Green like money

Green like money

Gay greenwash: Look who skipped out on PG&E’s LGBT Center solar panel party

BY Amanda Witherell

The LGBT Community Center on Market Street traded pink and lavender for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s acidic green Jan. 27. During a so-called green fair at the center, the billion-dollar corporation unveiled a $170,000 gift of solar panels for the roof of the building, which will provide 20 to 40 percent of the organization’s power and cut its annual electricity bill by an estimated $5,000.

According to PG&E, this is the beginning of $7.5 million of solar installations planned for San Francisco as part of the company’s “Let’s green this city” campaign. Tom King, senior vice president of PG&E, had a variety of optimistic numbers to bolster the company’s claim that it’s turning over a green leaf, but he couldn’t tell us how much of the company’s power actually comes from solar sources.

“I don’t know what that number is exactly,” he told the Guardian.

The protesters outside the building did. “Zero!” Sakura Saunders shouted as she distributed printouts from PG&E’s Web site showing that less than 1 percent of the company’s electricity comes from solar power. Saunders is part of an independent collective fighting the company’s green campaign with its own at

Some of San Francisco’s leaders were there lauding the donation, including Sup. Ed Jew and Assemblymember Mark Leno, who thanked King and PG&E “for choosing the LGBT Center as the benefit of your largesse.”

Others were conspicuously absent, including a legislator whom Leno has talked about challenging next year, state senator Carole Migden. Eric Potashner, Migden’s deputy chief of staff, told us, “She didn’t want to overstate the accomplishments of a company that still has a long way to go before it could be considered green.”

Leno told us he had fought PG&E on many issues. “My voting record is quite public, and I do not feel compromised by reaping the benefits they’re bestowing upon the community center in an attempt to paint a greener image for themselves.”

Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Bevan Dufty both opted out as well, with Dufty citing PG&E’s ongoing efforts to block public power: “I’m happy to see people support the center. I just wasn’t willing to have myself associated with it.”

Originally published January 31, 2007 in the San Francisco Bay Guardian