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Conflict Between PG&E, SF Public Utilities Commission Bogs Down More Projects

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- There are new developments in a bitter fight between the city of San Francisco and PG&E that could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

KPIX 5 first broke the story last year. Now another public project is getting caught in the middle of the dispute.

From waves of new sunlight to the fresh lane tiles, balboa pool is already shimmering amid its $10 million renovation. It is a job that should have been finished in the fall of last year.

"We're, you know, literally beholden to frankly a private entity to make sure that the lights are on," said SF Rec & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg.

While some work goes on here, major electric and mechanical work has been halted amid the city's ongoing dispute with PG&E. So the pool sits unplastered as the two sides sort out exactly how the building should be powered.

"We just don't understand why PG&E is requiring this unnecessary equipment, which is going to take more money and more time," said Tyler Gamble with the SF Public Utilities Commission.

It is an unconventional situation. The city's public utility agency and PG&E coexist as both partners and competitors. That keeps throwing fuses when projects like this one require getting the two systems plugged together.

"So there's an ongoing disagreement over the terms of that relationship. That's currently being hashed out right now at the Federal Regulatory Commission," said Gamble. "In the meantime, as you've noted, these kinds of issues are piling up."

It was about a year ago when KPIX 5 first uncovered this power struggle. At the time causing a significant delay at the Randall Museum.

"Once again, we're a little stuck," said Ginsburg.

The head of San Francisco Rec & Park is now swimming into something of a setback medley, because this job is part of a three-pool package unfolding in a sequence. So renovations at Rossi Pool in the Richmond and Garfield Pool in the Mission might also be affected if this one delay cascades into three.

"Not only are people not getting the enjoyment of the facilities, but delays actually cost money," said Ginsburg.

The current estimated tab for the 13-month delay at Balboa Pool alone? $800,000.

In a recently released statement, PG&E says it is working to "complete the electric upgrade safely and as quickly as possible," but a lot of folks are losing patience.

"I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. All I care about is I want the pool open," said District 11 SF Supervisor Ahsha Safaí.

After KPIX 5 calls inquiring about the delays, Safai started calling up all parties involved, hoping to broker some kind of agreement.

"So I'm calling a meeting. We're going to get the smartest engineers in the room and we're going to resolve this and fast forward the project," said Safaí.

So hopefully the pool gets sorted out like the Randall Museum ultimately did.

But the disagreement still affects all kinds of projects across San Francisco with a potential taxpayer price tag of more than half a billion dollars.

And while the city keeps hoping the feds will resolve this, there is no indication that a ruling is coming any time soon.

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