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90% Increase

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SFPUC’s 90% Increase & the Housing Hoax

•••••••••• March 23, 2023 ••••••••••

Water and sewer rates are to rise 90% over the next ten years. That’s the plan, according to SFPUC (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission) documents.

Rate increases are mostly driven by capital work, building and repairing water and sewer infrastructure. An example is the new digesters at the Southeast Plant. Digesters deal with the solids portion of sewage, reducing it and making it into something less nasty and more usable. The large, partly underground, concrete tanks will cost about one and a half billion dollars. The old tanks were no longer state-of-the-art and have reached the end of their useful life. 

Capital plans have downsized about twenty percent. Although SFPUC has about 2750 employees, it found that it was unable to deliver capital projects as quickly as it hoped and planned, so it has scaled back. This next fiscal year, it will spend nearly a billion dollars on capital work for sewer, water, and power projects.


Our Board of Supervisors is keen for the City to acquire the PG&E infrastructure. An offer of $2.5 billion has been rejected.”

During the next ten years, perhaps SFPUC will expand by acquiring PG&E's San Francisco electrical infrastructure. Now SFPUC generates some electricity and buys more; you probably receive its power via lines now owned and operated by PG&E. The City is engaged in what amounts to a lawsuit with PG&E over what it should pay for lines and related equipment. Our Board of Supervisors is keen for the City to acquire the PG&E infrastructure. An offer of $2.5 billion has been rejected.

Re the water system, SFPUC has completed an improvement program costing about $4.8 billion. The greatest remaining issue has to do with how much water SF can continue to take from the Tuolumne River, our major source (85%). The State wishes to double the flow down and out of the river, which cuts into SF's supply. Here, too, there is complex litigation and political wrangling.

SFPUC had an $8 billion plan (called Sewer System Improvement Program, SSIP) for updating the City’s sewer works, but the downsizing has mostly obliterated the plan, although many projects that comprised the SSIP remain.


Housing Dreams. This space previously wondered whether to take seriously "promises" made in a State required City document: the Housing Element (2022 (sic) Update). In eight years, it promises we'll build 82,000 units of housing, 46,000 "affordable." That might take $19 billion of City funds. The rate of building would far exceed what has been done in the past. In short, if SF delivers, the City is in for big change and huge disruption and expense.

The Mayor basically admitted that it’s a dream. Can’t and won’t happen. 

So there you have it. Readers of this space deserve this update.

Steve Lawrence is a Westside resident and SF Public Utility Commission stalwart. Feedback:

March 23, 2023

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