San Francisco fleet's gas costs rise as usage drops 

Pain at the pump is leading to pain at City Hall as gas costs are growing for San Francisco’s fleet even though vehicle usage has dropped.

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Fuel costs will reach $27.8 million this fiscal year, an increase of nearly $1 million despite efforts to curb city workers’ driving, use more electric vehicles and incorporate car-sharing programs.  

The escalating spending contradicts San Francisco’s green image, but city officials say it is not usage driving the cost, but the price of fuel.

“The increase in the fuel contract is because of gas costs that are on the rise due to general market conditions outside of The City’s control,” said acting City Administrator Amy Brown, who oversees The City’s fleet. “The city and county of San Francisco remains committed to fuel-efficient vehicle usage, fleet reduction, use of public transportation and a number of other environmentally friendly transportation initiatives.”

City departments, which not only have had to slash budgets over the years but face deficits as well, must pay for their fuel. The spending was included in their budgets at the start of the fiscal year, July 1.

Supervisor Carmen Chu said it is “hard to swallow” the increasing fuel bill, but “anyone experiencing paying for fuel at the pumps can understand” how The City’s costs have increased.

The Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee will vote today on legislation to authorize $27.8 million in fuel spending, $2.7 million more than previously contracted for. The bill is expected to be sent to the full board.

City departments such as Muni, police, fire and the Recreation and Park Department spent a total of $26.9 million on 6.9 million gallons of fuel last fiscal year. This fiscal year, that is expected to increase to $27.8 million for the same amount of gas, according to Deputy City Administrator Naomi Kelly. Kelly said fuel usage is down compared to the 8 million gallons used three years ago.

In fiscal year 2007-08, The City spent $24.4 million on fuel, which increased to $25.4 million the following fiscal year.

Fuel is used for the entire city fleet, including Muni buses, police patrol cars, fire trucks, sedans and pickups. The City’s fuel is purchased under a contract with Western States Oil.

“The increase was due to increase of fuel prices across all fuel types,” said Jennifer Browne, assistant director at the Office of Contract Administration.

The City buys a number of different fuels including regular gas, diesel and the more expensive and greener fuels known as biodiesel.

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