S.F. to power Treasure Island

Proponents of publicly owned utilities in San Francisco won a victory Wednesday that allows The City to deliver more public electric power to Treasure Island, as redevelopment of the island will triple the population.

The proposal to lay two buried cables in the Bay — which will cost taxpayers as much as $11.9 million — was endorsed over a plan put forward by PG&E that would have delivered the same service at no taxpayer cost.

The decision lays the groundwork for the largest expansion of publicly owned electric power for San Francisco in recent history.

Under the plan, two underground cables would deliver power to the 3,000 residents on the island, plus an additional 6,000 housing units proposed for redevelopment, said Laura Spanjian, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman.

“They’re going to need a bigger [electric] line [with redevelopment], so they might as well plan for the future because there will be less impacts on the Bay,” Spanjian said.

If all goes as planned, the island in the Bay will be transformed into a transit-friendly community of 13,500 residents at a cost of about $1.2 billion. In addition to more housing, the redevelopment of the former Navy base includes 338 acres of parkland and 235,000 square feet of retail space, all scheduled to be completed by 2012.

The issue of laying cables to Treasure Island comes as the Bay Bridge rebuild progresses. The cable that powers the island must be moved as part of that project, and officials from several agencies overseeing Treasure Island and the bridge rebuild view it as an opportunity to expand power to the island.

The Bay Area Toll Authority — which oversees much of the money from tolls being used for the bridge retrofit and is responsible for replacing the original cable — approved the proposal Wednesday that will allow the SFPUC to lay the two new cables at a cost of between $9.7 million and $11.9 million. Authority commissioners approved the proposal in a 9-3 vote.

Several commissioners opposed paying for the work with taxpayer money and argued that PG&E’s plan to power the island on its own dime made “better business sense.”

“Saving taxpayers’ money is part of our fiduciary duty,” Bay Area Toll Authority Commissioner and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said.

The majority of commissioners agreed with San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, however, who called PG&E’s offer a “red herring” that risked further derailing the entire Bay Bridge project by another year. With completion of the bridge already pushed back to 2013 from 2004, nearly quadrupling the price to $6.3 billion, Ammiano said PG&E’s proposal was full of uncertainties.

While publicly funded utilitiescitywide have been defeated by voters twice, Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point could be the foundation for further expansion, if prices are competitive with PG&E and can be delivered with improved dependability, said Ammiano, an advocate of publicly owned utilities.

Both projects are part of the SFPUC’s plan to increase its renewable power, Spanjian said. “We can make greener, more reliable power at the same rate or less as PG&E.”

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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