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08.10 Approved Minutes

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT

POLICY COMMITTEE

 

REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

Monday, August 10, 2009, 5:00 P.M.

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 Policy Committee meeting convened at 5:05 p.m.  Present:  Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin; Excused: Commissioner Wald.

 

2.   Approval of Minutes of the July 13, 2009 Policy Committee Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Upon Motion by Commissioner Martin and second by Vice-Chair Gravanis, the July 13, 2009 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (AYES: Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin) Absent:  Chair Wald) (Explanatory Document:  July 13, 2009 Approved Minutes).

 

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.

 

Item 8 was heard before Item 4.

 

4.   San Francisco’s Sustainability Plan.  Sponsor: Commissioner Jane Martin, Speakers: Stephen Coyle, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Town Green, Oakland, CA (10 minutes); David Assmann, Deputy Director (Informational Presentation and Discussion) 

 

Commissioner Martin reported on Mr. Coyle’s good work on comprehensive green plans in other areas and asked that he provide comment on San Francisco’s guiding documents and discuss his work, in particular with the “Emerald Cities” project through the California Department of Conservation. Commissioner Martin stated that she is cognizant that the Commission and staff’s role is limited due to the peer structure in City government, but asked that consideration be given as to what can be done within those limitations and parameters to support City agencies in having a comprehensive plan and in creating an annual agenda to enable this process.    

 

Mr. Coyle stated that he has had the benefit of working around the country including New York, Boston, and Portland on development standards, and helped Portland write some of their more progressive development standards.  Mr. Coyle recommended that rather than relying on what is sometimes called “gizmo green” or relying on technology to carry the weight of a Sustainability Plan, that it is more important to look at measures, strategies and techniques that have been proven over time. Mr. Coyle stated that he would like to share the qualifications that were used when assessing the efficacy of different strategies, because when he reviewed San Francisco’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plans, it was all very sound, but thought it would be interesting in terms of peer review to assess proposed actions under another or additional set of metrics that include: 


·         Time testing--rather than looking ahead, it would be beneficial to look behind to see what has worked over time.  San Francisco has actually accomplished this well, certainly in terms of transit systems.  Portland had one of the “best of the west” streetcar systems which were electrified, convertible to renewable energy, and created essentially mixed-use corridors in a compact and sustainable form, yet Portland tore out every bit of streetcar and is now beginning to replace them at a greater expense. It is a lesson that many cities have learned. 

 

·         Adaptability—how can San Francisco’s sustainability planning become more adaptable in terms of the actions being proposed?  In some ways there is a movement from mitigation of greenhouse gases to actually looking more carefully at adaptability to climate change.  There was a recent article in the Washington Post and New York Times about the Department of Defense’s analysis that climate change is now a serious security issue. Different scenarios are being researched from different cities and countries.

 

Mr. Coyle stated that he did a presentation for Alameda’s Earth Day on the implications of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 meter sea-level rise.  San Francisco has reviewed implications from sea-level rise, and what has been found is shocking, especially in the East Bay. That doesn’t mean that we need to start looking at remediation, but rather to point out that part of a good sustainability or action plan would state that we should be redeveloping where we should be developing and putting infrastructure where we know it has some probability of remaining secure. 

 

·         Virtuous actions--actions should be virtuous, meaning that the implications and impacts downstream of the action should produce beneficial consequences. This is in response to some of the technological proposals that are not time-tested, may not be particularly adaptable, and may have unintended consequences. There is a need for creating virtuous feedback, cycles and impacts downstream of the event (10 or 20 years), and to look at what kinds of actions would produce virtuous cycles.  For example, if we secure open areas for recharge, that we should have the benefit of maintaining some land that won’t be developed on in the future.  It sets up a virtuous cycle. Those areas are set aside, not built on, and protected in order to force ourselves into growing compactly into development. That is a major example of a positive virtuous feedback cycle by virtue of something that can be regulated.

 

·         Durable—we are still creating throw-away buildings, throw-away infrastructure.  Durability should be part of the measures that are used to test the cost-benefit of our actions.  One that may be less relevant to San Francisco and more relevant to regions would be scalability.  Some of the interventions that are being proposed are scaled for the building or the site, and yet they can’t be applied in a larger scale.  Example, in reference to some of the technological and renewable energy technology, wind generation for example, you are starting to now see a scalability where you can actually create wind turbines that are building-mounted, and then you have larger wind turbines for more of a regional scale.  That is a good example of a technology that is scalable. 

 

·         What interventions can be proposed that are relatively simple, relatively inexpensive, and broadly applicable?  Mr. Coyle stated that Commissioner Martin’s project to introduce a way of greening the urban landscape is an example of something relatively simple, has good benefits, but is broadly applicable.  It can be done virtually anywhere as opposed to racks of photovoltaics or even green roofs, which has been done substantially in Portland and Chicago.  But in a seismic zone such as San Francisco, the amount of infrastructure that might be required to retrofit roofs to green might be substantial and may not provide the cost benefit that it should have. If the project does not meet the test of simplicity, relative inexpensiveness, and is broadly applicable, it doesn’t mean that you dismiss it, but it is an important qualification.

 

·         Integrative--what actions in your Sustainability Plan can create synergy with other actions?  Rather than a stand-alone program, what can be done that can be linked to other proposed actions? One of the best examples is the “Safe Route to Schools Program”, that does have some funding, but is essentially self-funded.  A “Safe Route to Schools Program” requires a decent streetscape environment, traffic calming, a lively and safe-eyes on the street façade.  Just by creating such a program, one can create incentives for greening the streets and creating a better pedestrian environment.  It fits the test of being integrative or creating synergy with other actions. 

 

·         Vernacular--what can you do in San Francisco, in the East Bay, or in Tracy, where the “Emerald Cities” pilot project is being done to involve local people?  Work is still in progress in Los Angeles to reach the zero-waste target.  One of the measures used was “vernacular”--what can a citizen do to help so they can actually feel empowered to make change?  In a zero-waste or low carbon plan, three or four different ways were devised.  In Los Angeles, education became the highest leveraged-strategy and was a citywide, six-year effort.  Of all the measures proposed to take Los Angeles to zero waste, education was by a substantial margin the single most important strategy that people felt was important.  Education was offered in every curriculum from K-12 on recycling, reuse, and reducing.  This strategy was called vernacular intervention because virtually anyone can do it. 

 

Mr. Coyle stated that because of regulations and Senate and Assembly bills, there is a focus around quantification as a means of measuring performance of different actions.  For example, vehicle miles traveled and CO2 equivalent seem to rise to the top with some unfortunate consequences. The focus is on reduction measures, and the value of a comprehensive approach is lost.  

 

Commissioner Martin asked Mr. Coyle to provide an overview of the Tracy “Emerald Cities” project. Mr. Coyle stated that the pilot project is primarily an interdepartmental effort sponsored by the California Sustainability Alliance and the Department of Conservation, to assist communities and perhaps regions or at least counties in creating comprehensive sustainable planning that is actionable. The idea grew out of the performing climate action plans for Hayward and Martinez, where the focus was on transportation, land use, energy and solid waste.  It was recognized that transportation cannot be addressed without looking at land use and forms of development; energy can’t be reviewed without reviewing building scale and the impact of energy, water etc. A discussion was held with the state about taking a more comprehensive approach than the conventional climate action plan has accomplished to date, and the “Emerald Cities” program was devised as a result.  The program is being implemented by the National Charrette Institute, which Mr. Coyle co-founded and through his firm, Town Green. 

 

Mr. Coyle explained that most of the public attends public meetings only when discussions are held about building economic and environmental resilience and energy independence. The foundation of the pilot program is to look at all those elements and to address them as comprehensively as time and budget allows. The goal is to create a series of pilots throughout the state, with the first one starting in Tracy.  The project has commenced and work is in progress to produce a greenhouse gas inventory, building and hosting a stand-alone website, which can be interactive without jeopardizing the firewall. This is also being done because going through a webmaster for every single step slows down the process. 

 

Mr. Coyle stated that the focus of the program is on those communities that don’t have resources such as the San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the reasons the state wanted to start in Tracy.  Tracy is the opposite of San Francisco, has tremendously high Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and has a very high commute percentage. There is encroachment on farm land and water issues on agricultural land. The idea is that if it can be accomplished in Tracy successfully, it can be done somewhere else, and the lessons learned will be important to other regions and communities in San Francisco.  

 

Mr. Coyle discussed his concern with reliance on technology, especially speculative technology such as photovoltaics.  One of the issues being reviewed is energy-return on energy-invested.  Mr. Coyle stated that he is a big proponent of renewable energy, but has observed that the true cost of the technologically-driven renewable energy, e.g., solar, wind, geothermal, rarely includes their return in investment.  When cost is factored in, renewable energy that requires equipment and technology is no where near cost-effective when one considers what it will take in terms of the fossil-fuel investment, which is another condition that is not usually included in energy-returns and investments.  Mr. Coyle explained that when looking at sustainability actions, it is necessary to make sure that good numbers are being used that will stand the test of time and the peer review of those who might oppose the investment in these kinds of renewables.  It is important to be realistic about their performance relative to the investment. 

 

Mr. Coyle described his shift back to low-tech time proven methods as the foundation for a sustainability plan.  One strategic example:  when an energy, or even solid-waste plan is being worked on, we don’t begin with what kind of technologies can be brought in to help balance the energy equation, we start with conservation first, then we move to efficiency.  Only then when we have exhausted the remedies using those, do we begin to look at renewables as the third portion of the sustainability school and as the basis for a sound plan. Commissioner Martin stated that the “Emerald Cities” Plan is something that can be learned from and is a good example of what it means to have a comprehensive sustainability plan.  Commissioner Martin stated that she is struggling to identify a succinct definition of the difference between a comprehensive and a not-comprehensive plan.  Mr. Coyle stated that they are struggling with this issue themselves, not through want of including what are considered to be key elements. If you look at San Francisco’s or Tracy’s General Plan, all of the elements are key parts of a comprehensive sustainability plan, and somebody thought they should be part of the City’s plan for the future. 

 

Mr. Coyle stated that one of the first things that was done in Hayward’s and Martinez’s Climate Action Plan, was to go through the General Plan and Municipal Code and do an analysis of what is progressive or not. In Portland, it is called a Comprehensive Plan instead of a General Plan because it is supposed to address all of the areas that are important for the long-term health of the community.  One definition of a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan would be for all the areas of a City’s General Plan to contain resilience, health, and sustainability as policies. Then all of the other elements of the Municipal Code, which is really where the implementation is, should include street standards and all of the elements of the Sustainability Plan. Mr. Coyle stated that he has observed that the Sustainability Plan transportation section has parking recommendations, and that most of the proposed actions fall under the Municipal Code.  The more comprehensive you are horizontally in terms of large-scale to the details of bike racks, and horizontally across the elements from circulation and land use, open space conservation, housing, all the way through the elements, would be the other way to look at it comprehensively. 

 

Commissioner Martin stated that she thinks about goal setting when talking about quantifying. For example, Sustainability Plan “Goal 1, Air Quality, to assure a level of air-quality that has no negative impact on the health of humans or the ecosystems of the natural environment.”  Commissioner Martin asked how it would be possible for no negative impact to be reached and whether it is valuable to include goals that may not be realistic.  It may be that if you establish the goal, you may reach it.  Mr. Coyle stated that it is important to set comprehensive goals.  For example, it is said that zero waste can be reached through incineration. There are people that would be happy to use this technique and there are others that are already doing it, especially in the East Coast.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that is not zero-waste. Mr. Coyle stated that some people would consider zero-waste something that no observable waste being produced is exported. There is the argument that there would be air-quality issues using this goal, and that the air-quality goal would not be part of the zero waste-plan. If you shift the externalities away from your goal, it is easy to come up with a harmful impact particulate in air-quality level, but if you are comprehensive about your goals, you can make them as rigorous as you want.   Mr. Coyle stated that he is more concerned with the interim objectives and how goals can be reached, as in some ways, how you get there is the end result.  If you are going to burn coal to produce the energy to manufacture the photovoltaics, you may end up with a lot of photovoltaics and horrible air.  Looking at goals comprehensively is important, perhaps more important than trying to pick out one goal and making it perfect. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that all of the Department of the Environment’s short-term goals are delineated in the Strategic Plan, which is updated every year, and is a three-year rolling plan that is tangible and has achievable benchmarks for that time-period.  The Strategic Plan includes what the Department will be doing this year, the next year, and the year after and every year that it is updated. It contains things that were selected that we think can be achieved technically and within the scope of available resources. The Strategic Plan is really our working document to determine what is going to be done in the next three years.  And yes, it leads to a larger goal in the end, but because it is a rolling plan, you keep going as far as you can every time you put it together.  We go through the process every fall, which runs parallel to the Climate Action Plan, which we now have embarked on updating its five-year goals.  It hasn’t been updated in five years and is out of date in a lot of respects.  One of the exciting challenges and benefit is that the Department is working with the Planning Department on integrating the results of our Climate Action Plan into the City’s General Plan so that we look at the City’s overall planning as part of this process.  We think it is going to take a year to update our Climate Action Plan so that it can be integrated into the City’s General Plan and will be working with the Planning Department on this effort.  A lot of emphasis will be placed on this project in the next year or two. 

 

At the same time, we will go through another reiteration of our Strategic Plan, which doesn’t cover everything that is in the Sustainability Plan, because it only covers those areas that are within our jurisdiction to control.  Commissioner Martin stated and that which there is funding for.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that was true; however, there are aspirational things in the Strategic Plan that are designed to try to secure funding for.  There are also some things that are outside the scope of what our Department is responsible for, water being a major one. 

 

The Department is also working on the City’s Climate Action Plan as well as working with all City departments who are now responsible for their own Climate Action Plan. These are the practical things that will be worked on in the next year that has kept us really busy.  The Climate Action Plan does have stretch goals. To even meet the future goals that were legislated, it will require whole-scale shifting of the way society and the city does business.  The 2012 goals are certainly easily achievable, but the goals further down the road are much more difficult.  It can’t be said that there are practical steps that have been identified to meet those longer-term goals, but there are certainly practical steps to meet the short-term goals.  To achieve the 50% and 80% reduction in carbon emissions is a whole-scale change in the way we operate.  Commissioner Martin inquired about the target date for this goal.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that there are state and local target dates established in the legislation.  Commissioner Martin asked when we would have no negative impact on air-quality.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that there is no projection at this time.

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that you look at things from the point-source and life-cycle perspective. The original Climate Action Plan mixes apples and oranges--it has transportation and energy as a point-source, and then it has waste, which is a life-cycle analysis, not a point-source.  There is discussion about redoing our Climate Action Plan and dividing it into two sections, one that would be focused on point-source and the other on life-cycle.  Life-cycle is ultimately the most important because all of the embodied energy, all the waste that is created in products that end up in the city, we are ultimately responsible for generating.  However, it doesn’t show up in any of our climate inventories because the emissions aren’t here--they are wherever that product was manufactured, where the energy was produced.  That ultimately is a much bigger climate impact than the transportation emissions in the city or in the fossil fuel that is burned in the city.  The idea is to look at them separately and set goals for each because they require different sets of actions to achieve goals. Methodologies for identifying the proper methodologies or even measuring both of those have not been worked out yet.   We did well on the point-source side, which is relatively easy compared to the life-cycle.  It was explained that 96% of the waste that is created for every product gets created before the product is made--it is not the disposal.  To recycle something, at most you are affecting four-percent of the waste created.  If you really think about it, you have to think about reduction, using less to begin with, which has so much more of an impact than recycling something or diverting it from landfill.  So we have just started tackling those issues on a philosophical level.  The impact is complicated as it is not just point source, and you have to look at the whole scope of what you do. 

 

Commissioner Martin inquired as to what degree the Department’s planning process is comprehensive in terms of discussions held at this meeting, or is it felt that we can do better, or are there obstacles that make it such that it is irrelevant.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that our planning process for the areas that we have jurisdiction or control over is fairly comprehensive, and there is a lot that needs to be added. That being said, there are areas outside our jurisdiction that may not have the benefit of the same planning or goal-setting.  For example, there are areas in the Sustainability Plan that are outside our jurisdiction that may not be worked on in terms of planning for the future.  Part of it is from not being able to track what is going on in long-term water planning or in transportation planning, which is not entirely in our control.  Even though we are putting together Climate Action Plans, there are all kinds of departments that have transportation responsibilities and are doing longer-term planning that we are not part of.  The gap is in potentially planning for those areas that do not fall within the Department’s jurisdiction and secondly, more coordination between what other departments are doing and what we are doing.  The big step forward would be to have individual departments create Climate Action Plans because that allows you to take a look at what other departments are planning and to see how it can be integrated with our efforts. There has only been one plan put together to date in the first year, and it going to take several years before it is at a state where it should be.  Commissioner Martin inquired how the requirement for department climate action plans came about.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that it originated from a Mayor’s directive.

 

Commissioner Martin stated that as much as other agencies may want to cooperate, we have this peer- to-peer relationship hierarchically, and it seems that it is difficult to take the lead because of that structure.  Commissioner Martin asked that recognizing that is not going to change, would it be within the Department’s and Commission’s charge to interact with sister agencies and Commissions to keep driving at goals.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it could be that everything that needs to be accomplished on water, for example, is being done, but we are not tracking it.  Commissioner Martin asked whether it was within our jurisdiction to provide tracking.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it was not.   Commissioner Martin asked if it could be tracked in the same way that the department climate action plans are being tracked.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it is not analogous completely because the Department’s Climate Coordinator is coordinating the efforts of all of the departments; whereas, the responsibility for water resides with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), and there is not available staff to do the tracking. 

 

Commissioner Martin asked if it would be possible for the Department to have a comprehensive plan manager so there is a point person for general sustainability.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it could be possible in the future, but at this point we are challenged just to do the Climate Action Plan, which will take a tremendous amount of staff effort throughout the next year.  Concurrently, we are going to be redoing our Strategic Plan, which is usually embarked upon in September or October and is usually a three-month process.  One of the intents is to have the Plan complete before we go into the next budget cycle in January, which is when the budget is assembled.  Those two efforts take a tremendous amount of resources so taking on an additional role may not be feasible at this time.  It might be useful to determine those areas that are outside the jurisdiction of the department but are environmentally-related, so that we might request updates from other departments on their plans and goals. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that he hasn’t recently compared the Sustainability Plan to the Strategic Plan to identify overlaps, what is missing, and what areas are outside of what is normally worked on.  An update was done six years ago that shows a report card of where we are in the Sustainability Plan, which is located on the Department’s website. The original Sustainability Plan was also created so long ago that portions of it are completely obsolete.  Commissioner Martin asked whether it would be worthwhile to revise the Plan.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that the Department’s standpoint is that the rolling three-year Strategic Plan is a living document that replaces the Sustainability Plan and takes on the short-term work that needs to happen to reach the long-term goals that were originally articulated in the Sustainability Plan. There were some real drawbacks to the Sustainability Plan. One is that there was no monitoring and there was no mechanism to track if it was being done because there was no action plan allocated to the set of actions. That is why a rolling Strategic Plan is very specific.  It has all of these actions, things that we have to do this fiscal year, the next, and thereafter and can be measured along with assignment of responsibility. It is much more of a living active document, which grew out of the Sustainability Plan.  What is valuable now is to make the Strategic Plan as robust as possible and to also have other departments do strategic plans along the same line as we do.  There are performance plans that every department has to do annually, but they are not strategic plans. 

 

Commissioner Martin recommended that the Committee and especially the full Commission’s agendas be coordinated and more relevant with the Strategic Plan and Budget annual cycle that is being referred to, and that an effort should be made to ensure that Commissioners understand what the department is doing and when.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that in the current cycle, we will start the Strategic Planning process in October, people are informed of activities in September, and is complete by the end of December in order to inform the budget.  The budget process is started in December and has to be complete by February 20, which is the date it is due to the Mayor’s Office.  It takes another six months to get through the process. 

 

Commissioner Martin stated that she is excited that the state is taking the initiative for the “Emerald Cities” project and hopes that it has great success and gets more widely recognized and applied.  Commissioner Martin inquired whether there were resources that could be offered to this project.  Mr. Coyle stated that there is recognition that departments and agencies have to work collaboratively; however, the mechanism for doing so has not been implemented.  So you might have Caltrans doing a project that may impact and need the attention of other departments, but there is no mechanism or operation for making sure that the agencies are coordinating around something that helps build resilience and sustainability through these projects. There is at least recognition that it is necessary. It was explained that through the pilots, departments and agencies that have not talked much to each other except in conferences and meetings are being brought in to collaborate. 

 

Mr. Coyle inquired how the Department goes about deciding which strategies, tactics, and actions to implement.  Is there an internal evaluation process that includes making a short list or prioritized list?  Deputy Director Assmann reported that decisions are sometimes driven by mandates and identifying strategies to reach goals.  We have the current three-year Strategic Plan that goes through the 2010 period, and we have a set of strategies, for example, this is what we are going to do to reduce our waste by how much in the commercial, residential and municipal sector, and here are the actions we are going to take to get us there.  Other processes and program areas may not be so number driven, may have their own planning sessions, and everything goes through the larger Department to integrate. 

 

Mr. Coyle asked if there was consistency and use of a similar evaluation methodology throughout program areas.  Deputy Director Assmann stated as much as possible.  Mr. Coyle stated that there is no consistency or methodology from city-to-city or department-to-department--everybody has a different method.  Methods may include sitting in a room, making decisions and collaborating with others, or using strictly state guidelines for making decisions, or others may use metrics or measures that are more qualitative.  At some point it would be beneficial to present how a successful city goes about deciding on their evaluation criteria and how to go about making decisions.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that is why it is hard to compare city-to-city and state-to-state because everybody does it differently.  Mr. Coyle asked if a software tool was used.  Deputy Director Assmann stated not specifically, but that there is software used for reporting CO2 emissions.  Mr. Coyle stated that Tracy is using ICLEI’s inventory software and reported on their new product that improves the process and makes the calculation quicker.  Commissioner Martin stated that in reference to the department Climate Action Plans, the Commission learned this year that we need to identify a standard reporting format.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that Ms. Ostrander, the Department’s Climate Coordinator, is spending a lot of time working on making sure that all reporting methodologies are the same throughout City departments.                              

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended that a formalized approach be taken to track activities even though action plans are not going to be developed or staff assigned in the near future.  The idea of supplanting the Sustainability Plan with the Strategic Plan is fine in most cases except in those areas where there are items that are not in the Strategic Plan. We know that biodiversity, water supply, wastewater and stormwater management are not things that are in our Strategic Plan, and there are good reasons for that.  It is also important to look at unintended consequences, and it is a good idea to at least go through the process.  For example, if we are going to do a wind-generation project, we don’t want to kill birds, and if we are going to be focused on carbon sequestration and planting trees wherever we can, we should review whether it would have an effect on our requirements for habitat diversity, etc.  It is also important to track items that funding is not immediately available for in order to pursue these things if grant money or contracts are received. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that we should have somebody that is responsible for those areas identified in the Plan that we don’t currently have responsibility for.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that nobody in the entire city is looking at biodiversity for the city.  The Recreation and Park Department is looking at it only in its natural areas.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it would be important for us to identify stakeholders in that particular area and identify a group that could work on a strategic plan, e.g. a combination of City government and other stakeholders.  This area was addressed in the Sustainability Plan but not in the Strategic Plan and should be covered as to who would most likely have the interest, influence, and expertise.  Commissioner Martin stated that in addition to the Strategic Plan, these areas should be listed in the Table of Contents with a notation of who is responsible since we are not.  If nobody is responsible, it should be documented that we are noting that nobody is responsible for this area, and maybe at some point it will prompt us or others to assign responsibility.  Additionally, where assignments are noted, the agency would be responsible to provide a report if we by default are the collectors towards the effort of the Sustainability Plan. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that it would make sense to make biodiversity fit in and to secure resources, which would not be outside of our purview. It is outside of our purview in that the Recreation and Park Department has the responsibility for the park lands.  Commissioner Martin stated that you could equally say that we don’t have purview over how private citizens have their backyard, but in effect we have mechanisms that can get at those things. Maybe not expecting the Recreation and Park Department to be the primary responsibility would be the answer because they only have jurisdiction over their areas.  Mr. Coyle inquired whether non-profits are brought in to assist in this kind of analysis.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that non-profits have participated in informal ways but again funding is not available. If there were a grant to create a Department Office of Biodiversity with staff assignments, then we could coordinate those things. There are people who are willing to provide their input for free, e.g., the Audubon Society, Nature in the City, Sierra Club, and the Native Plant Society, but there is no place for their input to be directed.  Deputy Director Assmann asked how other cities handle it.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that a lot of information has been collected--London has a Biodiversity Council; New York City has a huge department of natural areas within its Recreation and Park Department; Portland has a huge natural areas program that is part of the city. Deputy Director Assmann asked if they deal with areas outside of park lands.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated she was not sure.  Mr. Coyle stated that Portland has a regional government, metro, which acts as a receptor, gatherer of data, which assists Portland because it is able to look outside of city boundaries as well as collect data within the city.

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis inquired about the best way to access information about “Emerald Cities.”  Mr. Coyle stated that information can be accessed through Town Green and through the state director. Mr. Coyle stated that it seems to him that if you are trying to create better walkable places, very little has been done in San Francisco to improve the streetscape, especially in the “Avenues,” the western part of the city.  Mr. Coyle stated that parts of San Francisco are in good condition and other parts are so appalling it is hard to believe it is the same place, and recommended focusing on improvements to the streetscape. 

 

Commissioner Martin announced that the SFPUC through the Community Challenge Grant just gave Plant SF funding for a pilot in the Sunset District that will start in September.  The PUC has done a watershed analysis for the eastern half of the city, and have started the western half this summer.  Mr. Coyle stated that Portland has put a lot of effort into sculpting the street, putting in curb extensions, installing brick sidewalks, and allocating a lot of money where it wasn’t cost-effective for what was being produced.  Mr. Coyle recommended looking for interventions that could be made relatively simply, at low-cost that does not involve tremendous amount of expensive infrastructure changes that would require a bond mechanism to pay for them.  These types of projects would increase property values because the streetscape would be more desirable and aesthetically pleasing, which is what you see in Portland.  Commissioner Martin stated that there would also be community value because businesses would start to locate there and people would respond accordingly. 

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that the Strategic Plan should contain an acknowledgement of the things that are not being included.  It was recommended that discussions be held with volunteer environmental groups about their willingness to participate in updating this section and getting someone to coordinate the effort.  Commissioner Martin recommended soliciting input to gather, even it were not to be processed. There is concern about citing only one entity who cares about biodiversity as it would be from only one perspective, and there is no comprehensive biodiversity non-profit organization in town.  It was recommended that a basic start would be to extend an invitation to people and entities who are interested in providing input for us to collect and create a plan for whatever format is manageable.  It would be similar to the Climate Action Plan where information is accepted the first year and if it becomes unwieldy, at least we have the benefit of people’s different perspective, and it could be data collected that at some point somebody could work on. 

 

Commissioner Martin recommended requesting specific comments on the topic of biodiversity, e.g., to ask what has your organization or your city achieved, what specific actions will you be doing, and what do you want to get out of it.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that if you want to apply the comments to the Strategic Plan, you would have to frame it in that context, e.g., what are your goals for the next three years, and who will be responsible.  Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended looking for groups that might want to work on certain elements, e.g., monitoring, assisting the school district with a curriculum, pursuing legislation to ban the sale of the worst invasive plants from San Francisco nurseries, etc.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that there might be enough staff resources to do something finite like this and assist non-profit groups.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it is more a question of identifying the names of the plants that are being sold that shouldn’t be sold.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that this information is available.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that if the work has been done already, then in the next year, legislation can be proposed to the Board of Supervisors to ban the sale of invasive plants. Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that she would contact interested parties.  Commissioner Martin suggested putting this item on the agenda, informing interested parties, taking in their report through public comment, and then internalizing and working on it.  It was requested that biodiversity be placed on the future agenda list as part of the implementation of the Sustainability Plan, and not tie it to Urban Accord 12.

 

5.   Urban Accord Actions 10-12 Urban Nature.  Review of Department of the Environment Staff Comments on the Recreation and Open Space Plan (ROSE) for Recommendation to the Commission on the Environment.  Sponsors: Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Jane Martin; Speaker:  David Assmann, Deputy Director (10 minutes) (Discussion and Action)

 

Deputy Director Assmann reported on staff comments received to date:

 

1.      Define open spaces broadly to include open water resources and land areas outside the main land.  One of the ROSE elements talks about land; it doesn’t talk about water, doesn’t talk about the areas outside the mainland, e.g., the water between here and Alcatraz, water between here and the Farallone Islands. There is potential for programming in those areas. There are things that are going on in those areas to be concerned about.

 

2.      Clarify how ROSE is made consistent with and prioritized with other planning efforts for site-specific areas, overlapping jurisdictions in particular, and the City’s own internal planning documents. To make sure it is integrated and harmonized with other City planning documents as that is not currently the case, e.g., the documents being put together for Ocean Beach should be consistent with ROSE.    Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that one of the items discussed at the SPUR and Neighborhood Parks Council workshop was that some people felt that because the Ocean Beach Plan, McLaren Park Master Plan, and Golden Gate Park Master Plan are in progress, that this document should simply reference that they are in progress, but not try to repeat everything that might be in them. The Plans are not finished so you can’t incorporate them, and you shouldn’t try to prejudge what should be in them to place in the ROSE document either because they have their own separate planning processes and their own advisory committee.  Commissioner Martin stated that except to the degree that the Plans should not be inconsistent.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that the final comments for the ROSE are due by the end of September, and those other documents are farther out. Commissioner Martin stated that the ROSE document would be the one to influence the other documents.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that any General Plan Element is supposed to guide subsequent development and decisions in that area.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it is important that there not be inconsistencies between the Plans going forward and also the ones currently in place.

 

3.      Preservation of sunlight and open spaces.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that there is quite a lot about this topic in the Plan.  Commissioner Martin stated that she thought the marine aspect was included also. Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that the ROSE states that the ocean and the bay are the most important natural resources that San Francisco has; however, there is no discussion about aquatic eco-systems or reference to the wildlife that lives between here and the Farallones, which should be reinforced as habitat. The ROSE refers to them as open space.  Commissioner Martin stated that this section is based more on recreation. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that there is a section in the Plan that talks about sunlight and open spaces, but the wording could potentially be interpreted that no tall trees should be planted.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that she thought that buildings was what was referred to, and it is interesting how the Plan indicates that it is important for people to have sunlight except when trees are involved.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that the reference is on buildings, but the wording is so broad that it could be interpreted to apply to tall trees.  Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended wording about not planting non-native tall trees. 

 

4.      Integrated Pest Management (IPM)—plan landscape areas to minimize maintenance requirements and maximize quality.

 

5.      Privately owned public open spaces--there is a reference but no details about their locations or amount of land dedicated to privately owned public own spaces.  It would be helpful to include a more detailed discussion of these spaces to promote a better understanding about their availability, accessibility, and potential uses.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that SPUR wrote a report on privately owned public spaces, which might be easier to incorporate into the Plan by reference rather than to repeat it all.  Vice-Chair Gravanis discussed the inadequate enforcement mechanisms put in place at the time requirements were made for these spaces.  However, there is work in progress to make sure that there is enforcement. 

 

6.      Urban Forest—reference the Urban Forest Master Plan and clarify how urban forest planning activities could be integrated with the Planning Department’s Urban Forest Master Plan if it is activated. Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that another issue with this document is that it makes it seem like it was just written yesterday, which is not going to make any sense 25 years from now.  It is important to say that the tree master plan should go into the General Plan.

7.      Climate Action Plan--track and reduce the following elements in conjunction with the departmental Climate Action Plan, carbon footprint, energy consumption, water consumption, and waste production.  Vice-Chair Gravanis asked if Department staff considered the suggestion she made that some of those sustainability measures be put in a separate objective so that all of the sustainability information is in one place.  There are already proposed additional objectives dealing with recreation, financing, and accountability, so why not do a separate objective for sustainability. Otherwise, where would you insert climate action?  Deputy Director Assmann stated that it would have to be under a sustainability section.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that she would hope that staff would review this section more.  

 

8.      Agricultural use of public spaces in the city for local food production.  This item is included in the ROSE, but it would be beneficial to add additional text “criteria for ideal sites should be established for availability of water, accessibility, and proximity to underserved neighborhoods.”  These criteria should then be applied uniformly to allow prioritization sites for further development.

 

9.      Recycling suggestions not yet available from Department of the Environment staff.  Vice-Chair Gravanis discussed suggestions for solid-waste management and zero waste. 

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis provided additional recommendations to include in the ROSE, e.g., sea level rise—the most important thing you need to do is to not allow any more development any closer to the shoreline, which is not stated clearly in the Plan.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that he would incorporate this recommendation into the comments. Vice-Chair Gravanis inquired whether staff provided any comments about the suggestion that we incorporate Nature of the City’s rewrite of Objective 4.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that no comments were received. 

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that he would prepare additional language based on comments received and asked that this agenda item be continued to the September 14 meeting. 

                

Ms. Hui, Department of the Environment, Urban Forestry Council Coordinator, stated that she supports the work on the ROSE and the work of the Commission in providing input into the Plan.

 

6.   Development of Recommendations from the Policy Committee to the full Commission Regarding the Operations and Practices of the Full Commission. (Continued from the July 13, 2009 Meeting) (Explanatory Document: Speaker Presentation Time Proposal) Sponsor/Speaker: Commissioner Ruth Gravanis (3 minutes) (Discussion and Action)

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that the focus at today’s meeting would be on the suggestion to make meetings more efficient and productive by adopting for recommendation to the Commission the “Speaker Presentation Time Proposal” explanatory document above. Upon Motion by Commissioner Martin and second by Vice-Chair Gravanis, the “Speaker Presentation Time Proposal” was approved for recommendation to the full Commission. (AYES:  Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin; Absent:  Chair Wald). 

 

7.   Approval of addition of Speaker Presentation Times to Committee Agendas.  Sponsor:  Commissioner Jane Martin (3 minutes) (Discussion and Action).  Committee members recommended that speaker presentation times be added to all future Committee agendas.  A discussion was held on the proper method for timing speakers.  It was recommended that a different type of time clock be used with a bigger count-down number display that would be turned toward the speaker.  A request was made to check with Administrative Services on availability of a time clock to share with other departments or to check the Virtual Warehouse.  A request was also made to adjust the time clock loudness for the warning and final signals in Room 416, if possible.  The Commission Secretary indicated that she would check if this was possible.  Upon Motion by Vice-Chair Gravanis and second by Commissioner Martin, the addition of speaker presentation times to the Committee agendas was approved (AYES: Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin) Absent:  Chair Wald).

 

8.   Announcements. (Discussion) 

 

·         Vice Chair Gravanis announced that she attended a walk sponsored by the India Basin Neighborhood Association to present their plan for redevelopment of the India Basin area, which would now be joined with the Hunter’s Point Shipyard Candlestick Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  The India Basin Neighborhood Association has received a grant to fund a planner and economist so they can critique and respond to the Redevelopment Agency’s plan for the area, which is somewhat different from theirs.  Vice-Chair Gravanis asked if the Committee would consider providing comment on the sustainability aspect of the Plan and with regard to more sustainable transportation.  She questioned the proposed Greek Amphitheater.  There is discussion about preserving habitat and some of the natural areas on the hillside where the PG&E plant was to be removed as well as not putting housing on the water side of Hunters Point Boulevard;

 

·         Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that in reference to the Hunters Point Shipyard Candlestick Point development, San Francisco Park, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee (PROSAC) passed a Resolution related to SB 792, the bill that would enable the sale of state park lands for the Candlestick project area (Explanatory Document:  PROSAC Resolution Regarding SB 792).

 

·         Commissioner Martin announced that she would be meeting with the Pittsburgh, PA Sustainability Director this month and would provide a report under Announcements at a future meeting.

.         

9.   New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)  Recommendations for future agenda items included:

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis: 

 

·         Biodiversity as part of the implementation of the Sustainability Plan—do not tie to Urban Environmental Accord 12.

 

·         Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point and Treasure Island updates—September 14 if possible, but not both on the same agenda.

 

Commissioner Martin and Deputy Director Assmann: Strategic Plan in November.  Committee agenda topics should coincide with the annual cycle on the Strategic Plan and Budget discussions

 

Commissioner Martin:

 

·         Discussion with Pittsburgh, PA Sustainability Director (Announcements section of September 14 agenda); pharmaceuticals update-September 14. Deputy Director Assmann reported that the one and only collection point for pharmaceuticals has stopped collecting, and there is now only a mail-back program.  Action has to be taken at the state and federal level and especially the federal level on controlled substances.

;

·         Urban Forest Master Plan follow-up on Resolution. Commissioner Martin will request from Mr. Power of the Planning Department a list of ideas of what can be achieved on the Plan in-house.

 

·         ROSE staff comments continuation.

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin:

 

·         Outreach for better attendance at Commission meetings (continued discussion). Vice-Chair Gravanis reported that Ms. Walsh, Department of the Environment Public Outreach Specialist, has completed a final version of the questionnaire and has requested a list of environmental groups.  The questionnaire will be sent out soon, and there may be topics to add as a result of feedback received.

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that he would brainstorm with senior staff on potential future topics for agendas.  Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended that agenda topics be selected by checking in with (1) the Urban Environmental Accords; (2) the Future Agenda Items Checklist; (3) the time table with respect to the budget and other reporting requirements; (4) new topics; (5) reviewing the Commission Bylaws Policy Committee functions; (6) questionnaire feedback from environmental organizations; and (7) periodical updates from agencies, e.g., SFPUC Wastewater Plan, etc.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is establishing a new position for a Water Conservation Manager.    

 

Deputy Director Assmann reported that he has been working on a $25 million Request for Proposal(s) for an energy-efficiency program and for stimulus funding that may be received.

    

10.  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.

 

11.  Adjournment.  The Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

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

 

The next Commission on the Environment Policy Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 14, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. in Room 421, City Hall.

 

** 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:  September 14, 2009

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