Outage frustrates Tenderloin residents

January 5, 2009 6:48:27 PM PST
There are some frustrated PG&E customers in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. That's because of a power outage that lasted a lot longer than anyone would have expected.

About a half dozen apartment buildings near Ellis and Hyde lost power at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. It affected 330 PG&E customers. Half had no service for 30 hours.

Kevin Wheeler used a lot of candles and a lot of energy walking six flights of stairs from his studio to the ground floor. Wheeler says he got no help from PG&E's customer service line.

"We went through three supervisors. There was nobody at the PG&E office who could tell me exactly what was going on," said Wheeler.

Wheeler finally learned from PG&E crews that a transformer blew out, and he couldn't believe it would take 30 hours to replace it.

Wheeler and some other folks say they spoke to a foreman who told them replacing the transformer was something like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

But the new transformer PG&E tried to install was much bigger than the old one, and that was the biggest problem.

"There were numerous delays caused by a smaller hole than the transformer could fit in unfortunately. We have to proceed with that work very carefully," said PG&E Joe Molica.

PG&E brought in a generator during the outage but it could only service less than half of the 330 customers.

Store owner Tamim Najjar says he had to throw away all his meats and frozen foods because of the outage.

"Some died, some you know is okay," said store owner Ly Vuong.

Vuong owns a tropical fish and aquarium store. He says he lost about 50 to 60 fish because there was no power to control the air flow and heater in the tanks.

PG&E will give a $30 credit to customers who lost service for more than 24 hours. Najjar and Vuong can file claims for their losses.