East Palo Alto residents express anger, frustration about slow PG&E response to outages

As of Thursday night, thousands of people are still without power on the Peninsula. Dozens of frustrated customers in East Palo Alto met with PG&E and local officials to discuss the power outages and reimbursements for PG&E customers.  

Emotions were running high in this meeting as customers expressed their frustration and anger about being without power for nearly three days last month. Many said they felt forgotten about, lost hundreds of dollars when their food spoiled, and most importantly, they want to know how PG&E will keep it from happening again.  

"Nothing’s going to happen! We have homeless people with no power outside freezing right now, but she goes home every single night, every single night, to a nice house. Y’all get paid good salaries though, right?" yelled a woman who says she's been living in East Palo Alto for 37 years. 

Organized by East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Gauthier, dozens of people showed up to a meeting at city hall and on live stream to tell PG&E and local leaders what it was like to be without power. 

East Palo Alto residents

"It’s beyond just logistics of ‘this is what we do when we prioritize' because no matter which way you spin it, we’re not a priority," said one East Palo Alto resident.   

"You know $100. I don’t care about the money but the physical and mental damage that people have. How are you going to address it?" said another resident. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Peninsula power outages could last until Friday

People also talked about the lack of communication from PG&E in East Palo Alto, saying they never got notices about the outages or accurate updates saying when power would be restored. Some people accused PG&E of not prioritizing East Palo Alto because it’s an underserved, community of color.  

"For some, racial trauma was triggered. What happened was not okay at any level. This should not be happening in the 21st century in America!" said Yasi Philipos, of East Palo Alto.  

San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum, David Cosgrave from SMC Emergency Services and State Assemblymember Diane Papan also participated in the meeting. PG&E Regional Vice President Aaron Johnson explained to customers how overwhelmed the power company has been since the start of the year.   

"It has been a long time since we’ve had outages of this duration, not in my 14 years at PG&E. There’s something in the weather this year. There’s also a call to us to improve the resiliency of the system and that’s something we’re going to have to be looking at, given the kind of outages we’ve seen," said Johnson.   

SEE ALSO: Los Altos without power for days following storm

The Peninsula has been hit hard with outages and many people suggested trees be trimmed, and power lines be placed underground.  

"I do want to apologize to the community of East Palo Alto for our performance in the recent storms, and frankly I’m pretty comfortable apologizing to the entire county of San Mateo."  

PG&E says customers can also apply to get a $25 reimbursement towards their bill. People were also advised to do whatever they can to prepare for another possible outage because more rainy weather is on the way.