’s aging sewer system and to protect the region’s water supplies from earthquakes.

Additionally, it is embroiled in a debate over whether The City should build new power plants to replace an aging privately-owned plant next to a planned redevelopment project in Potrero Hill.

At its final regular meeting today, the commission will consider granting the agency’s general manager, Ed Harrington, emergency decision-making and contract-signing powers in the absence of a fully-formed commission.

“We have several major construction management projects for the Peninsula and other regions thatare out for bid right now,” Harrington said.

To re-establish the commission, Mayor Gavin Newsom in a letter to the Board of Supervisors has nominated five candidates, including current commissioners Dick Sklar, Ann Moller Caen and F.X. Crowley.

The mayor also nominated Francesca Vietor, former director of the Environment Department, and Nora Vargas, executive director of Latino Issues Forum.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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