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June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
Local

City of San Francisco
Proposition A Charter Amendment - Majority Approval Required

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Election Results

Passing

181,638 votes yes (77.22%)

53,572 votes no (22.78%)

Public Utilities Revenue Bonds
— undefined

Shall the City authorize the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to issue revenue bonds to build or improve the City's clean power facilities, with approval by two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors, and prohibit the PUC from financing construction of power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels or nuclear power?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters San Francisco

The Question

Shall the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco be amended to authorize the Public Utilities Commission

1.      to clarify the scope of the Commission’s bond authority with regard to the City’s water and clean water utilities to include power utilities and

2.      to issue revenue bonds for new facilities needed to produce and deliver clean power?

 

Note: The Pros & Cons are also available in Spanish and Chinese.

The Situation

This measure seeks to expand the PUC’s scope to include power and power facilities in addition to water and clean water facilities. Since passage of the Raker Act in 1913, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has been charged with producing electricity for delivery to San Francisco, largely sourced from the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric system. The electricity is delivered to many City Departments including SF Fire Department, SF Unified School District, and low-income housing developments. 

New facilities will allow expanded provision of this service to new neighborhood developments such as Treasure Island, Hunters Point, Mission Rock, and Pier 70 while continuing to reduce the carbon footprint and improve air quality resulting from these activities. 

In addition to supporting achievement of San Francisco’s 2030 sustainability goals, these new facilities may not be fossil fuel or nuclear-power based and will integrate new and evolving technologies like solar energy, energy storage and electric vehicle charging stations, while also supporting reliable energy supply solutions like earthquake resilience and grid-to-grid connected technologies. 

Currently, the PUC has the authority to issue revenue bonds for some power facilities and require electricity customers to pay the costs of equipment needed to serve them. The PUC must get voter approval to issue those bonds.

The Proposal

Proposition A would amend the charter to authorize the PUC to issue revenue bonds to build or improve clean power facilities, with approval by two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors.

This would require the PUC to use revenue bond funds to finance new power facilities that deliver clean energy, enhance reliability and safety, and increase sustainability. The measure would also prohibit the PUC from financing construction of power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels or nuclear power.

 

A “YES” Vote Means: You want to authorize the PUC to issue revenue bonds to build or improve the City’s clean power facilities, subject to approval by two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors, and to prohibit the PUC from financing construction of power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels or nuclear power.

A “NO” Vote Means: You do not want to make these changes.

Supporters say

¡     Prop A’s passage would improve public health of residents of San Francisco through deployment of clean energy technologies. It demonstrates San Francisco’s leadership on environmental justice at the national level, protecting vulnerable citizens in the developing southeastern part of the City.

¡     It integrates oversight and development of utilities key to San Francisco’s future development. It would allow for improvements to power/electric infrastructure, including movement of existing lines underground, to improve fire and earthquake safety.

¡     It provides a means for San Francisco to support sustainable development and integration of smart technologies. It supports sustainable housing development in San Francisco without compromising the City’s 2030 Sustainability Goals.

 

Opponents say

¡     The PUC’s oversight of existing utilities hasn’t resulted in any more cost-effectiveness for residents and businesses. Approval of this measure will only result in more debt for the City.

¡     Inclusion of power facilities potentially increases debt for the City, without direct voter approval. This is a power grab of the SF political establishment.

¡     This increase in scope and oversight by PUC may result in decreased competition for clean power in San Francisco. 

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

A “YES” Vote Means: If you vote "yes," you want to authorize the PUC to issue revenue bonds to build or improve the City’s clean power facilities, with approval by two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors, and to prohibit the PUC from financing construction of power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels or nuclear power.

NO vote means

A “NO” Vote Means: If you vote "no," you do not want to make these changes.

Summary

Ballot Simplification Committee

The Way It Is Now: The City owns several public utilities, including power, water and sewer systems operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The PUC uses the money customers pay for power, water and sewer service to operate these utilities and to repay bonds the City has issued to build and improve sewer and water facilities. When the City issues a revenue bond to pay for PUC facilities, the City pays back the money with interest using customer funds collected by the PUC. In 2002, the voters passed Proposition E to authorize the PUC to issue revenue bonds to build or improve water and sewer facilities, with approval by two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors. Revenue bonds to build or improve power facilities must be approved by the voters.

The Proposal: Proposition A would amend the Charter to authorize the PUC to issue revenue bonds to build or improve clean power facilities, with approval by two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors. Proposition A would require the PUC to use revenue bond funds to finance new power facilities that deliver clean energy, enhance reliability and safety, and increase sustainability. The measure would also prohibit the PUC from financing construction of power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels or nuclear power.

Financial effect

City Controller Ben Rosenfield

City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition A:

Should the proposed charter amendment be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would have no direct impact on the cost of government.

The amendment provides that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) would be authorized to issue revenue bonds for power facilities when approved by ordinance. The ordinance authorizing such bonds must pass with a two-thirds vote of the Board of Supervisors. The PUC currently has this authority for water and clean water facilities. The proposed amendment would provide the PUC with capacity to develop bond-funded facilities across a broader range of solar power facilities, power storage facilities and other infrastructure for efficient power distribution.

Existing requirements and controls over PUC bonds would all apply under the proposed amendment. These requirements include that the PUC obtain independent engineering certification, that the bondfunded projects meet cost, schedule and debt coverage requirements, and that the Planning Department certify compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The PUC Commission, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors are all required to approve the bonds. Bonds issued under this authority would be subject to ongoing review and oversight by the PUC Revenue Bond Oversight Committee.

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

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