State ruling overrules San Francisco’s controversial Sunset Reservoir decision, clearing the way to resurrect City solar projects
San Francisco – The so-called Greenest City in the Country has withered on the vine ever since a much-criticized decision to ban certain trade unions from working on municipal solar projects led to what is believed to be the nation’s first community protest and work stoppage at a solar installation and a nine-month delay in breaking ground on new solar projects.
In a harsh rebuke to an OLSE decision that was called an unlawful step beyond the agency’s authority under City law and even earned criticism from City officials, the state determined that “the process of installing photovoltaic systems includes tasks that are already within the work processes of many established trades and is a part of those apprenticeship programs.”
Workers from environmental justice communities and historically marginalized neighborhoods have found their greatest success in securing opportunities in the solar industry through the Laborers Union. In fact, hundreds of the 25,000 panels currently operating at Sunset Reservoir were installed by general laborers from Laborers Local 261 before they were fired in the wake of the City’s decision.
Yesterday’s state ruling once again opens up jobs to those workers and workers from other trades, while acknowledging the consensus view that the final step of solar installation, connecting wiring from a combiner box to an inverter in order to bring the electricity generated into a home or business, is electrical work.
The upside, however, is that these contracts can now include the City’s widely-hailed local hiring law authored by Supervisor John Avalos, which guarantees local community participation as San Francisco restarts its solar efforts, particularly as the CleanPowerSF program moves forward with plans to install over 100,000 panels in the City.
“The fundamental promise of the green economy is inclusion and opportunity for communities disproportionately polluted over the past several decades,” said Joshua Arce of Brightline Defense Project, whose efforts to promote environmental justice through targeted green job creation led to Brightline’s work with Supervisor Avalos on his landmark local hiring legislation. “The City broke that promise on Sunset Reservoir.”