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06.08 Approved Minutes

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT

POLICY COMMITTEE

 

REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

Monday, June 8, 2009, 5:00 P.M.

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, City Hall, Room 421

San Francisco, CA 94102

 

 

COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Johanna Wald (Chair), Ruth Gravanis (Vice-Chair), Jane MarieFrancis Martin

ORDER OF BUSINESS

 

1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Commission on the Environment Policy Committee Meeting convened at 5:07 p.m. Present: Committee Chair Wald, Committee Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin (6:15 p.m.).

 

2.   Approval of Minutes of the May 11, 2009 Policy Committee Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Upon Motion by Vice-Chair Gravanis and second by Chair Wald, the May 11, 2009 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (AYES:  Chair Wald and Vice Chair Gravanis; Absent: Commissioner Martin) (Explanatory Document: May 11, 2009 Approved Minutes)

 

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

 

Item 7 was heard before Items 4-6.

 

4.   Citywide Bike Plan Update. Sponsor: Commissioner Jane Martin; Speaker: Timothy Papandreou, Assistant Deputy Director of Planning, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) (Informational Presentation and Discussion)  

 

Commissioner Martin stated that there is awareness that the Bike Plan has been in progress for a number of years and of the litigation aspect, but specifically requested a discussion on the environmental aspects of the Plan. Mr. Papandreou indicated that he was prepared to give a presentation on the Bicycle Plan processes for implementation, but would address the environmental aspect of the Plan as an environmental planner.  Mr. Papandreou reported that the Bicycle Plan was ready for implementation in 2005, but an injunction was placed against it citing that there was inadequate environmental review.  As a result, no bike facilities could be installed until an adequate Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was developed.  In that three-year period, there was approximately a 43% increase in bicycle ridership with no new street infrastructure (no bike racks, signage, etc.).

 

Mr. Papandreou explained that cultural and demographic values have changed in San Francisco necessitating more sustainable transportation on the transit system.  A surge in transit ridership and bicycling has positive climate change impacts.  Mr. Papandreou reported that MTA is finalizing their Climate Action Plan and would like to bring it back to the Commission for further discussion. One of the key areas in the Plan is how to transition to sustainable mobility and acquiring the funding to do so.  It was explained that bicycling is the most sustainable form of transportation that is known, even more sustainable than walking and electric car technologies. There are significant greenhouse gas emission impacts from the transportation sector.  Bicycles produce zero pounds of CO2 per mile, so the goal is to make it possible that all short trips could be made by walking, bicycling, or combination of these with transit.  Review of surveys from the past three years has shown that bicycles have reached about 130,000 trips a day in the city, and there are approximately 800,000 transit trips a day (bicycling is just under 1/6 the volume of transit, so is quite significant). 

 

Explanatory Document:  Bicycle Plan Presentation
 

Mr. Papandreou reported on the Bicycle Plan project timelines and explained that there are three components to approve (1) finalize/certify the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) findings in the Environment Impact Report (EIR) and adopt the revised Bicycle Plan (June 2009), (2) return to Superior Court to lift the injunction (Fall 2009); and (3) resume implementation of construction projects (Fall 2009).  A report was given on the specific project timelines for the EIR process; SFMTA plan and project approval preparation; SFMTA Bicycle Plan and project approvals; additional approvals, appeals and injunction relief; and project implementation (presentation page 4).  It was reported that SFMTA has completed as much as possible and is ready to go to the Board of Supervisors at the end of this month.  If no appeal is filed, implementation can start as early as August.  If an appeal is filed, implementation may be delayed until mid-November. It is expected that if an appeal is filed, it would be on the adequacy of the EIR. 

 

Mr. Papandreou reported that there is a Citizens’ Guide to the Bicycle Plan that has been published and Draft of the San Francisco Bicycle Plan that is available for public review.  It was explained that the San Francisco Bicycle Plan Draft was issued late last year and went through the comment process in January. The eight goals of the Bicycle Plan were described (presentation pages 6-7) with an emphasis on the overall goal to increase safe bicycle use and the priority goal of refining and expanding the existing bicycle route network.  Public outreach included a citywide open house and a series of local neighborhood meetings in which positive comments were received in favor of the Plan and route network with only a few concerns noted.

 

Commissioner Martin asked how the bike network would function for access over the hills and connection to commercial corridors and open spaces.  Mr. Papandreou discussed implementation of bike sharing programs in commercial and high density areas that would divert people from their automobiles to bicycles for running short errands, the use of electric bicycles for access over hillier open space areas, bicycle accessories that could assist in this effort, and other planned strategies.  A description was given on the bicycle route existing network and plans for improvements, implementation plans for near and long-term improvement projects, and planned installations (presentation pages 14-15).

 

Mr. Papandreou discussed review of plan strategies that include signage installation, pilot projects, removal of auto parking to provide for bicycle parking, colored bicycle lanes and provided additional information on the bicycle sharing program (pages 9-11).  Next steps include additional outreach at community meetings, holding public hearings and returning to the SFMTA Board for adoption and approvals of CEQA findings, approval of the Bicycle Plan, and of project legislation.     

 

Commissioner Martin provided the following comments:

 

·         San Francisco Sunset District—to call attention to the north-south gap for an east-west connection between Kirkham and Vicente Streets. Mr. Papandreou reported that there are gaps and many areas have not yet been identified in the bicycle route network and that the future goal would be to strategize on closing gaps. 

 

·         Divisadero Street would be amenable to bicycling because of the commercial corridor and the connection across town. 

 

·         Connection to Daly City—Bike Plan stops on our border but to plan stops for those people that live south of Alemany and Geneva.  Mr. Papandreou reported that element would be reviewed as part of the Bi-County Plan with the Transportation Authority.   

 

·         McLaren Park, northwest--southeast connection—create a direct connection between the two major parks off of Silver Avenue. 

 

·         Lost ability to put bicycles on MUNI on the T-Third line once it changed to light rail. Mr. Papandreou explained that there was opposition from the disability community and solutions have to be researched.  Commissioner Martin recommended identifying obstacles and find funding to address the obstacles.

 

·         BART impediments for people wanting to commute by bicycle. The Civic Center BART station is one of the few that does not have bike racks within the station itself.

 

·         Review traffic regulations for drivers.  To implement a law as was done in Utah that says a stop sign equals a yield sign for bicycles. 

 

·         Address degradation of native areas caused by off-road bicycling especially in wildlife protection areas. Commissioner Gravanis discussed public education that is needed to address the wildlife impacts of off-road bicycling or bicycling in parks. Commissioner Martin recommended establishing specific areas for off-road cycling.  Mr. Papandreou explained that bicycle riding is not allowed in the park unless it is a demarcated route.  Commissioner Martin reported that there are 12 miles of bridle trails that are currently not being used because there are no horses in the park at this time, and could be used on an interim basis for this purpose.  Chair Wald recommended scheduling a meeting to discuss enforcement strategies, e.g., employ trained volunteers that wear an identifying insignia to enforce park regulations.   

 

·         Establish car free zones.  The Inner Mission district was discussed as a possible location for development of a Bicycle Boulevard.  Mr. Papandreou reported that there would be an opportunity for pilot projects working with the Mayor’s office and other City departments. A discussion was held on expanding “Sunday Streets” to encompass additional areas, days and times and researching traffic calming programs that would be suitable in neighborhoods such as the Mission district.  

 

·         Replacement of parking meters with pay stations removes a significant number of parking for bicyclists.  Mr. Papandreou reported that an effort is being made to add bicycle parking at the same time parking poles are taken out.  In some cases, a parking space would be replaced with a parking bay for bicycles.  One car parking space would accommodate parking for 16 bicycles.  Chair Wald recommended making parking spaces smaller so they would only be suitable for smaller cars in order to limit the number of larger car parking spaces.                   

 

Commissioner Gravanis reported that the Bike Plan did not include long-term bike plan improvements for Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands as was called for in the San Francisco Bike Coalition’s recent Bike Plan for the Islands.  Mr. Papandreou reported that Treasure Island has a complete bicycle network being designed as part of the Bike Plan’s long-term improvement projects. 

Ms. Haryati, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Greening, reported on the discussion held at the Neighborhoods Parks Council meeting by an organization to advocate for a proper bicycle off-road course and discussed how various cultures prefer informal courses.  It was stated that internal activists may be able to help in the process.  Ms. Haryati stated that she is in favor of offering a diverse use and programming of open space and that providing a formalized off-road course would present this opportunity.  Ms. Haryati cited the success of Chicago skate parks as an example.    

 

Committee members requested that Acting Director Assmann write a letter of support to the MTA on their work on the Bicycle Plan.

 

5.   Recreation and Open Space Plan Overview. Sponsor: Commissioner Jane Martin; Speaker: Claudia Flores, Planner, Planning Department (Explanatory Documents:  Recreation and Open Space Plan Draft; and Memo to Commissioners) (Informational Presentation and Discussion)

 

Ms. Claudia Flores presented on the Draft Recreation and Open Space Plan discussing topics that include: (see Recreation and Open Space Plan Presentation  

·         Outreach to date that includes an Open Space Survey and meetings held with the Mayor’s Office Open Space Taskforce, City Round Table on Open Space, working committees, and community workshops to update the element.

 

·         Plan’s open space framework that is the vision for open space for the next 100 years and the Recreation and Open Space Element that is a guiding document of policy and goals for open space for the next 25 years. It was explained that the Action Plan is in progress and includes implementation programs for the next 10 years. 

 

·         An Open Space Vision for San Francisco (see Open Space Vision Presentation).  The Open Space Vision’s goals are to meet the challenges of the future by establishing (1) new open spaces in high-need areas; (2) quality experiences on existing open spaces; (3) an active, accessible and connected waterfront open space system; (4) a cross-town trail that celebrates diverse urban nature and allows for both human and wildlife movement; (5) revitalized and activated destination open spaces; (6) a system of linear open spaces and day-lighted creeks; and (7) connectivity—a system of public transit and green streets connecting people to open space.

 

·         Goals, objectives, and policies for the next twenty-five years that encompass three main ideas (1) making the most of what we have, (2) filling in the gaps, and (3) utilizing our strongest asset, the community (presentation page 5).

 

·         Objectives include (1) achieving a high performance open space system; (2) acquiring and prioritization of new open spaces with current funding constraints; (3) improving access and connectivity to open space by reviewing the street and trail network; (4) enhancing biodiversity; (5) engaging the community to partner in efforts; and (6) governance and maintenance of recreational and open space facilities (presentation pages 7-11).  Ms. Haryati discussed the importance of engaging City departments to reach goals and objectives. 

  

·         Next Steps and timeline for public participation and the open space framework. It was explained that the Action Plan is scheduled to be available for review and comment in the next three or four months (presentation pages 12 -13). Ms. Haryati discussed joint collaboration efforts between multiple agencies to discuss implementation strategies for the Action Plan.

 

Ms. Flores stated that many of the Plan’s objectives support environmental goals and cited examples that include protecting and enhancing biodiversity, establishing a regional network, green connectors, and green alleys and streets.  Ms. Flores stated that feedback on how the objectives and policies can further address environmental goals is welcome.  Ms. Haryati discussed the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) urban stormwater program as an important environmental goal that would be achieved through open space.

 

Commissioner Martin reported that she would provide individual comments on energy, recycling, water conservation, biodiversity, and on the wildlife components of the Plan.  Recommendations discussed include:

 

·         Review how strong the language is on page 38 of the Plan in terms of lighting, energy, water-conservation, and plant choices to acknowledge and prioritize natives. 

 

·         Review environmental justice issues as it relates to areas of flooding and smells from PUC operations.  Ms. Haryati reported that the Open Space Round Table has provided a forum for City departments to discuss opportunities and challenges surrounding these types of issues.

 

·         Include zero waste support (recycling and composting) within open spaces including city sidewalks and street events.

 

·         McLaren Park--lack of programming or lack of knowledge about programming.  Ms. Flores reported that this recommendation would relate to how to revitalize existing underutilized spaces.  Ms. Haryati reported that Nature in the City has programming information about McLaren Park that could be more widely publicized throughout the community.  It was explained that there could be an opportunity for the Recreation and Park Department website to provide this information in a user-friendly way.  

 

·         Offer designated paved areas for groups to use on a regular basis so an activity is continuously taking place that would attract people from a wide spectrum and not necessarily require special programming.  Ms. Haryati reported on the Recreation and Park Department’s facility inventory that is used to identify staffing requirements, but explained that the inventory has not been used to review programming partnership opportunities. Ms. Haryati indicated that groups might be more inclined to plan activities if it were not for the burden of permitting requirements and having to provide revenue to the City to use these areas.

 

·         Making it possible for food vendors to be reliably available in the park so it is a planned destination for visitors and would also provide an economic opportunity.

 

·         Provide connections to the water either through 16th or 17th and Cesar Chavez Streets or from the Dogpatch area into the Mission District. 

 

·         Coordinate the greenway on Lawton Street in the Sunset District with the Bike Plan’s connector on Kirkham Street.  Ms. Haryati reported that the exact locations shown in the Vision Map were meant to be conceptual and were intended to identify four or five green corridors. 

 

·         The Plan should support a cohesive planting palate whether it is on people’s private property or the public right of way. Information should be provided about which flora and fauna are endangered or imperiled in different parts of town. It was explained that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is starting to offer information on their Geographic Information Systems (GIS) about what plants are to be encouraged in certain areas. Ms. Haryati reported that the Department of Public Works (DPW) is improving their sidewalk permitting program by making available a user-friendly manual on planting recommendations.  Ms. Haryati reported on the Community Challenge Grant incentive to transform concrete sidewalks to sidewalk plantings. Ms. Flores discussed how the Better Streets Plan would provide direction in this area.

 

·         Inquired whether there would be a reference to open space for waterways in order to attract people to the water to better appreciate marine wildlife, explore the ocean and bay, and to increase appreciation and information especially in terms of environmental stewardship.  Are there enough opportunities for boating if there is limited marina space, whether boats, boat sharing, kayaking support would be feasible?  Ms. Haryati reported that the approach is land- based but that inner land water bodies are encompassed as open space.  It was explained that there would be a need for special programming because of accessibility and other related issues.  Discussions will be held with the relevant groups to discuss these aspects of the Plan.  Commissioner Martin recommended adding language addressing measurement of access, e.g., do we have enough or too much marina space, is there environmental justice equality for access in the water?  A recommendation was made to outreach to Surfrider Foundation, a group that cares about water quality because they surf and who may be interested in providing input into policies surrounding the land strategies as there is a direct correlation to land and water pollution. Commissioner Gravanis suggested outreach to the Blue Greenway, a group that is involved in the water trail, boating and public access, and who could provide input in this area.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that boating and public access would have to be planned carefully to allow for seasonal closures when there is nesting season. There is a need to find the right balance so that people can get close enough to the resource and learn about it but not get too close to cause harm.  Chair Wald recommended outreach and providing education to anglers who fish at the piers on water quality issues and how it can be affected by land-based activities.  Ms. Haryati stated that this is an interesting point for local food production. 

 

·         Recommended that the Department of Environment’s Toxics Reduction program staff review the Plan and provide recommendations.  Chair Wald inquired whether the Department of the Environment would provide a focused detailed review of this Plan as they have on other planning documents.  Acting Director Assmann stated that there is no formal process for review of the Plan, but requested that a Word document be provided to him to send to program managers for input.  Commissioner Martin recommended that a Department of Environment staff member join the Roundtable discussions.   

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis’s recommendations included:

 

·         Review and connect all content.  One section states that park lighting should be environmentally efficient, provide safety and security to park users, while also protecting wildlife and natural areas from light pollution.  Another section emphasizes adequate lighting for safety so there should be discussion about how to connect the concepts together.  Ms. Haryati reported that a group at the upcoming SPUR workshop would be reviewing the entire Plan. Chair Wald recommended that the review should be of all topics, not just limited to one topic.

 

·         Policy 4.1 on sustainable development--add green building, solid waste management, and zero waste.  Policy 4.1 does not belong in a section called biodiversity and should be in its own section on sustainability that goes into more depth on the topic. Biodiversity should be its own section to focus in more depth on natural areas and biological communities.

 

·         Reported on public comment received from Nature in the City on the proposed rewrite of Objective 4.  Ms. Flores requested that comments be sent by email so that the planner assigned to revising the draft plan can review recommendations to determine what is feasible.  (Explanatory Document:  Public Comment Received from Nature in the City)
 

·         Refine policies and reach consensus before actions are taken that might not achieve what is intended.

 

·         Reference the current Open Space Element to determine what is worth preserving that may have been misplaced in the new Plan, e.g., in reference to the total quantity of open space, there was a standard referred to of ten acres per 1,000 people, which was acknowledged as unrealistic for San Francisco.  At the time the last version was approved, it was estimated that there were 5.5 acres per 1,000 people and that the per capita amount of open space should be increased. That language is not in the current plan and there is no target set to work toward.  There is language about how to keep up with increasing population and growth and the need to apply more open space, but no target to work toward. It was recommended that the responsibility for meeting the goal be given to someone to establish an idea of what is required.  Ms. Haryati stated that there is an immediate need to qualify our shared-goal prior to quantifying and planning for how to reach targets.  It was explained that the last Element did not have an action plan for reaching the goal or to measure progress.  Ms. Flores explained that there are finite resources so priorities would have to be set on where to focus the resources.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that you would not receive funding without putting the information into the area plan.  Supported working on the Housing Plan and Open Space Plan at the same time and explained that the estimate of how many acres were needed per 1000 people was based on a time when people had more private open space. 

 

·         Review the Plan’s references to “where something happened recently” because it won’t make sense to someone reading it 20 years from now.

 

·         Not to use the term high-performing open spaces because it commodifies it.  Reference to text that states “high performing open spaces are those that provide a high-level of surface to their users.”    

 

·         Requested a word document in order to provide comments in track changes. 

 

·         Ocean Beach--no mention of the endangered snowy plover and danger from off-leash dogs. 

 

·         Policy 3.6 “Maintain, restore and expand the Urban Forest”—no reference cited that there are places where trees do not belong for the sake of biodiversity. Multiple sections should be reviewed to coordinate references to tree planting and preservation with other sections that reference the need for places for the red tailed hawk to forage because if everything is covered with trees, they won’t be able to see and catch the gopher that they need to eat. 

 

·         More internal consistency needed.

 

·         Policy 4.4 “Protect and restore wetlands and riparian areas.”  No reference to protecting and restoring grasslands, coast scrub, etc.  All habitat areas should be treated the same and make it clear that if you want biodiversity, you have to have habitat biodiversity, not just wetlands and riparian areas.  

 

·         Inquired about the use of the term “programming.”  Vice-Chair Gravanis reported that her definition of programming would include staffing at parks, for tournaments, activities, and to make sure equipment was available, etc. and did not see the reference that staffing would be required to guide activities.  Another aspect of programming would be to schedule events for everyday folks, after school programs, etc. that would require not only space, but staffing. Ms. Haryati explained that programming support is spelled out in the Action Plan.  A discussion was held on the opportunity for community partners to staff programs in addition to internal staff.  Ms. Haryati stated that there is a commitment to include this type of programming in the Plan.  It was explained that the Recreation and Park Department is doing a programming inventory exercise which would be shared with the Committee once it is complete. 

 

Acting Director Assmann reported that Map 2 of proposed open space reminds him of a map of what could be underwater as a result of climate change and asked whether potential impacts to open space were considered if sea rise would be as much as predicted.  It was explained that the red area around Hunters Point Shipyard and Mission Bay Area—all of these projections will be underwater in a short time so it may be something that should be addressed in some way. Even Treasure Island is a couple of feet above the bay at this point. 

 

Chair Wald discussed the feasibility of staying current with a 25-year update and recommended a review of goals in at least 15 years if not sooner to see what can be done to meet the 25-year target.  Ms. Flores reported that the Action Plan is a 5 – 10 year plan. Ms. Haryati recommended creating a regular system of updates. 

 

Ms. Flores reported that there is a review and comment period and that comments would be due by the end of September. In October, Ms. Exline, the Project Planner, would be reviewing the comments, making revisions as appropriate and scheduling meetings with City agencies to discuss the vision and comments. Ms. Haryati stated that she wants to ensure that the Plan receives proper input and is based upon the agreed upon vision and policy documents.  It was explained that the City department Action Plan round table would be scheduled in the near term because of climate change and initial work toward creating an Action Plan the departments will need to perform. 

 

6.   Announcements. (Discussion)  Commissioner Martin reported that she, her neighbors, and neighboring businesses were excited about having Sunday Streets on her street.  It was recommended that there be closer review of this type of planning as it provides support for local businesses that are getting more attention from Sunday Street participants.

 

7.   New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)  Chair Wald reported that she would not be able to attend the July 13, 2009 meeting due to a scheduled vacation.  July 13, 2009 Policy Committee agenda discussion--Chair Wald announced that Vice-Chair Gravanis would be sponsoring the Commission work item on how the Commission plans for and conducts Commission meetings.  Vice-Chair Gravanis reported that she would prepare a draft of specific suggestions before the meeting so it can be a possible action item for recommendation to the full Commission.  Vice-Chair Gravanis requested that the outreach letter topic be broadened to include discussion on how to increase public participation in Commission matters. Chair Wald recommended that these agenda items be heard in the following order and be listed as separate agenda topics (1) Vice-Chair Gravanis to sponsor the Commission work item—how to improve Commission meetings; (2) Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin to sponsor how to increase public participation in Commission matters; and (3) Mark Westlund, Program Outreach Manager to discuss with the Committee refinement of the outreach letter.    

 

Acting Director Assmann explained that there may be work issues to discuss surrounding the budget either on a local or state level. It was reported that the Department of Finance has recommended elimination of funding for the Department of Conservation that would include funding for the Conservation Corps, cities and counties, state parks, and all grants (total of $200 million in funding).

 

Commissioner Martin recommended an action item to strategize continuation of work efforts on the Urban Forest Plan as well as an update on the status of the Plan. Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended contacting or writing a letter to Mr. Power of the Planning Department who is the project manager on the Urban Forest Plan.  Acting Director Assmann reported that the Planning Department has stopped all work on the Plan because of budget constraints. Commissioner Martin stated that she believes the Council will be reviewing their work strategy going forward and would like to see what can be done to help move the Plan forward either through the Planning Department or through an alternative method.  Commissioner Martin recommended that the Committee strategize on ways to move parts of the Plan forward, particularly efforts surrounding street trees.

 

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 Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 7:28 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 Committee meeting website https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/policy-committee with each agenda or meeting minutes, or (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709 or via e-mail at Monica.Fish@sfgov.org.

 

*Approved: July 13, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

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