It’s with great irony that on the 25th anniversary of the Oakland Firestorm of 1991, the former Mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown, vetoed Senate Bill 1463 (see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakland_firestorm_of_1991). Although not started by a severed electrical power line, its damages to a heavily populated community in a wild fire zone should not be forgotten.
I certainly remember the tragic Laguna Beach fire of 1993 (see http://www.light-headed.com/asite/laguna/laguna_history/laguna_beach_fire.php). But, the more recent and very devastating Butte Fire of 2015 was started by a broken electric line (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butte_Fire).
On Monday, the city of Laguna Beach and my office issued our press releases on the disappointing news that Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1463. The irony that the city is under a code RED fire warning, thanks to the Santa Ana Winds, is not lost on us.
The Laguna Beach Independent and ABC Channel 23 from Bakersfield provide their takes below. I’m also including our Press Release at the bottom. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — First Veto — September 24, 2016 september 24, 2016 john moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 — March 25, 2016 march 25, 2016 john moorlach.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 1463, a measure pushed by the City of Laguna Beach to put utility companies on notice about the risk posed by their above ground wires.
The bill, vetoed on Saturday, Sept. 24, was authored by state Senator John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, at Laguna’s request. It had passed the Legislature on unanimous votes of 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate.
SB 1463 gave direction to the California Public Utilities Commission to develop measures to reduce the risk of fires caused by above ground utilities, to prioritize the areas where they should be deployed and to incorporate the concerns of local government into the process, says a city statement.
Laguna Beach has experienced four fires sparked by utility lines in the last 10 years, the most recent on July 3, 2015.
In vetoing the bill, the governor said the issues should be raised within the CPUC’s regulatory process.
“Clearly, this is a major disappointment to the City and the other cities and counties that had stepped forward to endorse the bill,” said a statement by Laguna Beach City Council member Bob Whalen, who spearheaded the effort in Sacramento.
“It is a very common sense piece of fire safety legislation and deserved the Governor’s signature. This bill would have provided important direction to the CPUC in its current regulatory process concerning fire safety and overhead utility lines,” Whalen said.
Moorlach lamented the lost opportunity. “This critical change has now slipped away and local communities will have to fight to be heard through the process,” Moorlach said.”
To date, Laguna Beach is the only city to make a formal appearance in the CPUC fire safety proceedings, the statement says. Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse has testified more than once, urging that Laguna Beach be reclassified to a high fire hazard area.
Earlier this year, in adopting Fire Map 1, the CPUC had placed Laguna Beach in a low fire hazard area, meaning that the city would not receive priority for mitigation measures when utility companies seek approvals for changes to their distribution system.
LaTendresse said the process may prove beneficial even without the bill. “The administrative law judge running the CPUC fire safety process has ordered that the concerns of Laguna Beach be specifically addressed in the proceedings. I now believe that we will succeed in having the city categorized as a high fire hazard area on Fire Map 2, which is the next step in the CPUC process. SB 1463 would have been a big help to us in achieving our overall goal of better fire safety regulations, but we will continue to do our best to make our case to the CPUC,” he said in a statement.
Despite the lack of willingness by utility companies to help, Whalen said Laguna will continue to press the CPUC to hold the utilities accountable for fire safety. He called utility wires an imminent threat to the safety of residents and visitors.
City Manager John Pietig said city staff is pursuing undergrounding plans for Laguna Canyon Road, where utility caused fires have erupted and 50 cars have collided with utility poles over the last 10 years. Other high priority areas are the entry to Bluebird Canyon, a box canyon with only one way out, and Thalia Street, a key evacuation route from the Temple Hills and Top of the World neighborhoods, he said.
Governor Jerry Brown vetoes SB 1463, Senator Moorlach releases statement of disappointment
COSTA MESA, Calif. – On Saturday, September 24, Governor Brown vetoed Senate Bill 1463, which would have given local governments more say in fire-prevention efforts through the current Public Utilities Commission current proceeding making maps of fire hazard areas around utility lines.
Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) authored SB 1463 at the request of Senate District 37 city, Laguna Beach, which has experienced four fires sparked by utility lines in the last ten years.
SB 1463 passed the Legislature with votes of 75-0 on the Assembly Floor and 39-0 on the Senate Floor.
Senator Moorlach released a statement regarding Governor Brown’s veto on September 26:
"One of the paramount responsibilities of government is to provide for public safety. The consequences of wildfires include loss of life, property damage, impacts on ecosystems, etc. Communities in my district, particularly Laguna Beach, are rightfully very concerned about fire safety.
"SB 1463 would have not only safeguarded Laguna and other high fire-risk communities in Orange County, but would have helped other vulnerable communities throughout the state that are often threatened by wildfires caused by sparks from shorted or fallen utility lines. The Governor’s veto impedes the necessity to more urgently address the California Public Utilities Commission’s focus on identifying high risk areas that should be prioritized for appropriate mitigation measures."