North Park Towers-6
A shadow of power lines along the alley behind North Park Towers / Photo by Ariana Drehsler for Voice of San Diego

Proponents of taking power lines from San Diego Gas and Electric struck out at the San Diego City Council to put the matter before voters in November. 

So now the group, called Power San Diego, is going the route of collecting tens of thousands of signatures – 80,020 to be exact. Anyone can propose a new law, or change one, but not without getting the OK from 10 percent of the voters.  

“We think our fellow citizens might be motivated,” Powers said. “Rates have doubled since 2016 and the current projection so far that I’ve seen is that they’ll continue to rise as far as we can see.”  

The plan, according to Bill Powers, who is leading that effort, is to push the city of San Diego to take over the poles, wires and substations in local right of ways and end its century-long relationship with SDG&E. Powers said San Diego is already suffering from the highest electric rates in the country.  

SDG&E warned against it. Numerous studies have estimated that buying SDG&E’s infrastructure within city limits would cost billions, values the company disputed time and again.  
“Pushing an uninformed ballot measure without understanding the serious financial implications to the city and taxpayers is a dangerous blank check that risks billions of tax dollars along with the safety and reliability of the power grid,” wrote Anthony Wagner, a spokesman for SDG&E in an email. “We are confident SDG&E remains the best option for San Diego customers, given our outstanding safety record, climate innovation and unmatched reliability.” 

However, a recent public power feasibility study conducted by the city suggested San Diego could save money by taking over its grid.  

Volunteer-based signature gathering is a heavy lift.  

Whole companies form around the sole purpose of gathering signatures behind ballot measures, the backbone of California’s direct-to-voter brand of democracy. People hired to grab signatures outside grocery stores and pharmacies can earn up to $15 per signature – costing groups backing measures millions of dollars.  

Powers said his group plans to gather the necessary John Hancocks through volunteers. Power San Diego hired a few full-time staff but doesn’t have a professional fundraiser or someone “with deep pockets” to run the show, Powers said.  

“It’s people putting some of their retirement funds into something they consider just as important,” he said. 

The group plans to drop its final ballot language in a few weeks. A letter submitted to the City Council Rules Committee in July elucidates what Powers et al are hoping for: A not-for-profit public electric utility that operates as a city department with an independently appointed board, much like the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  

Powers wasn’t always an advocate for the city absorbing the duties of an electric utility. He told me back in 2020 – when San Diego was in the thick of deciding whether to re-ink a contract with SDG&E – the public utility should ideally operate as an independent body outside the politics of City Hall. But that would require a change to the city’s constitution, called the city charter, and require twice the signatures.  

Point is – Powers said, “Right now we have no recourse to make changes to our existing private utility. With this, we’d have local control.” 

In his other role as a board member of Protect Our Communities Foundation, which fought SDG&E’s Sunrise PowerLink transmission line years ago, recently lost a battle to undo San Diego’s contract with the utility, the Union-Tribune reported.  

Join the Conversation


  1. I’ll sign it – SDGE had their chance to be reasonable but instead San Diego has the most expensive power in the nation. SDGE profits in 2022 were approx $1 billion, 12% increase over 2021 – we have a family of 5, virtually never used our heater and were paying $600 a month – in the Summer, we rarely used our AC and it was still $500 a month – so yeah, they’re gouging us & have ruined any trust I had in them.

    1. Despite their prices, they are providing consistent power and service. Where as if you see the city’s roads and such are quite poor. So imagine if you put electrical lines into the hands of a city that maintains it’s roads like this. Where the affluent areas get cleaned up roads, and others get the rough ones with potholes everywhere.

      But hey, I’m game either way.

      1. SDGE the biggest thieves to ever enter san diego and they are the most crooked company to ever set foot in the United states . .
        I know people that work their that get paid bonuses to figure out how to increase the customer bills. All the people that stick up for this thief company are inside people and they need to be fired immediately.

        1. SDG&E is half the reason the roads are in such bad condition. They constantly trench the roads for unnecessary, poorly planned, poorly timed work, and then do a terrible job at repairing and resealing. This causes the roads to erode and pothole at the rate they do. If it was one agency (the City) handling both roads and utilities the coordination on timing would be far more straightforward, and they would be incentivised to do it well. Down with SDG&E!

      2. The City does a pretty good job running our water utility. Not only are our rates reasonable, but we’ve also made major strides toward reducing our water dependence from outside sources. The Pure Water San Diego Program/Project will provide about half of our water needs by 2035. Also, The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is currently providing about 10% of our needs. I trust the City way more than I trust SDG&E.

        1. Are you aware that San Diego in just one year 2023 has dumped $200 million dollars of water from El Capitan Reservoir and Lake Hodges because they have FAILED to maintain the dams to safe standards?

  2. We’d love to have your support!
    Head over to our website and let us know how you’d like to help!
    We are Power San Diego . com

  3. rid our city of these filthy criminals. The State won’t help, the CPUC is in bed with them, it’s time for them to go.
    Don’t listen to SDGE’s lies; there 40 publicly owned power providers throughout California. Just check any of them out to see how things went when they rid themselves of the leeches.

  4. From the news story:
    “…“We think our fellow citizens might be motivated,” Powers said. “Rates have doubled since 2016…”

    Gasoline in California in 2016 was ~ $2.80, and now it is $5.39 … perhaps citizen groups should also take over oil companies?
    As Pogo would say “We have met the enemy…and he is us”.

    1. Great , just what we need more overpaid bureaucrats doing redundant jobs while padding their pensions.
      No thanks, go back to homeless grifting.

  5. I’m definitely not fan of SDG&E. They have done everything in their power to create as much profit for the company by concocting expensive infrastructure projects, from which they allowed to profit, while simultaneously lobbying their cronies at the CPUC to continue to devalue rooftop and parking lot solar.

    But I have no confidence in the City Council’s ability to take on that role given their track record. It’s not just their history of failures with real estate: the ongoing saga of 101 Ash Street, the bait and switch project plan in Midway, the willingness to raze the Civic Theater for housing, etc. These are, however, all emblematic of the inability of the City Council and city staff to think critically, especially around long-term planning and financing, and to choose the right people/businesses with which to partner. Look at the city’s current oversight of deteriorating roads, water lines, etc. and ask yourself how well would it manage our electrical grid.

    1. SDGE and people VIET HUNG Nguyen need to be fired from any position in the county of San Diego . Where does this crook work

  6. SDGE has been doing a decent job. Personally, thanks to going solar in the early days (and paying the early adopter price), they have been paying me for the most part.

    In terms of the city taking control of the lines, look at how the city handles roads. How it handles the pension shortfall. And the city budget deficit. And we want them to absorb more? I’d like to see projections where we reduce our city debt and pension shortfalls before taking on another liability.

  7. Where would this leave the rest of the county? What would or could happen to net metering for solar? Seriously, I am asking.

  8. ““The plan, according to Bill Powers, who is leading that effort, is to push the city of San Diego to take over the poles, wires and substations in local *right of ways*”
    c’mon! *rights-of-way* is the way to put it.

  9. Sdge is a thief of a company and the people that run it are thieves. They get bonuses to increase the bills.

  10. Remember everyone that Sempra Energy needs to be put out of business they are the crooks behind SDGE we also need to put on the Ballot that these foreign companies never again have stake in the United States of America

  11. I would not negotiate anything with SDGE and sue them for back pay and take away all the poles from them to cover the loses a d harm this company has made so many people suffer . Sampra Energy your next you thieves

  12. I guess I’ll be busy this month signing up people from all the business to all the customers. I’ll take the time to do it for free and it would be my pleasure to put Sempra Energy and SDGE out of existence .

  13. Doug are you blind ? Why would we pay anything ? Get them crooks out I have 20 other American utilities that will pay for it but if the people want to continue to be dumb just ask Doug how . You don’t pay thieves , you fine them . Wow dude your so sad for not having a brain.

  14. Janice , your a speed bump for the rest of us ,
    Please don’t put speed bumps for people to get the change . If you can’t figure it out then you have other issues I can imagine to figure out .

  15. Fine SDGE and then fine Sempra Energy for being a foreign institution collecting data and sending it to other countries

  16. My entire household will sign it. SDGE is too greedy and it charges more than twice what they pay in Sacramento with their no profit power. Perhaps the problem is that SDGE pays its boss more than $20 million a year!

    1. Certainly part of the problem, but the root problem is the fact that they have a government-protected monopoly, so they don’t need to care about cost containment or customer service.

  17. This is the wrong approach. The city isn’t capable of managing something this important. Gloria is not the person we want in charge of our electricity. Gloria would stop fixing the electric infrasturcture just like he has stopped fixing the streets and 5 years from now, we’d be in a world of hurt.
    I agree that SDG&E are not our friend, but replacing them with politicians is jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

  18. Wake up people! You pay the same price for the electricity and natural gas that SDG&E pays. There is no markup on the commodities. If you have complaints about the costs for electricity and gas, you’re targeting the wrong entity.
    SDG&E makes their money through the maintenance and improvement of the electric infrastructure. Not the sale of gas and electricity.

    1. Sacramento and Los Angeles both have publicly-owned power with no problems. So why should we be subject to the highest energy rates in the nation, all for the guaranteed profits at SDG&E? Public power is clearly the better choice. It’s time to put an end to SDG&E.

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