SB City Council to receive update on Community Choice Energy program
The Santa Barbara City Council will receive an update on the city’s Community Choice Energy program, Santa Barbara Clean Energy, during its meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday. City Attorney Ariel Pierre Calonne will present a demand letter he intends to send to Southern California Edison after the company sent confusing and potentially unlawful letters to 9,000 city residents.
Following months of mass mailers from Santa Barbara Clean Energy, residents were automatically opted in to the community choice aggregation program, and service began Oct. 1.
But in August, some customers received a letter from SCE titled “Rescheduling of Community Choice Aggregation Service Request” that said customers’ requested service transfer date had moved. SCE later told SBCE that the letter was sent automatically when it corrected a mistake on the calendar.
Customers were confused because they didn’t request a change of service; SBCE’s program is automatic. The SCE letter contained the phone number for SCE’s call center, which was not aware of the service.
One customer was allegedly instructed to call City Hall to opt out of SBCE.
A draft of Mr. Calonne’s letter says SCE’s actions may violate the California Public
Utilities Commission Code of Conduct. The community program, not the utility company, has the exclusive right to contact customers and communicate opt-out procedures, it says.
In late August, SBCE met via teleconference with SCE with a list of corrective demands, but SCE wouldn’t commit to a plan during the meeting.
SBCE utilized an attorney retained by the California Choice Energy Authority to communicate with SCE and learned of two additional letters that mischaracterized SBCE.
Mr. Calonne is demanding commercial customers do not receive these confusing letters in phase two of SBCE’s rollout.
Despite this challenge, the program’s participation rate tops 97%, beating estimates.
At its 12:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council’s finance committee will consider issuing a $1.5 million loan to fund additional expenses anticipated in the Vera Cruz Village affordable housing development — a Housing Authority project that will house formerly homeless people in 28 studio apartments.
The city previously provided a $2 million loan, and the Housing Authority secured $9.2 in low-income housing tax credits and a $5.2 million conventional loan.
Expenses have increased since the beginning of the year, so the Housing Authority is requesting an additional loan to start development.
The apartments will be located at 110-116 E. Cota Street, an empty city parking lot once used for buses, next to F45 Training and Dune Coffee Roasters.
The Housing Authority’s executive director and CEO Rob Fredericks suggested the additional funding during the Oct. 19 City Council meeting as the council discussed the safe shelter program and low stock of low-income housing.
The council directed city staff to evaluate Vera Cruz Village funding and approved the spending from reserves in the city’s affordable housing fund.
Eric Friedman, chair of the Finance Committee, warned members of the City Council that the budget was constrained during the Oct. 19 meeting, as the council dipped into the general fund to extend the safe shelter program.
“We have a lot on our plate already,” he said. “It’s going to require fiscal discipline from everybody on council regarding a lot of other items that are not on tonight’s agenda.”
The Housing Authority originally anticipated construction on the Vera Cruz Village project to begin this fall. It will take a year to 14 months to complete.
There will also be a one-bedroom manager apartment on site. The manager will oversee the apartment complex, which will have wraparound services including case management.
City Council meetings are available online at santabarbaraca.gov/cap. To attend the virtual meeting, go to santabarbaraca-gov.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NjFqhYIpTR2LT1ELbzXsgg.
The Finance Committee meeting will be hosted through GoToWebinar at attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1769427988538567695.