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Oakland at Work: PG&E electrical lineman

on May 17, 2013

Red caution tape cordons off the sidewalk where Eric Wright and his crew are working on electrical wires.

Some crew members dig into the ground with shovels. One starts to climb up the wooden electrical pole to detach a rope at the top as Wright looks on.

“Sometimes we’re setting up poles, sometimes we’re stringing in wire,” said Wright, an electrical line foreman at PG&E. “A little bit of everything to basically keep the lights on.”

His crew works in Oakland and services the area from the Berkeley borderline to San Leandro. They’ve dealt with everything from cars that hit electrical poles to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1991 Oakland Hills fire.

Wright’s career started when he was still in school, when he worked with PG&E as a summer employee. Afterward, he became a permanent hire.

Even after 28 years on the job, Wright isn’t ready to throw in the towel. “I’m not looking at retirement just yet,” he said, with a smile as he and his crew continued to work.

Picking up last year’s Oakland at work series, this video is the third of four that will document workers who physically keep the city running. Next week, we’ll meet a teacher working in the Oakland Unified School District.


  1. kevinflynn56 on May 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    My, isn’t PGE just wonderful…

    They also deal with replacing old poles… Like they did with the one in front of my house in Maxwell Park. Except they don’t coordinate with any of the service carriers who use the lower part of the poles so they just cut them in half and leave a 500 pound 10 foot pole stump ‘attached’ to the new pole, 6 feet off the ground, wrapped in Caution tape and buried in the ground using asphalt instead of cement.

    When you first call them about it they act as if they have no idea what you’re talking about… The next time they say they are aware but it isn’t their pole… The next time they put someone on the phone who plays the tough guy who tries to make you responsible for the pole and can’t give you any information or advice besides ‘tough luck’…

    A terrible company whose motto should be: PGE – We don’t care — we don’t have to… I use to think of them as this benevolent necessity but after my experience and then months later finding out that PGE basically blew up a neighborhood due to their negligence and avarice I found out I wasn’t alone. I’d like to see them broken up and have electrical power and gas service subbed out to local government or the state. PGE is a criminal cabal.

    • Paul Parmley on May 20, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Hi Kevin,

      I’m Paul Parmley with PG&E. I noticed your comment and wanted to offer help if you’re still dealing with the pole issue you mentioned. If you need assistance, please feel free to send a note to with your information and I’d be happy to look into this for you. Thanks.

      • Robert Prinz on May 30, 2013 at 8:31 am

        Hi Paul,

        Since you are a responsive PG&E representative, can you tell me what we can do to start ensuring that PG&E crews start repaving streets properly and repainting road lines (especially crosswalks, stop lines/letters, and bike lanes/markings) every time they do work that cuts into the pavement?

        From my experience the proper repaving and repainting only happens in about 10% of the jobs that affect the pavement, and over time it is seriously degrading the infrastructure that we work so hard to build up. I’ve talked to planners in both Berkeley and Oakland who have told me that PG&E is officially required to replace any affected facilities, but there is no oversight and no accountability so it rarely happens. The city planners are also very concerned about this but have no time or resources to follow up in individual problems.

        I understand that the crews have difficult and complicated work to do, but I still feel that they should leave the streets in as good or better shape than when they started.

        Thanks for your attention!

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