Biggest solar installer dumped on

Next in line to abandon San Francisco for a more hospitable Bay Area business venue is Solar City, the company that installs more solar panels each week than any other company in California. The Solar City CEO said he will not proceed with plans to open a worker-training academy in San Francisco’s job-hungry Bayview neighborhood unless The City finalizes its promised rebate program within 30 days.

Aspart of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s “Green City” initiative to make San Francisco a world leader in the emerging clean-technology industries, he announced in March that $3 million from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission would be used for subsidizing rooftop solar panel installations — as much as $5,000 to residents and $10,000 to private businesses.

The rebates were to begin this month, except that Supervisor Jake McGoldrick introduced legislation to put it on hold. McGoldrick complained that the Board of Supervisors should not approve any spending proposal; and this allocation would divert funds from a municipal solar energy project. McGoldrick’s resolution will not be debated by the board for at least two weeks.

The proposed Solar City training facility would graduate a minimum of 30 solar panel installers every two months. The company would hire these installers at starting salaries of $15 to $25 per hour and station them throughout the country. Solar City insists that without the rebates, there will not be enough San Franciscans switching to solar energy to sustain the training academy.

McGoldrick has called the company’s threat to abandon The City mere “greenmail.” But if the supervisor’s true goal is to ensure that San Francisco obtains the best possible terms from Solar City, he would not blithely drag out the process as if there were all the time in the world to negotiate a solution. He would push for prompt discussions between the company executives and all city officials needed to complete an agreement this month.

Home Depot persevered for seven years before finally abandoning the opening of its first San Francisco outlet at the long-vacant site of the Goodman’s Lumber warehouse on the Bayshore corridor. Home Depot already has three bustling stores just across the county line in Colma and Westlake, grossing $40 million annually.

The City lost an estimated $500,000 a year in sales tax revenues and more than 200 new jobs — some of which would have been directed toward at-risk youths in the nearby Bayview. Obviously not much was learned at City Hall from that fiasco.

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