04.16 Approved Minutes

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT

OPERATIONS COMMITTEE

 

REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

Wednesday, April 16, 2008, 4:00 P.M.

Department of the Environment

11 Grove Street, Eco Center

San Francisco, CA 94102

 

 


COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Rodriguez Heyman (Chair); Paul Pelosi Jr. and Matt Tuchow

 

ORDER OF BUSINESS

 

1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Operations Committee meeting was called to order at 4:07 p.m.  Present:  Chair Rodriguez Heyman and Commissioner Tuchow; Excused:  Commissioner Pelosi Jr.

 

2.      Approval of Minutes of the October 16, 2007 Operations Committee Rescheduled Meeting (Discussion and Action).  Upon Motion by Chair Rodriguez Heyman and second by Commissioner Tuchow, the October 16, 2007 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Absent:  Commissioner Pelosi Jr.) (Explanatory Document:  Approved Minutes of the October 16, 2007 Meeting).

 

3.      Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  Ms. Ora Thornton inquired how the Department of the Environment is affiliated with Literacy for Environmental Justice.  Ms. Anne Eng, Environmental Justice Program Manager reported that the Department has collaborated with Literacy for Environmental Justice on various services and projects, and that a grant had been awarded to the organization several years ago for the construction, planning, and design of the Living Classroom at Herons Head Park.

 

4.      Update on the Department of the Environment’s Budget Submitted to the Mayor's Office for Fiscal Year 2008-2009 and Fiscal Updates (Informational Presentation) (Explanatory Document:  Fiscal Year 2008-09 Budget).  Deputy Director David Assmann distributed budget documents that include: (1) the first page of the Department of the Environment’s submitted budget as approved by the Commission on the Environment in January; and (2) the back of the first page which includes the proposed budget as it stands now.  It was explained that revisions had been made since the time the budget was approved by the Commission because it was approved a month before submission to the Mayor’s Office.  It was indicated that the budget would be revised again as it goes through the Mayors Office and Board of Supervisors approval process.

 

Deputy Director Assmann reported that the budget submitted in January included a 10% overall reduction versus the 21% budget reduction that is now proposed.  It was explained that the bulk of the change is a result of the PG&E Energy Watch program grants budget for energy efficiency work which had been double-budgeted in the personal services category in the original document.  Deputy Director Assmann indicated that this would have no practical impact of what could be spent, but dramatically changes the budget numbers. It was explained that the Energy Watch program ends in December 2008, but it is fully expected that a new project would be received in January 2009, which is not reflected in this budget as agreements have not yet been reached.  So it appears that the budget has been reduced by 21% but when the new project is approved, the energy budget will be approximately the same as last year’s budget. It was reported that PG&E grants are in two or three-year cycles and don’t match the fiscal year.  The Department is now negotiating with PG&E for a three-year extension, which may be as much as $18 million to do energy efficiency work (replacing lightbulbs and refrigeration, looking at heating systems, etc.) primarily with small-medium size businesses, apartments, and other residential. It was explained that the Department hired contractors on the first project to retrofit lighting for 4000 small businesses.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that the Department pays for a certain percentage of cost which varies depending on the type of project.  Businesses have a one year pay-back schedule to the Department, and after that time they would be seeing cost savings energy-wise.   It was stated that the first program was for $12 million over a three year period and was specific to small businesses and that the next three year project would be looking at large businesses as well.

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that Department of the Environment staff member Ann Kelly would make a future presentation on the Energy Watch program and provide detail on what the kilowatt hour savings and targets are per month.  It was explained that part of the funding comes in the form of incentives in that those targets have to be reached in order to receive funding. There are two contractors that work on this project and everything has to be monitored and reported. Ms. Anne Eng, Environmental Justice Program Manager reported that the source of funding for the Energy Watch program is from the publics goods charge for efficiency work, and the department has to achieve certain megawatt targets to receive that funding.  Deputy Director Assmann explained that San Francisco was one of the first governments to participate in an energy efficiency program funded with that money, that there are many more governments being funded at this time, and hopefully will be a good model throughout the state.  It was explained that it had been a struggle to have the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) allocate money not just to utilities, but to partnership projects. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann provided a description of the differences in each budget category from the approved budget to what is now proposed (see Explanatory Document). It was explained that the 2008-09 budget that is being submitted now is slightly over $12 million as opposed to $15,564,455 in the previous fiscal year.  Commissioner Rodriguez Heyman inquired whether funding is available for municipal projects.  Deputy Director Assmann explained that municipal projects fall under the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) jurisdiction, and that the Department handles residential commercial. It was stated that the PUC does have funding through the Mayor’s Energy Conservation account for renewables and efficiency work.

 

Chair Rodriguez Heyman asked Deputy Director Assmann to provide a report for the next meeting on what was actually lost in the budget approval process notwithstanding the Energy Watch double-counting. Deputy Director Assmann reported that by the next Operations Committee meeting in July, there would be an approved budget.  It was explained that there would be additional cuts as the Department goes through a budget analyst process first with the Mayor’s Office, where there are rarely any cuts, then with the Board of Supervisors where there would be budget cuts.  Chair Rodriguez Heyman asked what the Commissioners could do to protect the budget and to encourage as few budget cuts as possible. Deputy Director Assmann explained that as the Department tries to reach an agreement with the Budget Analyst’s Office before it goes to the Board of Supervisors. If an agreement is not reached, your case has to be argued with the Board of Supervisors, and it would be useful to attend the actual hearing on May 21 when decisions are actually made.  Commissioner Tuchow asked for a report on the difference between what was requested, what was approved, and the differences.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that he would structure the report by what was presented to the Commission in January, the final budget by program area, and an explanation of differences. Ms. Anne Eng recommended that the budget be discussed at the April 29 Commission meeting so the Commission knows what the budget looks like going into the Board process.  Chair Rodriguez Heyman suggested that a report be made on what was originally proposed, revisions made, and to emphasize where the Commission can help. Chair Rodriguez Heyman also provided a formatting suggestion requesting that overall numbers be placed on the back of the sheet, and the front pages to contain a focus on what has changed.

 

Deputy Director Assmann explained that the budget may increase as grants are received that do not show up in the current budget document, so the budget may actually be higher this fiscal year than last fiscal year.  It was reported that anything that comes in now no longer shows up in the Department’s budget because it goes through a separate approval process, and anything that was approved last year that was carried forward to this year does not show up as well.  Chair Rodriguez Heyman asked for an additional report to factor in additional grants that are not shown in the budget.  Deputy Director Assmann and Commissioners noticed that there were discrepancies in the budget document that Deputy Director Assmann would review and correct.

 

Ms. Eng explained that the City’s $300 million budget deficit does not affect the Department as significantly as general fund agencies. Deputy Director Assmann explained that the Department receives a large portion of their funding from other City departments that pays for work that is being done by the Department, such as the commuter benefits program, energy programs, integrated pest management work, and urban forest work, etc.  Commissioner Tuchow asked about the urban forestry work the department is engaged in. Ms. Eng reported that there is a Department of Environment staff person that provides support to the Urban Forestry Council that coordinates all of the city’s activity related to urban forestry; e.g., provides training, organizes pruning workshops for city and non-city staff, and a number of other services and activities.  The position is primarily to support interagency multifaceted efforts to coordinate the city’s urban forestry services. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann explained that the seven largest using pesticide departments provide funding for part of a person’s staff time to coordinate a technical advisory group that is working on reducing the use of pesticides.  A conference is held once a year, trainings are scheduled with individual departments, a consultant is available to help research and implement integrated pest management practices. It was reported that the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) provides funding to the Department to administer the construction and demolition debris ordinance that requires contractors to recycle the debris that they use.  In addition, funding is received from the PUC and DBI for green building work that includes allocating a staff person to work with DBI staff members to help facilitate green building. 

 

Commissioner Tuchow asked whether the PUC programs are different than the Energy Watch program.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that Energy Watch focuses completely on energy efficiency, and the funding received from the PUC focuses mostly on renewables, solar work, tidal, wave, wind, and climate work.  Commissioner Tuchow inquired about the status of tidal and wave projects.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that a pilot had been done on tidal to look at the potential under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was stated that wave is still in its preliminary stage and years away from large scale operations. It was indicated that tidal is closer but is expensive, and if cost can be reduced, it will become more viable.  It was explained that energy costs would have to increase dramatically for tidal to become cost competitive.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that outside grant funding had been received from private foundations to do preliminary studies on tidal and wave potential.

 

Commissioner Tuchow inquired about the definition of Impound Accounts.  Deputy Director Assmann explained that Impound Accounts is money that is received by the Department from garbage rates and is set aside primarily for toxics and recycling reduction and a smaller portion for green building and environmental justice work.  It was reported that the Impound Account is allocated to waste-related projects, for anything that you can do to keep things out of the landfill, to reduce the toxicity of the landfill, and reduce the amount of waste that is produced.  The Impound account is also used to pay for any regulatory fees and special landfill fees.  It was explained that Norcal collects rate money from ratepayers, businesses and individuals. A fixed amount that is approved in the rate setting process is put into the Impound Account and is used for purposes that also include funding that DPW receives for work they do related to waste reduction and recycling.  It was explained that the garbage rate-setting hearings are held on average every five years to set the amount that goes into the Impound Account, and the rate schedule is going into the third of the five years.  Chair Rodriguez Heyman stated that the Impound Account provides the Department with slightly more than half of its budget.

 

Public Comment:  Ms. Ora Thornton asked for a definition of non-personal services.  Deputy Director Assmann explained that 90% of non-personal services is for professional services; e.g., if the Department hires a contractor to do energy installations, or if somebody is hired to do outreach work, or for a green building consultant.  Contractors are hired through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, and a firm is hired to do consulting work.  It was explained that there are a few other things in the category, but 90% of non-personal services is dedicated to professional services. 

 

5.      New Business/Future Agenda Items (Discussion). Chair Rodriguez Heyman discussed protocol for determining future Operations Committee agenda items and it was agreed that a conference call would be set up between the Deputy Director and the Commission Secretary for scheduling of future agenda items.  Chair Rodriguez Heyman requested (1) that the Director’s report include a feature on top that highlights challenges and some of the areas where the Department can use the Commission’s help; and (2) for the Director to report either through the Senior Management Assistant or the Commission Secretary on what potential legislative actions the Commission can take or endorse that would have an impact. 

 

Future agenda item requests included: (1) Energy Watch presentation—Director Blumenfeld reported that an informational report would be heard at the Commission’s April 29 meeting; (2) process for making recommendations for Commission membership nominations; (3) update on Green Collar jobs for the April 29 Commission meeting; (4) update on solar financing legislation and the forum between Berkeley and San Francisco and how the Commission can help--April or May meeting; (5) Operations Committee start time be changed from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Commission Secretary Fish indicated it would require a Bylaws Amendment that the Commission would consider and vote on at their April 29 meeting; (6) an informational presentation and Commission’s endorsement of “The Big One” a sustainability festival to be held in Golden Gate Park; and (7) a more detailed Policy Committee report on the discussion of the proposed aerial spraying of the light brown apple moth—April meeting.

 

Deputy Director Assmann reported that the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously against the spraying at their April 15th meeting.  The State of California has decided to do the spraying this summer, and the Governor’s opposition would be the only way to overrule the decision.  Commissioner Tuchow asked how it is decided which Policy Committee topics would be brought forward to the Commission.   Deputy Director Assmann reported that Policy Committee agenda items may include a hearing and discussion which is not always forwarded to the Commission, and other agenda items may include a Resolution that is approved for recommendation to the Commission for discussion and a vote.  It is based on whether it is an action item or not, and if it is discussion it may or may not get forwarded to the Commission. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann reported that legislation moves forward on a state and local level and a lot of work should be done on both these fronts.  It was explained that state legislation happens in a short amount of time and that the Department does not have as much control over state initiatives and bills as they do over local legislation.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it would be useful for the Commission to lobby bills that the Department supports.  Commissioner Tuchow asked about the process the Department uses to work on and/or support legislation. Deputy Director Assmann explained that anything that the Department wants to get involved in at a state level has to be sanctioned by the Mayor’s Legislative Committee.  It was reported that the Department puts together a legislative plan every year that is submitted to the Mayors Office first, then to the Legislative Committee for approval. Then if a bill comes up on a topic, the Department can write letters of support.  If the Board of Supervisors has already passed a resolution or a concept, the Department would be able to support it.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that there are bills on the federal level that have huge implications and could potentially be beneficial or detrimental, but the Department is not as active on a federal level.

 

Chair Heyman recommended that the Operations Committee discuss a mechanism for Commissioners to become involved in and more supportive of the Department’s work that would further its mission; e.g., whether it is through a formal agenda item or something that is included in the Director’s Report.  Commission Secretary Monica Fish reported that the Deputy City Attorney had previously created a legislative status report that was sent out to the Commission as part of the Secretary’s Report and would request that this report once again be made available to Commissioners.   

 

Chair Rodriguez Heyman asked for an update on the proposed installation of the combustion turbine peaker plant in the Potrero Hill neighborhood.  A brief overview was provided on the Operations Committee’s October meeting where many community members asked the Department to encourage that new technologies be reviewed and had expressed their outrage that there was not a guarantee that the power plant would be shut down once the new one is commissioned and that it is being built using fossil fuels.  It was explained that one component of the project is to conduct health outreach and asthma research which may indicate that it would cause health issues.  Ms. Eng reported that the Board of Supervisors at their April 15 meeting considered two Resolutions one to support an independent analysis of the project and the other to support a fiscal feasibility study. The two Resolutions were referred back to the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee.  Commissioner Tuchow asked whether recycling technology to generate energy was being considered instead of fossil fuel.  Chair Rodriguez Heyman explained that it is a PUC project, not the Department’s, so the Department is not in the driver’s seat; but a channel for the community’s voice. It was explained that the plan was crafted six years ago based on technology at the time, and now there are other options to consider. 

 

6.      Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda. There was no public comment at this time.


 

7.      Adjournment.  The Operations Committee meeting adjourned at 5:17 p.m.

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709; FAX: (415) 554-6393

 

** Copies of explanatory documents are available at (1) the Commission’s office, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., (2) on the Commission’s website https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/operations-committee as attachments to the meeting agenda or minutes, ;(3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at Monica.Fish@sfgov.org.

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709

FAX: (415) 554-6393

 

Approved:  July 16, 2008

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