Public safety and civil liberties will weigh heavily Tuesday when the Chico City Council considers declaring overnight curfews should electricity be cut due to fire risks.
The proposed ordinance would establish a curfew from dusk to dawn in Chico when and if Pacific Gas & Electric Company severs electricity because of extreme fire danger.
PG&E has conducted several of what it calls ‘Public Safety Power Shutoffs’ on hot, dry and windy days to reduce the risk its equipment would ignite a wildfire.
The proposal would allow police to make misdemeanor arrests for those violating the curfew. A report prepared for the council warns residents would be vulnerable without electricity at night. Homes and traffic signals would go dark, alarm systems would become inoperable, and batteries running cell phone towers and phones themselves would run down, leaving people unable to communicate. PG&E anticipates cutting power for as long as a week, should conditions require it.
For those who lack a dwelling, the proposed ordinance would set aside a designated area where the curfew would go unenforced.
The council will also consider forgiving nearly $170,000 owed to it by the Chico Creek Nature Center and transferring management of Nature Center’s building to the Chico Area Recreation District (CARD). The Nature Center’s Board of Directors announced in October 2018 that it intended to dissolve the organization. The building, in Bidwell Park, offered display space for a few exhibits and space for children’s classes and extra-curricular activities. The structure was built a decade ago, replacing a building destroyed by arsonists in 1998.
Additionally, an attempt to safeguard tenants in the post Camp Fire housing market will likely go nowhere. The proposal—pushed by groups representing Realtors and apartment complex owners—would require tenants receive 120 days notice if a landlord would terminate a tenancy. City officials determined that the proposal would contradict laws requiring 30, 60 and 90 days notice depending on the type of tenant and thus be preempted.
The meeting gets underway at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Chico Council Chamber located at 421 Main Street.