Local gov’t writes letter of concern about PG&E shutoffs

Editor’s note: This letter is being submitted to the CPUC. A press conference is set for this afternoon:

RE: Letter of Concern on Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Impacts
President Batjer and Honorable Commission Members:

On behalf of the County of Nevada, City of Grass Valley and City of Nevada City, we are submitting this joint Letter of Concern to you regarding the wide sweeping effects of the October 2019 PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) on western Nevada County. Recognizing that PSPS events are intended to help prevent catastrophic loss of life and property from utility caused wildfires, it is imperative that these effort carefully balance with the myriad negative impacts that PSPS events have on local communities.

The recent PSPS events affected over 43,000 PG&E customers within Nevada County. Our Access and Functional Needs (AFN) populations are in jeopardy through the loss of refrigeration for medication and food, inadequate access to charging stations for life-sustaining devices, inadequate heat to stay warm at home, and life-threatening impacts to local dialysis clinics and other medical facilities.

Nevada County Emergency Operations Center identified other public safety risks that included the loss of cellular and broadband VoIP phones for hundreds of households, resulting in the inability to call 911 or receive event updates including evacuation messaging through our CodeRed emergency notification system.

Nonfunctioning traffic lights resulted in increased auto accidents. Despite the loss of communication systems for some, increased calls for service resulted for the Nevada County Dispatch Center and 211 call-center, stressing our law enforcement and community service resources.

For a small County of less than 100,000 people, the financial impacts are widely felt. In the cities of Nevada City and Grass Valley and the unincorporated area of Penn Valley, 332 full-service food facilities (sit-down meals/fast food establishments) adhere to specific guidelines prior to reopening to the public after each PSPS event. The aggregate average daily impact to these food service business owners are estimated around $398,400 a day with $1,195,200 in loss for a three-day PSPS event.

Locally-owned grocery stores are hardhit, with inventory loss in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in perishable food products in addition to lost sales revenue. These long-standing locally-owned businesses are less equipped to absorb such extraordinary financial losses than their corporate competitors.

Many businesses are non-operational from indirect impacts like school closures, loss of internet to process credit card transactions, gas shortages, infrastructure capacity stresses and loss of communication services. A recent survey of small locally owned retail businesses in the City of Grass Valley found losses were as high as $5,000 to $10,000 for a 2-day event, with many reporting losses as financially significant.

Other unintended impacts that PSPS events have include increased risk of wildfire from generators and warming fires on private properties from homeless individuals and residents who do not have access to regular heating in sheltered facilities or homes. Public service financial impacts result in staggering costs to taxpayers with the loss of productivity for the County alone estimated at $313,000 as of the date of this letter.

Further, social service departments reliant on State and Federal funding are at jeopardy of not receiving reimbursement funding for services provided. Similarly, PSPS events have a direct impact on public school funding per day for every closure that occurs with indirect costs for those students with working parents or who are socio-economically disadvantaged that receive free or reduced meals.

Schools are unable to provide a safe and supportive environment for their most vulnerable students during such events. Wide-sweeping reoccurring PSPS events create cost to individuals that are cyclical in nature with repeated food spoilage replacement, loss of revenue from work outages to school closures, and repeated purchases for back-up equipment like generators, lights, batteries, and fuel.

Residents reliant on wells are without basic amenities like running water, operating bathrooms, and heat for days compounding the indirect impacts of falling behind on personal deadlines, bills and taxes. The economic disruption to our community has a rippling effect for weeks and months even after the power has been re-energized. These costs have a long-term impact that is both quantitative and qualitative in nature.

Accordingly, the City of Grass Valley, City of Nevada City, and the County of Nevada jointly call upon the California Public Utilities Commission for PSPS management guidelines that mitigate the direct and indirect public safety and economic impacts that our residents, businesses, and public agencies have suffered.

Regulatory actions need to include specific requirements for electrical utilities to: 1) Ensure cellular and landline communication services are maintained throughout every PSPS event, 2) Provide health and safety amenities, such as access to subsidized generators and oxygen to vulnerable populations and healthcare service providers for each PSPS event, 3) Ensure timely, accurate and consistent communication is provided to all utility customers and community stakeholders to mitigate undue financial hardship to residents and businesses, and 4) Require that PSPS events are targeted as precisely as possible so as to prevent unnecessary power interruption across broad regions.

We strongly urge the CPUC to work with City and County partners to develop PSPS best management practices that balance wildfire precautionary efforts with public safety and economic impacts.

Sincerely,

Richard Anderson, Chair, Board of Supervisors, County of Nevada
Lisa Swarthout, Mayor, City Council, City of Grass Valley
Reinette Senum, Mayor, City Council, City of Nevada City

ol’ Republic Roadhouse closing Nov. 5 to “evaluate best possible course going forward”

I confirmed this information, posted on Facebook, with the owners Jim and Simon:

“POWER OUTAGE STATUS AT THE ROADHOUSE

“The PG&E outages have hit us very hard, and compounded an already challenging year, in particular, the week in mid-October when we had no generator support and suffered a total loss of revenue and food product. We are not the only company to feel the effect of these outages, and we are still reeling from it.

“As of today, November 5th, 2019, Ol’ Republic Roadhouse will be closed in order to evaluate the best possible course going forward.

“THE TAPROOM AND BREWERY WILL REMAIN OPEN
We will provide frequent updates through Facebook

“We will continue to cater food from the Roadhouse kitchen to offer food seven days a week to the Ol’ Republic Taproom at 124 Argall Way in the Seven Hills District of Nevada City.

“Our hearts are heavy with this decision, and this has been one of the hardest days of our lives. We have appreciated and valued your patronage at the Roadhouse.

“Jim Harte & Simon Olney
Co-Founders, Ol’ Republic Brewery & Roadhouse”

Gov. Newsom hints at gov’t control of PG&E if bankruptcy fizzles

“Gov. Gavin Newsom demanded Friday that Pacific Gas & Electric shareholders and executives, wildfire victims, bondholders and other parties involved in the company’s bankruptcy convene in Sacramento next week to work out a deal — and threatened to craft a government-led plan to restructure the state’s largest utility if an agreement isn’t reached quickly,” as the Los Angeles Times is reporting.

“’It is my hope that the stakeholders in PG&E will put parochial interests aside and reach a negotiated resolution so that we can create this new company and forever put the old PG&E behind us,’ Newsom said in a statement. ‘If the parties fail to reach an agreement quickly to begin this process of transformation, the state will not hesitate to step in and restructure the utility.’

“Newsom hinted at a possible government takeover of PG&E as public anger continues to grow in Northern California after back-to-back record-setting power shut-offs that left millions of customers in the dark for days on end. Under mounting pressure to take action, Newsom repeated at a news conference Friday a pledge to increase state oversight of the troubled company. He said the state’s intervention would ensure the utility that emerges from bankruptcy prioritizes safe, reliable and affordable service.”\

The rest of the article is here.

U.S. Rep. Cummings’ service stirs memories of our time at Sacred Heart in S.F.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings’ recent funeral at the Baltimore church where he worshipped for about four decades was memorable for us.

Besides honoring the legacy of the civil rights advocate, the service at the overflowing New Psalmist Baptist Church reminded me and my wife Shannon of the period when we began our courtship in the late ’80s, attending services at an iconic Western Addition church in San Francisco.

Before we were married, we attended services at Sacred Heart Church in San Francisco, one of the city’s few predominantly African American Catholic churches. This church, in S.F.’s Western Addition, was in the neighborhood of Shannon and her best friend Laura’s apartment in the Hayes Valley.

Shannon is Catholic (I am Episcopalian), and we met with the priest of Sacred Heart — Father Ken— to arrange for “engaged encounter” classes. We enjoyed the meetings, and learned more about the church and its history — as well as each other. We had homework too!

Sacred Heart was a phenomenal church, built in 1897 at the corner of Filmore and Fell streets. The yellow brick church featured Roman-style columns, big stained-glass windows and ceiling frescos, the handiwork of architect Thomas Welsh. It provided food and shelter for the homeless after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake.

“The Western Addition was once made up of mostly Irish immigrants who filled the church every Sunday,” as a former colleague Peter Fimrite wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. “The area changed dramatically in the 1930s and ’40s, when thousands of African Americans came to San Francisco looking for work.

“As the Fillmore District changed, so did Sacred Heart,” it continued. “Filipinos and other immigrants joined the church and attended the adjacent elementary school during the 1960s. The city’s Nigerian Ibo community was welcomed into the fold several years ago.

“The church services took on a gospel style as more African Americans joined, and the choir is now widely considered one of the best in the city.”

We found the services refreshing and inspirational. The church closed in 2004, citing the need for a multimillion-dollar seismic retrofit, stemming from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but our memories of going there have lasted a lifetime.


AMGEN Tour of California on hiatus for 2020

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)– AEG, the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company, today announced that they will put the Amgen Tour of California race on hiatus for the 2020 racing season.

“This has been a very difficult decision to make, but the business fundamentals of the Amgen Tour of California have changed since we launched the race 14 years ago,” said Kristin Klein, president of the Amgen Tour of California and executive vice president of AEG Sports. “While professional cycling globally continues to grow and we are very proud of the work we have done to increase the relevance of professional cycling, particularly in the United States, it has become more challenging each year to mount the race. This new reality has forced us to re-evaluate our options, and we are actively assessing every aspect of our event to determine if there is a business model that will allow us to successfully relaunch the race in 2021.”

The race has become California’s largest annual sporting event, contributing more than $3.5 billion¹ to the state’s economy over the years. Each year since 2006, the cycling road race has showcased some of today’s best known and most decorated international cyclists, including numerous World, Olympic and National Champions. The international competition also carries the distinction of being the only U.S.-based event that has both its men’s and women’s races listed on the UCI WorldTour calendar while being the only event of its kind that concurrently produces men’s and women’s stage races that offer equal prize money.

“On behalf of USA Cycling, I would like to thank AEG, Kristin and her team for providing an outstanding showcase for the sport in America and for our American Athletes,” said Bob Stapleton, Chairman of USA Cycling. “We stand ready to help rally additional support and resources in the hopes of resuming this event in 2021.”

The competition has also been praised for creating a global platform to feature current and next-generation U.S. cyclists, showcase the picturesque state of California, introduce the sport to millions of new fans and promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle.

Klein continued, “I would like to sincerely thank the teams, the cyclists, sponsors, volunteers, elected officials, host cities, and all of the fans that helped make the Amgen Tour of California ‘Americas Greatest Race.’ Most of all, I would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of my team who have tirelessly worked alongside me, each and every year, to develop the renowned event. I also would like to thank our governing body, USA Cycling, UCI and Amaury Sport Organisation for their continued support.”

“We would also like to extend our sincere thanks to Amgen for their incredible support and partnership from day one,” Klein added. “We are proud to have stood together with them to create this amazing legacy.”

Past men’s race champions have included Tour de France General Classification Winners Egan Bernal and Bradley Wiggins; as well as Tour de France Stage Winners George Bennett; Levi Leipheimer; Michael Rogers; Peter Sagan (record 7-time Tour de France Points Classifications winner, and record 17-stage winner at the Amgen Tour of California); and Tejay van Garderen. Additionally, 10-time Stage Winner Mark Cavendish has won 30 stages at the Tour de France (2nd all-time for both races).

The Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered with SRAM has featured an equally impressive field of competitors including three-time Olympic gold medal winner Kristin Armstrong; current race champion, Olympic gold medalist and world champion, Anna van der Breggen; Chloe Dygert, Olympic silver medalist, current UCI world time trial champion and six-time UCI gold medalist; and Coryn Rivera who in 2019, at age 26 holds 72 national titles.

Support local businesses impacted by power outages on Nov. 6

Our Sierra FoodWineArt magazine is glad to help sponsor a communitywide effort to support our local businesses impacted by the recent PG&E power outages.

Dubbed “Let’s Go Out Tonight!” western Nevada County residents are being asked to set aside Wednesday, November 6, to “visit a local restaurant, brewery, winery, bar, specialty shop or market and support local businesses that have been impacted by the recent power outages! 

“These local businesses not only feed and provide entertainment for the community, they also employ thousands of our neighbors, friends and family.  Here is our chance to show our support! Stop in for a drink, meal, or ice cream cone…every little bit helps!”

The sponsors include the Nevada City Chamber, Greater Grass Valley Chamber, Grass Valley Downtown Association, Penn Valley Chamber, The Union, KVMR, KNCO and Sierra FoodWineArt magazine.

We hope to see you out on the town! Thanks to Jesse Locks, a longtime local and director of the Nevada City Film Festival, for helping to spearhead this effort. — Jeff, Shannon and Mitchell Pelline of Nevada City