City officials are tallying up the economic impacts of Friday's eight-hour blackout which affected some of the densest and busiest parts of San Francisco, shutting down 21 schools and impacting countless businesses for an entire workday. And now City Administrator Naomi Kelly, Emergency Management Chief Anne Kronenberg, and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White have submitted a joint letter to PG&E CEO Geisha Williams asking to tour the damaged Larkin Street substation and for a review of all substations citywide something the mayor also called for on Monday. Additionally, as the Chronicle reports, Supervisors London Breed and Aaron Peskin are calling for a hearing, and griping that "The communication from PG&E [on Friday] was nonexistent."
Indeed it seemed that the usual citywide alerts we get during police situations and general information about the impacts of the power outage were especially slow on Friday, and the supervisors further complain that they did not hear from the city’s own Department of Emergency Services for more than four hours, per the Chronicle.
Breed gave a strongly worded statement of her own, according to KRON 4, saying, "If we look at Friday as a test of our city’s response to a massive power outage [or other disaster] and how our agencies collaborated and responded, I would have to say we failed. Too little information was shared with too few city agencies, too many people were stranded." She added, "We got off easy this time, but next time it might be another story."
It was reported Friday that the Larkin Street substation, where a fire Friday morning led the outage that affected 88,000 PG&E customers, was already scheduled for a $100 million upgrade this year, and now the letter from city officials is seeking more information on that upgrade, as well as any other backup and recovery plans the utility has.
"This highlights concerns about the integrity of other PG&E assets,” the letter reads, per KRON 4. “A service interruption at this scale is more than an inconvenience. It is a failure that affects the lives of residents, businesses, and visitors alike."
So far, though city agencies are trying to compile numbers of economic impacts, they are not asking for financial damages from PG&E though that wouldn't be unprecedented. As the Chronicle notes, there were a total of six substation fires in the city between 1996 and 2005 alone, including one at the Mission and Eighth substation in 2003 that shut down parts of downtown on a busy holiday shopping day, for which PG&E eventually coughed up $6.5 million.