Editorial: Let there be light (and power) | News | DanvilleSanRamon.com |

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Editorial: Let there be light (and power)

Thoughts on PG&E shutoffs, Amador parking lot & Livermore vaping referendum cancellation

Tens of thousands of Tri-Valley residents were without power during the weekend and into Monday because of a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff.

We understand the need to shut off power to protect lives from wildfires sparked by PG&E equipment. The predicted wind event last Sunday was considered "historic," with hurricane-level winds reported in some areas. Nobody wants the death and destruction of the 2017 and 2018 Northern California fires repeated.

What we don't understand is why those shutoffs have to happen hours before the so-called wind events begin and why they are done in great swaths as opposed to more specific areas of concern.

Beyond the inconvenience of living by candlelight, losing hundreds of dollars in food and trying to entertain the children with no television, X-Box or Wi-Fi, these power shutoffs cause significant public safety concerns.

Regardless of how many times the local police departments remind us that a traffic signal that is dark or flashing red should be viewed as a four-way stop, there were drivers flying through some intersections -- particularly at night. In addition, some security and fire alarms do not function without power.

If not ventilated properly, generators can also be dangerous.

Then there are the economic costs to businesses that can't open for business, which also equates to lost wages for employees.

Let's hope the wind events are behind us for this year and that by next year PG&E has improved communication with the public and government agencies, as well as installed new equipment and made updates to the grids so if there needs to be more shutoffs, fewer people are not left in the dark.

One has to wonder what would happen if San Francisco County was ever subjected to a PSPS, or if PG&E senior executives had to forego their salaries and bonuses until shutoffs were not necessary.

Let there be light, part deux

Pleasanton Unified School District was raked over the coals about poor planning and public notice in advance of the installation of solar panels in the parking lot of Amador Valley High School.

Because site work on the structure, which will generate electricity as well as shade cars, didn't start as soon as school year ended May 31, the parking lot was unavailable at the beginning of this school year. This made life very difficult for students, parents, school staff and neighbors.

When it became apparent the lot was not going to be available for the first few weeks of the school year, district and city staff quickly pulled together a plan and started communicating it. The plan included a contract with Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority to provide additional, earlier Wheels bus routes to Amador and a digital listing of drop-off and pick-up zones near the campus for harried parents driving their students.

There was outreach to neighbors, who feared being inundated with dozens of cars parked on their street, and with the public about potential chaos on Santa Rita Road before and after school.

While planning could definitely have been better and onsite construction started earlier, the communication and mitigation were well done. And the project finished on time on Oct. 15.

Well, almost finished.

Now parking is available, but the lot has been dark after sundown because there are no lights. According to PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon, the construction vendor ordered the incorrect lighting fixtures.

This has made the lot unsafe during football games, dances and any weekend activities. Gannon said they had arranged for temporary lighting for the lot for last weekend's band review, in which 50 high school and middle school bands and colorguards from Northern California and Nevada participated.

The district can't be blamed for the wrong fixtures being ordered. Some things you expect the experts to handle. Opening the lot with no lights, on the other hand, was a questionable decision. Gannon said the timeline to have the lighting back is this week.

Where there's smoke

We are glad to hear the proponent of a JUUL Labs-backed referendum effort in Livermore formally withdrew his petition last week, clearing the way for the special election to be canceled and the city's new anti-vaping ordinance to take effect.

Livermore's ordinance to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco within the city limits, as well as create a new prohibition of the sale of all tobacco products within 1,000 feet of a "youth-populated area" (among other new regulations) was suspended after the referendum petition was submitted this summer.

As we stated in a September editorial, we were disheartened that an action taken by the city of Livermore at the behest of the residents was being challenged by people driven solely by financial gain. What was really frustrating is that Livermore residents would have had to foot the bill for a special election.

Livermore resident Barry Grace sent a letter to the city withdrawing his referendum petition, which had qualified for the ballot. While he didn't cite any specific reason for the withdrawal, it comes less than a month after JUUL pulled out of a similar campaign in San Francisco and then scaled back operations amid new scrutiny from federal regulators over its vapor products.

Kudos to the Livermore City Council for having the courage to stand up against Big Tobacco, with its deep pockets and dedicated spin doctors, in the city's effort to protect children.

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