SAN FRANCISCO — California voters were headed to the polls Tuesday to consider a new school district and contemplate pushing California’s largest utility out of its hometown in favor of a publicly-owned power agency.
Turnout was expected to be low, with local issues topping ballots and fears of terrorism on the minds of many. But several measures — such as an effort by the city of Carson to secede from the Los Angeles Unified School District — could spark similar movements elsewhere in the state, analysts said.
In San Francisco, two measures promote seizing Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s transmission lines and power plants to create a publicly-owned utility. Advocates say it would mean cheaper electricity, though start-up costs could stall such promises by as many as 10 years, and legal battles from PG&E could stall it indefinitely.
The state’s power woes piqued interest in public power as agencies in Los Angeles and Sacramento managed to keep electric rates up to 30 percent lower than PG&E.
Proposition F would expand the city’s utilities commission and allow an elected board to decide whether to take the necessary PG&E infrastructure to generate and provide electricity. Measure I would create an independent municipal utility district with an elected board.
Both agencies would issue bonds to raise the millions they would need to buy PG&E property, pay workers, and buy any electricity they can’t generate. Should both pass, the MUD has two years to get up and running. If it still is tangled in legal battles with PG&E, the city agency would prevail, backers said.
PG&E has spent more than $1 million to fight the measures, calling them “too risky.”
The utility could lose about 360,000 customers, and industry experts predict a power victory in San Francisco could spur other cities in PG&E’s territory, such as San Jose and Davis, to move forward with similar concepts.
Elsewhere in the state:
— Angered by low test scores, high dropout rates and other long-standing problems, a group of Carson residents wants to become the first region to split from the Los Angeles Unified School District in more than half a century.
Voter approval of Measure D on Tuesday’s ballot would mark the first successful secession attempt from the LAUSD since Torrance left in 1948, and critics warn it could prompt more.
— The 28,500 residents in the unincorporated Santa Barbara County community of Goleta decide whether to make the 5,400 acres into a city. Backers of Measure H want local control of neighborhoods and revenues and a voice in regional decisions. Opponents say the proposal leaves out 57,000 who hold a stake in the community’s future and is financially unsound.
Voters also are electing mayors:
— In the San Francisco suburb of Livermore, mayoral candidate Marshall Kamena, who served as mayor 20 years ago, has acknowledged he took Mayor Cathie Brown campaign sign and tossed it behind a pile of weeds behind the local veteran’s hall. Kamena says it was a misunderstanding and that he put Brown’s sign back. Incumbent Councilman John Stein said half of his 300 signs have been stolen this year, at $4.50 a pop.
— The Santa Barbara ballot features seven candidates for mayor, including two City Council members, a former council member, a neighborhood activist, a surfer with no telephone, a self-described “thinker” and the ex-con who wants to establish a marijuana free trade zone. All mayoral candidates need to do to get on the ballot is file the signatures of 100 registered voters.
— In San Mateo County, the top election official who counts the votes will have to tally those for his wife, who is seeking a Redwood City school board seat. Warren Slocum said he felt a bit anxious when his wife, Maria Diaz-Slocum, decided to run. He has declined to endorse her or campaign for her, even though he could, insisting he is treating her like any other candidate. Slocum recently said he no longer planned to run for Secretary of State.
— A pair of measures could transform fog-enshrouded San Francisco into one of the nation’s largest producers of sun-generated electricity. Prop. B would allow the city to issue a $100 million revenue bond measure to fund solar and wind power. Prop. H would allow the Board of Supervisors to authorize revenue bonds for renewable energy and conservation projects without voter approval.
— Also in San Francisco, Measure D would let voters reject construction projects that would fill in 100 acres or more of the Bay. Opponents say it could hurt tourism by slowing expansion of San Francisco International Airport. Supporters maintain the measure protects the bay’s health.