San Jose leaders consider backing mayor’s plan for PG&E ratepayer takeover
In this Aug. 15, 2019, photo, a PG&E worker walks in front of a truck in San Francisco. San Francisco officials are offering to buy PG&E's power lines and other infrastructure in the city for $2.5 billion. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

With growing support from a host of 114 elected leaders in 58 cities and 10 counties, Mayor Sam Liccardo recently announced that his vision of turning PG&E into a customer-owned utility has received widespread recognition statewide.

Nearly a month after introducing the proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission — which will ultimately decide on the utility’s future — the City Council  is expected to adopt a resolution Tuesday in support of the mayor’s plan for a ratepayer takeover of the utility.

The bankrupt company faced intense scrutiny in the last couple of years, after PG&E’s faulty infrastructure sparked massive fires and a statewide power outage earlier this year provoked city leaders to act.

The mayor and his team of supporters are pushing to transform the company into a cooperative that would run like a credit union or mutual insurance corporation, owned by ratepayers. Its nonprofit status would mean it could focus putting dollars into badly needed electrical grid upgrades and infrastructure maintenance.

“I’m proud to stand with 114 leaders representing the majority of Californians served by PG&E to urge that we transform the utility into one run by its customers,” Liccardo said in a Twitter post Thursday. “Today, we released a set of principles that presents a framework for a customer-owned PG&E that is transparent, accountable, and equitable to put the company’s days of underinvestment, mismanagement, and negligence far behind us.”

Still, a plan on meeting those goals are unclear and the troubled utility has a little less than a year to exit bankruptcy and develop a safety plan, ahead of next fall’s wildfire season — or face a statewide takeover.

Although Liccardo has acknowledged that the transition to a customer utility may take years and won’t be an easy feat, the mayor is determined to move forward with the plan as more than 900 customer utilities already exist in the United States, serving at least 19 million customers.

Laura’s Law

A controversial state law, which allows a court to compel services to severely mentally ill people to undergo treatment, has been widely debated among city leaders, mental health professionals and county officials for years.

But now, a local lawmaker’s vision to enact the law to help the growing number of mentally ill people in need of treatment living on the streets, may soon become a reality in San Jose — a turning point for a city riddled with a growing homeless population.

Laura’s Law, passed in 2002, enables counties to mandate that certain mentally unstable individuals or people who refuse treatment be admitted into an assisted outpatient treatment program. The law applies only to people who have been hospitalized or incarcerated as a result of their mental illness, but city leaders, such as longtime advocate Councilmember Johnny Khamis, say the law can help the growing number of homeless people in San Jose.

“Homelessness has reached the point of crisis in Santa Clara County. There are over 9,706 homeless individuals residing in the county, with this number continuing to grow at an alarming rate,” wrote Khamis and Councilmember Raul Peralez in a joint memo last month. “Laura’s Law and expanding the framework for conservatorship will open up more opportunities for helping the most vulnerable who struggle with mental illness and alcohol or drug addictions.”

The City Council on Tuesday will vote to send a letter to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in support of the law before county officials vote on its implementation on Dec. 17.

North San Jose development policy

Following years of frustration over the inability to build new housing in North San Jose, city officials are hopeful that a new state law could help produce thousands of new residential units by removing housing development caps across the state.

For over a decade, San Jose city leaders and planners have aimed to transform North San Jose into a walkable, mixed-use epicenter filled with tens of thousands of new homes, hotels and retail all connected by a light rail line tucked roughly between Highways 237 and 101 and Interstate 880.

But a longstanding legal settlement with the city’s neighbors that phased and capped growth has stalled that vision. Now, the new state law — SB 330 — set to take effect Jan. 1, may lift those barriers for new development by banning housing development caps across the state.

The plan includes 32,000 new homes, 27 million square feet of research and office space, and nearly 3 million square feet of commercial space.

City leaders will discuss the new law and potential update to the North San Jose development policy on Tuesday.

Measure T 

On Tuesday, a little more than a year after Measure T was approved by voters, city leaders will discuss how the funds are being spent on critical infrastructure projects throughout the city.

Measure T, a $650 million bond measure earmarked for public safety, infrastructure and disaster preparedness, was passed by nearly 70 percent of voters last November to fund the repair of at least 300 hundred miles of city roads, renovate and seismically retrofit bridges and build or relocate five new fire stations, among other projects. Half of the funds are being used to repave roads, a relief to San Jose drivers who are fed up with the city’s rough, bumpy roadways.

The funds, which will be spent in phases, will also be used for critical public safety, flood protection, LED lighting and clean water projects. The City Council is also expected to approve the creation of a community oversight committee Tuesday, which will oversee how the funds are being spent.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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