On Saturday, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1463 which had passed the Legislature on unanimous votes of 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate. Hard to believe really given the unanimous support in the Legislature! The veto is a major disappointment to me, to the City and to the other cities and counties that had stepped forward to endorse the bill. It is a very common sense piece of fire safety legislation and deserved the Governor’s signature. SB 1463 would have provided important direction to the California Public Utilities Commission in its current regulatory process concerning fire safety and overhead utility lines.
In vetoing the bill the Governor said that we need to raise the issues that SB 1463 seeks to address in the fire safety regulatory process ongoing at the CPUC. But in punting the matter over to the CPUC without the protections afforded by SB 1463, the Governor ensures that the utilities will have the upper hand on what is essentially their home turf—the CPUC. Local governments like Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Malibu and the 35 counties that endorsed SB 1463 have been cast into the lion’s den without a sword. Even though the battle will be severely uphill, we will continue to press the CPUC to hold utilities accountable for fire safety in Laguna Beach.
But the veto will not derail the push to underground utilities in Laguna Beach. I remain committed to finding ways to expedite the undergrounding process. These utility wires present an imminent threat to the safety of all residents and millions of visitors to our city. I am confident that our residents and our City Council will come up with solutions to reduce fire risk by undergrounding utilities in the highest risk areas despite the complete unwillingness of the utility companies to help. To implement a complete solution, it will likely require us to go to the voters to approve a bond. But Laguna has risen to that challenge before when asked and I believe will do it again for one of the most fundamental public safety issues facing us everyday— the risk of a catastrophic fire.