07.21 Approved Minutes





WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2010, 5:00 P.M.


Department of the Environment Eco Center

11 Grove Street

San Francisco, CA 94102


COMMITTEE MEMBERS: Commissioners Alan Mok (Chair), Jane MarieFrancis Martin, and Matt Tuchow



1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Operations Committee meeting convened at 5:06 p.m.  Present:  Commissioners Mok and Martin.  Excused: Commissioner Tuchow.  Commissioner Gravanis was in attendance for this meeting.


2.      Approval of Minutes of the April 21, 2010 Operations Committee Rescheduled Meeting. (Explanatory Documents: April 21, 2010 Draft and Approved Minutes) (Discussion and Action)  Upon Motion by Commissioner Martin, second by Commissioner Mok, the April 21, 2010 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (AYES: Commissioners Martin and Mok; Absent:  Commissioner Tuchow).


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.  There was no public comment at this time.


4.      Department of the Environment School Education Program Update on Goals and Accomplishments.  Sponsor:  David Assmann, Acting Director; Department Speaker:  Tamar F. Hurwitz, Environmental Education Manager (Explanatory Document: School Education Presentation) (Informational Presentation and Discussion)


Ms. Hurwitz discussed the Department of the Environment’s School Education K-12 environmental education awareness programs offered to all San Francisco public and private schools.  She reported that full-time program staff consisting of Ms. Rachel Pomerantz and herself and rotating intern/associate staff spend most of their time on the “Food to Flowers” lunchroom composting program for approximately 80 public and 45 private schools.  She explained that schools are diverting at different levels, and that the goal is to enroll schools and provide them with ongoing support to reach higher diversion rates. 


Commissioner Martin inquired whether schools were required to participate in the program.  Ms. Hurwitz stated that the school district is separate from the City and is not required to follow all City laws.  The School Board supports the program on an administrative level, but can’t force schools to participate. Schools are currently stressed with all the other goals they have to meet academically and budget constraints, so not all schools are able to participate.  The decision to participate lies with the school principal. The program is recommended, but not required.   


Ms. Hurwitz reported on School Education program activities that include:

·         Sponsorship of school field trips to (1) Alemany Farm and Heron’s Head Park providing outdoor education opportunities; (2) Garden for the Environment where kids learn about programs such as composting, rain harvesting, and (3) the Pier 96 Transfer Station to learn about the recycling infrastructure and where waste goes. 

·         Administering field trips to Garden for the Environment and educational presentations for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (providing buses, administrative support and outreach to teachers) on local water issues, e.g., water pollution prevention measures, rain harvesting.  SFPUC provides funding for this program.

·         Creation of curriculum and holding class presentations on “Our Water” about San Francisco’s local water resources that promotes awareness on the source of water, desalinization, and water pollution prevention measures.

·         Framing and holding educational presentations on zero waste with the focus on protecting nature through our actions.

·         K-12 stop litter assemblies in partnership with the Department of Public Works.

·         An annual art contest following the theme of World Environment Day.

·         Teacher workshops—present programs, sharing resources and curriculum that teaches environmental education. The goal is to work with teachers throughout the year to reach students.

·         Hosting a school awards ceremony honoring the excellence of school education in San Francisco schools that have done an excellent job with their environmental programs.

·         School education website that is a resource library for K-12 curriculum.  The website is currently being redesigned. 

·         Creating fact sheets on issues such as safety of cosmetics, the Great Pacific garbage patch, and the history of San Francisco’s food.

·         Creating teacher lesson plans such as media literacy to teens, consumption, making comparisons between whole foods and junk foods.   

·         Annual hiring and training of new interns and associates.


Commissioner Mok inquired whether Ms. Hurwitz works with schools on a state and federal level.  Ms. Hurwitz explained that though we only work with local San Francisco schools, she provides consultation and shares material when she receives calls from other cities that are interested in launching composting programs modeled after ours. She reported that the School Education program is leading the nation in many ways and in 2005, won the Governor’s Economic and Environmental Leadership Award (GEELA). 


Commissioner Martin inquired whether additional funding and resources could be made available at the state and federal level if it could be demonstrated that a need is being met beyond city limits and that the program serves as a model for other cities.  Ms. Hurwitz stated that she would discuss seeking grant funding with the Grants and Fundraising Manager for creating curriculum that other cities may have a need for.  Ms. Hurwitz stated that Jared Blumenfeld mentioned there was a need for updated educational programming at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and that perhaps a conversation could occur to investigate possibilities.  . 


Commissioner Gravanis stated that the Department’s resources should be directed to San Francisco and if information is being shared with outside agencies, costs should be accounted for and justified. If it doesn’t cost extra to offer the program to others, then funding does not have to be sought for. Commissioner Martin stated that staff time directed to audiences outside of city limits should receive some sort of compensation.  Ms. Hurwitz stated that offering this service is looked at as an endorsement of the program’s activities and creates awareness.  Acting Director Assmann reported that there are environmental education programs all over the world that San Francisco can seek out and learn from also.


Ms. Hurwitz discussed the school pen pal program with Calcutta that raised a different type of awareness of other nation’s situations and activities.  Commissioner Mok inquired about an exchange student summer program, possibly in high schools.  Ms. Hurwitz stated that sister city programs can be good opportunities for student exchange programs and can be looked at other grade school levels other than universities.  She reported that Barcelona, San Francisco’s newest sister city, is in discussion with her about doing a doing a pen pal program with an environmental theme as part of a cultural exchange.  Ms. Hurwitz was congratulated for the program’s success.


5.      Department of the Environment Office Space and Options.  Sponsor and Speaker:  David Assmann, Acting Director (Informational Report and Discussion) 


Acting Director Assmann reported that the Department’s work space has reached its potential.  When all hiring is complete, there will be 96 people on staff at 11 Grove and additional EnvironmentNow staff at 401 Van Ness.  If you add EnvironmentNow and staff paid by outside sources, the total staff number is approximately150.  He stated that there is currently no space for volunteers or interns and many may have to work off-site. Commissioner Martin suggested the Library as a possible work-site.  Acting Director Assmann stated that conference rooms can be reserved at the Library, but setup would be a difficult process. He explained that the lease at 11 Grove runs out on May 31, 2012, so there is no choice but to stay at the current building and utilize the space at 401 Van Ness. There has been discussion with the Department of Real Estate about attaining new office space in May 2012.    


Acting Director Assmann reported that the current solution at 11 Grove is to reconfigure the first and third-floor to add additional office space, lease additional space in the basement to create a conference room, and turn the first-floor conference room into office space.  The third-floor conference room has already been converted to office space. There will be conference space in the Eco Center.  Commissioner Martin inquired whether all positions are permanent.  Acting Director Assmann stated there are City positions that are grant-funded, and some of the positions are based on stimulus funding that runs out in 2012 that may not be renewed; however, he has found funding to retain twelve EnvironmentNow staff and two coordinators.  He is also working on attaining additional staff in collaboration with other City departments and their programs. 


Acting Director Assmann discussed the current infrastructure at 401 Van Ness that does not have a telephone system, computer network or receptionist and the possibility of expanding the infrastructure in the future if more staff were hired.  The expense involved in doing so was noted.  He explained that staff is currently utilizing cell phones or doing their phone banking at the Department whenever possible.  Phone-banking capabilities may also be set up in a conference room in the future.  Commissioner Martin asked whether telecommuting or staggering hours might be an effective alternative.  Acting Director Assmann stated that several staff members are currently participating in the telecommuting program and there are other staff members considering participation.  He also discussed the possibility of office space for part-time internships on 9-80 Mondays and Fridays.  


6.      Coordination of Responsibilities between the Commission Operations and Policy Committees. Sponsor:  Commissioner Ruth Gravanis; Speaker: Commissioner Ruth Gravanis (Explanatory Document:  July 19, 2010 Memo to Operations Committee) (Discussion)


Commissioner Gravanis stated that the Policy Committee is working on long-range agenda planning and noted that Commission/Committee agenda items are guided by new business, various projects, and staff updates.  She stated that the Policy Committee reviewed the Commission’s Bylaws for future agenda planning and found that there was overlap between the Policy and Operations Committee’s responsibilities as the Bylaws state that both Committees are responsible for addressing issues of environmental well-being of the City.  The question became how to distinguish between what the two Committees should be responsible for.  Commissioner Gravanis reported that in addition, the Bylaws state that the two Committees are supposed to work together to develop recommendations regarding restructuring of environmental programs and activities among the City agencies and departments.  The June 14, 2010 Policy Committee Draft Minutes provide background on the Policy Committee discussion (see explanatory document).  


Commissioner Gravanis stated that education and outreach are in the purview of the Operations Committee; however, the Policy Committee has held discussions on this topic.  She suggested that the two Committees establish a mechanism for working together so that the Commission’s policy decisions can help drive funding goals and allocations. Commissioner Mok stated that the Operations Committee is responsible for outreach, operations, and the Department’s budget noting that both Committees have their own roles.  He asked how the Committees can work together without violating quorum rules. Commissioner Gravanis suggested that one representative from each Committee meet with Acting Director Assmann or other staff members as a working task force.


A discussion was held about the possibility of moving the oversight of communications, education and outreach function from the Operations to the Policy Committee.  It was noted that the Policy Committee meets more often and may be able to address this issue more often.  Commissioner Mok stated that the EnvironmentNow staff has been assigned to outreach because the Department saw a need for more of a voice in the community.  He discussed previous Commission town hall meetings in various City neighborhoods to provide outreach and the success of some of those meetings.  Acting Director Assmann stated that several of the neighborhood meetings were successful while others were not as successful.  He suggested limiting the neighborhood meetings to possibly two times a year and creating a more relevant better publicized agenda.  Commissioner Gravanis noted that these meetings should be better planned so as not to overburden the Commission Secretary.  Ms. Fish, Commission Secretary, suggested holding meetings at locations that did not require as much expense and effort into setup, e.g. setting up tables and chairs, projector setup and fees.  


Commissioners Mok and Martin suggested that the Operations Committee retain the oversight of communications, education and outreach.  Commissioner Martin suggested that the Policy Committee be more mindful about not scheduling agenda items on this function and that there be communication between the two groups on ideas. Commissioner Gravanis stated that there should be some mechanism to keep each Committee informed of each other’s work in different areas and suggested reading each other’s minutes as one way of keeping apprised of Committee activities. 


Acting Director Assmann suggested that the Committees review work priorities and then try to acquire resources to work on those priorities.  He stated that funding should be sought for work priorities that the Department would like to work on but has not been able to attain funding for, e.g. urban forest, biodiversity.  Commissioner Gravanis suggested that the Policy Committee schedule an agenda item to discuss prioritizing fundraising activities for recommendation to the Commission with a request that Grants and Fundraising start writing grants on the recommendations. Acting Director Assmann suggested that the Policy Committee work on identifying the work priorities for recommendation to the Operations Committee so that the Operations Committee could brainstorm how to acquire resources for recommendation to the Department.


Commissioner Martin suggested setting up an annual Committee agenda calendar listing topics of discussion, e.g., from the four Operations Committee annual meetings, which ones should include discussions on the budget, funding, incoming and outgoing grants, Strategic Plan, etc.   Commissioner Gravanis stated that the due date for submission of the Strategic Plan should be identified so that meetings can be scheduled for both Committees well in advance. Acting Director Assmann stated that he would prepare an annual calendar to include in the July 27, 2010 Commission Director’s Report that lists important milestones to help Committees have a structure and to better accommodate agenda items.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that the Policy Committee should have the ability to provide input into staff’s Strategic Plan drafts incrementally and early in the process.  A discussion was held about discussing the Strategic Plan at the Commission’s Annual Retreat as was done in the past.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that she feels there is also a need for an actual retreat. 


Commissioner Gravanis stated that the Policy Committee is working on making future recommendations for Bylaws amendments and discussed proposed suggestions for changes.  She noted that the Bylaws section that states the Operations Committee “shall also oversee the public education and outreach to the community on environmental issues and address issues regarding the environmental well-being of the City” overlaps with the Policy Committee function in the section that reads “address issues regarding the environmental well-being of the City.”  Commissioner Mok suggested that this function should be in the purview of the Policy Committee. She asked that the Operations Committee members review their Bylaws section at a future meeting and provide suggestions with respect to duties.  This agenda item was continued for further discussion at the Call of the Chair.  


7.      New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)  Ms. Fish, Commission Secretary, announced that the next Operations Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 20, 2010.  Acting Director Assmann suggested holding a discussion about budget priorities for next year’s budget and incorporating the Strategic Plan into budget priorities.  Commissioner Martin requested a discussion on outreach and asked that Committee members be provided with the priorities list to refer to.  Commissioner Gravanis noted that Commissioner King had made a request that the Operations Committee review the Department’s outgoing grants earlier in the process. Acting Director Assmann reported that the Department is now on a two-year grant cycle and is only in the first year of the cycle.  Commissioner Gravanis requested that a discussion on criteria, priorities and process be held at the Committee before grant decisions are made. Commissioner Martin asked that grant decisions be added to the annual meeting schedule list.


8.      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.


9.      Adjournment.  The Operations Committee meeting adjourned at 6:15 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by,

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

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


*Approved: October 20, 2010


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