Policy Committee‎ > ‎2009 Meetings‎ > ‎

11.09 Approved Minutes







MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2009, 5:00 P.M.




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




1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Policy Committee meeting convened at 5:10 p.m.  Present:  Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin; Excused: Chair Wald.


2.   Approval of Minutes of the October 26, 2009 Policy Committee Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action)  Upon Motion by Commissioner Martin and second by Commissioner Gravanis, the October 26, 2009 Draft Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (AYES:  Commissioners Gravanis and Martin; Absent: Commissioner Wald) (Explanatory Document: October 26, 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.


4.   Discussion of Efforts to Evaluate Alternatives to Traditional Dry Cleaning Solvents and Promotion of Wet Cleaning Technologies. (Informational Presentation and Discussion) Sponsor:  Jared Blumenfeld, Director; Staff Presenters:  Debbie Raphael, Toxics Reduction Program Manager, Sushma Dhulipala, Commercial Toxics Reduction Coordinator (20 minutes); Anna Zimmermann, Commercial Toxics Associate (5 minutes); Speakers:  Gabrielle Saveri, UCLA Sustainable Technology Policy Program/California Wet Cleaning Demonstration Program (5 minutes) and Mr. Karl Huie, Wet Cleaners Owner


(Explanatory Documents:  Greening the Dry Cleaning Sector Presentation and Comparison of Hazards, Regulatory Concerns, and Costs for Alternative Dry Cleaning Technologies) Director Blumenfeld reported that the Department of the Environment (Department) has been researching and working on this issue for approximately three years. There has been groundbreaking research led by people in the field, and there are cleaners that have already converted to wet cleaning technologies, but the regulations are behind where the action is.  Work is being done to speed up the effort for cleaner and safer alternatives to perchloroethylene and hydrocarbons. Ms. Sushma Dhulipala stated that she would be discussing strategies taken to promote more eco- friendly cleaning and introduced Ms. Anna Zimmermann, who would be providing background on current efforts.  Ms. Raphael would be discussing policy options and where help is needed from the Commission.


Ms. Zimmermann reported that she joined the Department a few months ago and is working with the Toxics Reduction team. The team became interested in dry cleaning a few years ago after realizing that one of the chemicals used in dry cleaning, perchloroethylene, is among the most toxic chemicals used within the limits of San Francisco.  It was explained that dry cleaning is unique among polluting industries because dry cleaning shops are located within residential communities where people live and buy food as opposed to the outskirts of the city.  In the state of California, there are over 5000 dry cleaning shops.  In San Francisco, there are over 300 shops, but not all of these shops necessarily have machines on site.  There are about 120 shops in San Francisco that do have machines on site and are actually doing the cleaning. The other shops are agencies where people can bring their clothes and drop them off. 


Ms. Zimmermann discussed the different technologies used in dry cleaning (see page 2 of the presentation). The most popular technology, perchloroethylene, is quite toxic, so its use is regulated by a number of government agencies. The second most popular is the use of hydrocarbon solvents which also has human health and environmental hazards. Wet cleaning is the technology that the Department is promoting.  Ms. Zimmermann stated that dry cleaning shops in San Francisco are generally small, independently owned, mostly owned and operated by immigrant populations so outreach efforts have to be multilingual.  A lot of people don’t understand what dry cleaning is--the name implies that it is dry, but it is in fact not dry—clothes are actually immersed in a liquid chemical solvent. 


Ms. Zimmerman explained that a lot of different solvents have been used over the years.  In the 1800’s, cleaning with white gasoline or kerosene was effective to remove stains, but it was problematic because it was flammable.  A switch was made to another petroleum-based solvent, stoddard, which was also flammable. In the 1950’s-1970’s, perchloroethylene became popular and is now used by a majority of cleaners in the United States.  While perchloroethylene is not flammable, it does have environmental and health impacts. It has been on the California Proposition 65 list of carcinogens for the last two decades, and there is science that shows other occupational health hazards (see page 4 of the presentation).  As a result, perchloroethylene is regulated by the Air Quality Management District and other government entities.  Perchloroethylene is also an environmental contaminant.  It is such a powerful chemical that it can seep through concrete and go through floorboards.  It has been found in elevated levels in apartments above perchloroethylene dry cleaning shops and affects residents that live nearby.  It also has been found in high levels in soil and ground water surrounding dry cleaning shops.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency did a study and estimated that over 75% of the dry cleaning shops are contaminated, and determined that this chemical should be regulated and is something that we want to minimize exposure to in San Francisco. 


Ms. Zimmerman stated that the use of perchloroethylene is regulated by the California Air Resources Board and on a local level by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).  In 2007, the California Air Resources Board decided that they wanted to find a way to limit exposure of people, residents, and workers to perchloroethylene so they passed a law that said that the use of perchloroethylene would be totally phased out by the year 2023 in the state of California.  California is the first state to pass a law to eliminate the use of perchloroethylene in dry cleaning, starting with co-residential shops that share a wall or a ceiling with where people are living. That regulation goes into effect in July of next year so all San Francisco cleaners that are located in co-residential locations will have to stop operating their perchloroethylene machines and switch to alternatives. That is why the Department got involved in researching alternatives. This regulation takes into consideration the age of the perchloroethylene machine and requires the phase-out of machines that are 15 years or older.  From next year until 2023, cleaners will need to switch to perchloroethylene alternatives.


San Francisco has 120 shops, approximately half (54) of which use perchloroethylene.  Given the current regulation by the state, 40 of them will have to switch out their machine by July of next year.  It is a key time for the Department to work with the dry cleaning community to educate them about the available alternatives.  The Bay Area Air Quality Management District also has pending legislation that would accelerate the phase-out of perchloroethylene, so dry cleaners that have machines that are newer and have not reached 15 years of age would be phased out.  Three different options are being considered under this proposal – phase-out of machines 12 years or older, 10 years or older and 8-years or older. Adoption of the first option (phase-out of machines 12 years or older) would affect 44 cleaners, so an additional 4 cleaners would have to phase out their machines that were made after 1998 by July of next year. If the most aggressive (phase-out of machines 8 years or older) option is implemented, then all 53 of the 54 of perchloroethylene cleaners would have to switch machines by July of next year.  Under the current regulations, 40 of the 54 facilities (70%) would have to switch.  So there are at least 40, probably 50-55 cleaners in the market for new machines and alternatives. 


Ms. Raphael stated that BAAQMD will be making a decision on the perchloroethylene legislation next month.  One of the unintended consequences of passing this legislation is that many of the alternatives to perchloroethylene that are being marketed as green or environmentally friendly cause their own environmental and health hazards.  One of the products being marketed as green is called “GreenEarth.”  As its name implies, you would think that it is an eco-friendly safe solvent that is used, but that may not be the case.  Signs advertising “environmentally friendly, organic eco-friendly dry cleaning, safe for use, non-toxic” have been found in front of dry cleaning shops, and it is clear that more research is needed to understand this issue. These solvents are made by organizations such as Chevron, Shell, and Exxon Mobil. 


Ms. Dhulipala discussed challenges faced in working with the dry cleaning industry, recent strategies, and next steps on how to move forward in establishing more green alternatives in San Francisco.  Ms. Dhuilipala presented findings from comparisons of dry cleaning solvents (Explanatory Document: “Comparison of Hazards, Regulatory Concerns, and Costs for Alternative Dry Cleaning Technologies”).   Ms. Dhuilipala stated that there would be a discussion on these findings, outreach strategies implemented with local dry cleaners, consumer outreach, financial incentives available to cleaners to switch to greener technologies, and policy options. 


Ms. Dhulipala stated that the dry cleaning issue is not new to San Francisco and that in 2000 San Francisco issued a grant to a local cleaner, Meaders Cleaners, to establish the first wet cleaning machine facility. It was learned that technology was not efficient, and that the dry cleaning industry had not fully accepted the technology. There was a wait for the technology to make improvements.  In 2007, San Francisco restarted the grant program and worked with Ms. Saveri’s group to conduct outreach to local cleaners to establish one or two wet cleaners in San Francisco.  Unfortunately, the grant program launched in 2007 also was not successful in converting two cleaners to a greener option.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that Ms. Saveri and Mr. Karl Huie would discuss challenges faced in influencing cleaners to adopt this newer technology. In the meantime, the Air Resources Board introduced their perchloroethylene legislation and many manufacturers and distributors started to promote their cleaning solvents as green options. Several cleaners (including local cleaners) were including “green” marketing in their marketing material and/or storefronts.  There was research and a 1 ½ year study prepared to compare the environmental and health impacts of various dry cleaning solvents and how they are regulated by the various regulatory agencies. The solvents are heavily regulated by the Air District and the Fire and Health Departments, all of which regulate solvents differently.


Discussion on “Comparison of Hazards, Regulatory Concerns, and Costs for Alternative Dry Cleaning Technologies”


Ms. Dhulipala discussed the reference guide created for cleaners to use as a resource to make informed decisions called the “Comparison of Hazards, Regulatory Concerns, and Costs for Alternative Dry Cleaning Technologies” assessment, which contains three main topics of information (1) operational costs--how much it would cost a dry cleaner to operate a wet cleaning machine versus a perchloroethylene-based machine (utility costs, purchasing solvent costs, disposal of hazardous waste); (2) human health and environmental impacts; and (3) information on how solvents are regulated by agencies. This assessment was developed by researching reports by environmental organizations, government agencies, international governments, and through consultation with the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. 


·         Red Section Ratings of the Assessment (Hydrocarbon solvent; Perchloroethylene, and Propyl bromide):  Ms. Dhuilipala discussed findings shown on the assessment and explained that the red section ratings are for three different dry cleaning solvents that have been classified as Proposition 65 chemicals or contain Proposition 65 ingredients.  Propyl bromide is a toxic solvent and has environmental health impacts associated with it.  This toxic solvent has recently been promoted by manufacturers and distributors as an easy conversion from perchloroethylene.  In developing this alternatives assessment, the Health and Fire Departments were consulted to understand how they regulate these solvents. The Fire Department concluded that propyl bromide is flammable and would be illegal for cleaners to use in San Francisco. 


·         Yellow Section Ratings of the Assessment (Hydrocarbon solvents, GreenEarth solvent, CO2 cleaning with Micell technologies, and Rynex solvent) Ms. Dhulipala discussed the yellow section ratings on the comparison sheet, stating that the hydrocarbon solvents category includes four different petroleum solvents made by large petroleum companies. There was very little information available on the solvents and research took a long time. These solvents are being promoted as eco-friendly alternatives to perchloroethylene, as shown on images taken of storefronts using hydrocarbon solvents (presentation page 7). Manufacturers and distributors are also promoting as green a solvent called GreenEarth; however, our research indicates its potential for carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity. Through outreach, it was learned that there is at least one cleaner in San Francisco that uses a GreenEarth machine who had stated that she was misled by the manufacturer who was selling and promoting it as a greener technology. The solvent is less toxic than perchloroethylene, but there is less information about it available because it has not been available as long as perchloroethylene.


Ms. Dhulipala stated that Rynex is another solvent that is rated in the yellow category.  The manufacturer would not disclose the ingredients so without this information, it cannot be compared to other solvents.  Commissioner Martin inquired how the Fire Department regulates Rynex without having the information on the ingredients. Ms. Dhulipala stated that the information available on Rynex is limited because it is derived from old formulations.  Ms. Raphael stated that the Fire Department is concerned only with how flammable it is. Ms. Dhuilipala stated that environmental health impact statements about Rynex are based on Denmark’s estimated formulation.

·         Light Green Rating of the Assessment--CO2 Cleaning Technology.  Ms. Dhuilipala stated that CO2 cleaning technology utilizes liquefied CO2 to complete the cleaning action.  Based on limited research, there is no health or environmental primary impacts to be concerned with at this time.  As more information becomes available, the rating may change. The challenge is that it is not commercially available in the United States, and there are very few cleaners that are currently using it.  The CO2 cleaning machine is expensive—costs are anywhere from over $100,000 to $200,000 a piece.


·         Dark Green Rating of the Assessment--Professional Wet Cleaning.  Ms. Dhulipala introduced Mr. Karl Huie, a professional wet cleaner in San Francisco, to further explain how the process works.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that wet cleaning works only with water and detergent and is a more sophisticated laundry system than one would have in their home.  There is a wet cleaning machine followed by a drying machine and then tensioning equipment to stretch the garment back to its original shape.  


Ms. Dhulipala stated that the next step was to provide outreach to cleaners about these findings.  Most cleaners in San Francisco belong to the Chinese or Korean Dry Cleaners Association and their primary language is Korean and Chinese.  The assessment sheet was translated into these two languages and distributed to all cleaners in San Francisco.  A successful public workshop was conducted in August to present this information to over 90 cleaners who were in attendance.  Also in attendance were the Health and Fire Departments who were available to answer questions about regulations; manufacturers and distributors of greener technologies; and banks to discuss loan packages for greener alternatives. 

Additional outreach included (1) door to door multilingual outreach; (2) hiring of a community outreach group that was fluent in Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese who was also invited to the workshop; and (3) organizing wet cleaning demonstrations with Ms. Saveri’s team to go to the cleaner to see how the technology/equipment works.


Ms. Dhulipala stated that the next strategy was to provide financial incentives.  A wet cleaning machine is cost comparable to perchloroethylene or hydrocarbon machines.  The cost of a wet cleaning machine is between $40,000 – 70,000, depending on whether it is a high-end machine or not.  However, cost is not the only factor because cleaners are more familiar with perchloroethylene and hydrocarbon machines. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has offered a grant program since 2004 to incentivize the adoption of greener technologies, e.g., professional wet cleaning--$10,000 to each cleaner making the switch.  In addition, the state operates demonstration programs through Ms. Saveri’s group, so if a cleaner is willing to serve as a demonstration site, there is an additional $5000 grant available.  City funds are being dedicated to re-launch a grant program to give $5000 to the first four cleaners willing to switch to the new technology.  In addition, it is hoped that the Air Quality Management District is able to set aside funds to make this prospect attractive to cleaners.  At this time, a San Francisco cleaner can take advantage of up to $20,000 in rebates to make the switch happen.  Ms. Saveri stated that PG&E has started a rebate program because there is major energy savings by switching to wet cleaning.  Mr. Huie explained that PG&E evaluates the energy usage and then issues a rebate according to what they think the energy savings are.


Ms. Dhulipala stated that the next strategy was to increase awareness about wet cleaning and CO2 cleaning and marketing and promoting the cleaners that use eco-friendly technologies.  The City Green Business program in the past three or four months has developed green business standards for cleaners and hopes to recognize Mr. Huie and only one other wet cleaner in San Francisco as green businesses.  It is hoped that there will be a media event held to increase awareness.  The wet cleaners are located in Pacific Heights and the Presidio Cleaner has two shops, one in the Presidio and the other at the old Tower Records location on Columbus Avenue.


Ms. Dhulipala stated that any outreach strategy would be incomplete without thinking of the consumer because consumers are the ones that patronize these businesses. It is hoped that consumers will ask the cleaners to switch to greener technologies.  The Department has a garment cleaning page on their website that contains information on this issue, and there are video clips that discuss how it works.  In addition, a consumer action card will be available for consumers to drop off at their local dry cleaner.  There was also a front page article featured in the September Chronicle about San Francisco’s efforts surrounding dry cleaning.


Ms. Gabrielle Saveri, Senior Policy and Public Administrative Analyst at UCLA’s new sustainable technology and policy program stated that her group is involved in promoting the evaluation and use of environmentally benign technologies in a number of areas, including garment care.  A summary of the demonstration programs, available funding in California and policy options was provided. Ms. Saveri stated that her group initiated the environmental garment care program in California in 1995.  Work involves providing funding for new and existing wet cleaning and CO2 shops throughout California and holding demonstration programs.  Demonstration sites are used as places to do workshops and individual tours to educate cleaners about environmentally-friendly garment care technologies.  Ms. Zimmerman stated that she is contacting cleaners in San Francisco, and Ms. Saveri is helping set up demonstration sites, and Mr. Huie’s cleaners is one of the demonstration sites.  Ms. Saveri stated that when the program started in1995, there were no wet cleaners in California.  The first large-scale program was launched in Los Angeles in 2000, and by 2005 there were 30 wet cleaners in the Los Angeles area.


Ms. Saveri stated that in 1995, discussions began with the Department of the Environment, as well as other Bay Area agencies, the City of Oakland, and PG&E to develop a Bay Area program.  At that time, there were no wet cleaners in the Bay Area.  The first wet cleaner was up and running in 2005, and in the last three years they were able to significantly extend the program to over 33 dedicated wet cleaners and 2 CO2 cleaners in Northern California.  Statewide, there are currently 140 dedicated wet cleaners and 10 CO2 cleaners.  In 1997, Ms. Saveri’s group also helped develop the ABAG program for green business certification. Work was also accomplished with wet cleaners and CO2 cleaners in Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma and San Mateo counties to help them obtain their green business certification.  A number of cleaners who received their green business certification have asked why cleaners who don’t use wet cleaning or CO2 technologies are allowed to list themselves as organic and eco-friendly.  The Attorney General’s Office was contacted about this question because of false advertising.  Ms. Saveri stated that she supports the ordinance the Department is considering about truth in advertising and recommended development of a model ordinance that cities and counties could potentially adopt that would require the use of environmentally benign technologies in garment care.  


Mr. Karl Huie discussed the process of switching to wet cleaning.  He stated that dry cleaning is cleaning with solvents for fabrics such as wools, silks, and cashmeres in comparison to wet cleaning which utilizes a water-based solution.  The challenge is relearning the techniques already learned with solvents because it is an opposite technology.  Solvents are popular because there is no moisture, and without moisture, you are limiting the shrinkage.  When using water-based technologies, you are exposing yourself to shrinkage.  There is a complete re-learning and re-education process to go through about textiles and colors.  Switching to another solvent cleaning machine does not require much of a learning curve other than learning a new machine and an alternative technique.  The biggest challenge facing anyone making a switch is opening your mind and allowing yourself to relearn something that you have spent a life time already doing.  Mr. Huie stated that historically, people have been using wet cleaning for thousands for years, but modern society has forgotten that this was the process. The difference is that the wet cleaning process is being brought back for cleaning garments in volume.  


Mr. Huie stated that all of the solutions used in wet cleaning are disposed of down the drain and processed by waste management districts. There are no disposal regulations required for hauling it away.  He discussed his reasons for switching to wet cleaning which consisted of health reasons and previous family health experience with illness.  He stated that it is a matter of time when the technology is successful enough and will be accepted throughout the industry.  Mr. Huie stated that when he first started in the industry, he had his concerns about cleaning with solvents, but did not think there was an alternative method.  He switched to wet cleaning about 2 ¼ years ago, and his business increased about 15% in the beginning of the recession, and this last year it increased 3%.  His business is doing very well as new customers are coming in looking for green alternatives.  He has two locations, one in San Francisco and the other in Sausalito. The two stores have about 100,000 pounds of cleaning a year, equating to about 100,000 garments a year, averaging a pound a garment. 


Director Blumenfeld asked Mr. Huie how other cleaners reacted to his switch to wet cleaning.  Mr. Huie stated that some are closed-minded about change, are slightly resentful, curious, hesitant, and nobody is rushing to make a switch.  Commissioner Gravanis inquired about the process to prevent shrinkage.  Mr. Huie stated that shrinkage is caused by moisture, heat and agitation. When you remove one of these three elements, you highly remove shrinkage.  After you clean and dry, there is a third step of the tensioning machine, which is like a form mannequin that stretches and blocks the garment back to shape.  He stated that there is only one fabric that wet cleaning can’t handle, and that is a true velvet.  There are some processes that wet cleaning has trouble with; e.g., if there is a water soluble finish, it will come off in the cleaning process.  When wet cleaning becomes more popular, manufacturers will redesign garments accordingly; e.g., there are currently washable products such as washable silk shirts on the market.  Mr. Huie explained that there are products that solvents can’t be used for either, such as sequins and beading.  He stated that it is a matter of learning techniques and what you can and can’t do and how to handle the particular situation.  Previous challenges were on how to work with beading and sequins, and now there are different challenges being learned.


Ms. Raphael discussed current policy options.  She stated that the Air Resources Board has said that perchloroethylene is illegal, but that all other options are legal.  Work is being done to try to influence people to use preferred methods through incentives, facts, and restrictions so they can make educated decisions; e.g., through the alternatives assessment.  Consideration is being given to creating mandates to promote truth in advertising and developing regulations in San Francisco so that only cleaners using one of the specified green technologies can use “green” advertising.   The City Attorney has been asked to work on a truth in advertising mandate, but it is a complicated field when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) owns a lot of the trade wording and there is a question of what can be done to change a company name that implies a “green” product. The Department is currently investigating the type of regulation to pursue.   


Ms. Raphael stated that offering incentives is the current approach; however, one of the barriers is to lower the cost of wet cleaning. Cleaners will all have to change, and by the end of this year, 40 out of 54 cleaners will have to tell the Air Quality Management District what technology they are going to switch to.  Each one of those 40 will have to invest in new equipment, whether hydrocarbon or wet cleaning.  The challenge is getting the attention of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to recommend the greener technologies.  Ms. Raphael stated that she, Director Blumenfed, and Ms. Dhulipala met with the Chair of the Department who was supportive, but no action has been taken since that time. Ms. Raphael asked the Commission to write a letter to the BAAQMD Chair and Board Members because on December 2 there is going to be a hearing to discuss accelerating the phase out. The concern about accelerating the phase out too fast is that time is needed to work with cleaners to choose the right technology.  One option that hasn’t been considered is to offer additional time for those cleaners that promise to switch to wet cleaning.  That way training can be administered before the switch is made and there is no steep learning curve.  BAAQMD says they need to be technology neutral, and the point the Department is trying to make to them is that if they are interested in decreasing toxicity as an outcome, our data is clear that there is only one technology option that does that. 


Ms. Raphael stated that another challenge that the Commission can assist with is to engage the Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) community. It was explained that the Department has not found a non-profit organization interested in this subject matter. When it comes to promoting wet cleaning and engaging the community, NGO’s are usually better than government. The NGO community was engaged in Southern California, and many benefits were seen.  In addition, there is a strong coalition for clean air in Southern California, which San Francisco does not have. 


Ms. Raphael stated that another barrier is the labels on clothing that specify dry cleaning only.  It was recommended that these labels be changed to say professional garment cleaning, which is technology neutral.  She asked the Commission for recommendations on how to reach clothing manufacturers with this request.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that many environmentalists do not buy garments that need to be dry cleaned for other reasons; e.g. labor issues, issues surrounding silk and mulberry trees, etc.  Ms. Raphael stated that there is also an environmental justice aspect associated with the health of the person working with the solvents, especially those who are exposed on a daily basis.


Director Blumenfeld inquired whether San Francisco has the authority to tell people in San Francisco what type of chemicals they can or cannot use in the city.  Ms. Saveri stated that the UCLA law schools are researching this question, and there are progressive counties that are doing work in this area, e.g., Marin County.  Commissioner Martin inquired about the name of the manufacturers of wet cleaning machines.  Ms. Saveri stated that there is a United States manufacturer, Maytag, and a German manufacturer, Miele. 


Commissioner Martin asked staff to assist in writing a letter to the BAAQMD for the Commission to consider and stated that working with NGO’s can be done offline. Commissioner Martin recommended that there be education and outreach directed toward clothing manufacturers to change their labeling and until that is done, which may be a year long process, there are interesting things that can be done around fashion shows to get the word out and be creative. She stated that it would be more meaningful in the short term to do an educational campaign to consumers that dry cleaning equals wet cleaning.  Ms. Saveri stated that her group is meeting with manufacturers to discuss labeling, and is working with the FTC on a much bigger scale.  Commissioner Martin inquired what the right scale might be to work on this effort from a City department perspective and encouraged working toward engaging other organizations that are working on a national or global level for better leverage.     


Commissioner Martin inquired where CO2 cleaning was being used.  Ms. Saveri stated that CO2 cleaning was being utilized in ten plants, mostly in Southern California and two in Northern California, e.g. Los Altos and Union City.  She stated that there is transition within that industry, and there is an availability issue for the technology. 


Commissioner Martin stated that there are other Bay Area cleaners that do pickups in San Francisco and asked whether the truth in advertising would apply to them also.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that she is investigating whether it would apply to any dry cleaning service advertising in San Francisco.  The City grants program of $5000 would apply to San Francisco cleaners only.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that informational items may also be city-specific because it has been worked on with local health and fire departments.  Commissioner Martin asked if other applicable information could be made transferable to other cities that were interested in the information, which Ms. Dhulipala confirmed was the case.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that research is being shared at conferences and with other government officials. 


Commissioner Martin inquired about the length of time that it would take to be educated on new technologies. Mr. Huie explained that it would depend on personal issues surrounding the willingness to convert to new methods.  He stated that achieving a basic understanding might take approximately a month and then the comfort level would evolve from there.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that there may be an increased comfort level if the other equipment was there as a backup. Mr. Huie stated that some people do not have the luxury or space to have both on site. Commissioner Martin stated that there could be one facility that handles clothing that the other can’t handle. Ms. Saveri stated that cleaners in the East Bay had made the switch and it took only a few days, so it may not be hard to do if you know the cleaning business. Ms. Dhulipala stated that there could be consultation with other wet cleaners on how to use the machine or have as a backup to bring the cleaning to. 


Commissioner Martin inquired about water usage and conservation.  Mr. Huie stated that his Miele machine is a 40 pound machine, has the capacity to do 30 pounds of wet cleaning, and uses about 29 gallons of water per load.  Thirty pounds of wet cleaning equals approximately 30 garments.  It is like a front load washing machine—there is not a significant diversion of water.  Ms. Saveri stated that the perchloroethylene machine also uses water for cooling. Commissioner Martin asked whether there are any net savings in water use.  It was explained that in some cases there are net savings and in some cases there is more water use.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that a study has not been done in San Francisco, and limited studies in Southern California report mixed results on increase and decrease in water usage.  Commissioner Martin stated it would be interesting to communicate to the public about the hidden water cost in current dry cleaning methods.


Commissioner Martin inquired whether the water can be reused in the wet cleaning method.  Mr. Huie stated that water can probably be reclaimed but it would have to be filtered to remove dirt and bacteria.  Ms. Saveri stated that her group would be researching this possibility.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that the Health Department is concerned with reclamation and resulting contamination issues.  Commissioner Martin inquired about waste water treatment issues and wet cleaning. Ms. Dhulipala stated that there has been a small amount of work done to study the chemistry of the detergent, and it appears to be safer than the hydrocarbon solvents and perchloroethylene.  In addition, a list of preferable spotting chemicals would be submitted to dry cleaners.  Commissioner Martin asked whether wet cleaning detergent is biodegradable.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that she has asked the Public Utilities Commission to help conduct wastewater monitoring, but there are not enough wet cleaners at this time to obtain enough data.  Ms. Saveri stated that she believes that it is biodegradable based on information from wet cleaners she deals with. Commissioner Martin stated that it is critical that the process be done the right away and that manufacturing companies uphold high standards.


Commissioner Gravanis stated that she would like to write a letter to BAAQMD with staff input.  In regards to the truth in advertising, she hopes that the City Attorney’s office continues to pursue it.  Truth in advertising seems to also be a role for the non-profit world to be involved in addition to consumer facing articles.  Environmental organizations could help advocate and spread the word about the need for people to be more aware of what they are being told, but before that can happen, environmentalists need to be aware.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that she has not seen articles in environmental publications or online newspapers.  She recommended that staff add a carbon footprint column to the chart.  Commissioner Martin stated that all of the information on the assessment chart would be valuable for NGO’s to work with.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that groups such as San Francisco Tomorrow could be asked to advocate this issue and asked to include a link on their website to Department information for details.  She recommended that a slogan such as “wet is the new dry” be used or other slogans thought of to get people to start thinking about the process.  Commissioner Martin recommended highlighting that dry cleaning is wet with petrochemicals. 


Commissioner Gravanis recommended that work on clothing label changes should be done on an international level. Ms. Saveri stated that they are working on this effort.  Ms. Zimmerman recommended writing a letter of support.  Ms. Dhulipala stated that Gap may be interested in pressuring the manufacturers to change garment care labels. Commissioner Martin suggested issuing a message about reducing the use of dry cleaning altogether.  Ms. Saveri stated that manufacturers are trying to get rid of clothes that need to be dry cleaned.  Commissioner Martin stated that a message could be issued to consumers to not purchase clothing that has to be dry-cleaned.  She recommended issuing a policy statement that we should first reduce. 


Mr. Huie reported that most business comes from washing as opposed to dry cleaning.  He explained that many of the garments that he receives for dry cleaning are washable—from 100,000 pounds of clothing received for dry cleaning, 30,000-40,000 are dry clean only and the others are because customers don’t want to see shrinkage or color fading.  Mr. Huie explained that there is not a big difference in the soaps used in wet cleaning and regular washing. 


Commissioner Gravanis recommended that a letter be written to BAAQMD and also to clothing manufacturers regarding labeling.  She also recommended that staff do the required outreach to consumers, request the assistance of environmental groups in this effort, and provide them with a message to put forward to consumers.


5.   Director’s Updates.  Speaker:  Jared Blumenfeld, Director (Informational Report and Discussion). This agenda item was not heard at this time.


6.   Announcements. (Discussion)  Commissioner Gravanis announced that the outreach letter to environmental organizations had been sent out by Ms. Walsh of the Department’s Outreach team.  Responses should be received within a week or two, and should be agendized for a future Policy Committee meeting to decide what actions to take in the future.  Commissioner Gravanis also announced that the BCDC Design Review Board is meeting tonight, and one of the topics of discussion is Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island.  She indicated that she would like to attend the meeting to issue a sustainability reminder.


7.   New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)  Commissioner Martin requested that staff provide a report on whether there are local regulations concerning the use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and discussed the use of MSG in local canned products.   Ms. Dhulipala stated that she would contact the Health Department and issue a report.  Commissioner Gravanis asked for information regarding the harvesting, source, processing, and transporting of this product.  Additional future agenda topics requested included (1) Hunters Point Shipyard, Candlestick Point; (2) status of the Urban Forest Plan; (3) Congestion Management Pricing; (4) International Dark Skies—LED blue light effect on birds; and (5) update on pharmaceuticals for the December 14 meeting.  Commissioner Gravanis recommended that the full Commission discuss retreat planning, receive an update on the public’s response to the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance, and hold a future discussion on climate change and sea level rise.  Ms. Fish reported that a representative from the Municipal Transportation Agency had issued a request for a future discussion on their Climate Action Plan and Sustainability Strategy.  .  


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.  Ms. Victoria Schlesigner, free lance reporter, Public Press, introduced herself and stated that she was in attendance to learn about Commission activities.


9.   Adjournment.  The Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 6:42 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 [email protected].


*Approved: December 14, 2009
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May 3, 2010, 5:05 PM
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Mar 4, 2011, 9:32 AM
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