CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO
COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT
MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2010, 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
Public comment will be taken before the Committee takes action on any item.
1. Call to Order and Roll Call. The Policy Committee meeting convened at 5:00 p.m. Present: Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin (Excused: Chair Wald).
2. Approval of Minutes of the February 22, 2010 Policy Committee Rescheduled Meeting. (Explanatory Document: February 22, 2010 Draft Minutes) (Discussion and Action) Ms. Fish reported that the Draft Minutes before the Commissioners is a corrected version with Commissioner Martin’s proposed changes, and that the previous version was not posted. Commissioner Martin reported on the suggested changes. Upon Motion by Commissioner Martin and second by Commissioner Gravanis, the February 22, 2010 Policy Committee Meeting Minutes was approved with the inclusion of Commissioner Martin’s revisions without objection (AYES: Commissioners Gravanis and Martin; Absent: Commissioner Wald)
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. Mr. John Lynn Smith, Law Firm of Reed Smith, stated that he represents Waste Management of Alameda County, the current provider of disposal capacity to the City and County of San Francisco. He stated that he appeared at the January 26, 2010 full Commission meeting to discuss a bid protest that was filed on the tentative award to the new contract. Mr. Smith stated that Commissioner Pelosi Jr. had asked him to outline his concerns in writing and send them to the Commission, which he delivered on February 23. He inquired whether the Commission received the letter and if there were any questions. Mr. Smith asked that this item be added as an agenda item for either a full Commission or Subcommittee meeting to discuss issues that were raised in the bid protest; e.g., the Request for Proposal’s (RFP) inclusion of disposal elements, but not transportation elements. He stated that he had outlined in the letter that the opportunity exists with Waste Management with its leading edge technology to take waste that is already in place at the Altamont landfill, convert that waste to liquid natural gas, and compress it to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) at the site to fuel its transportation vehicles. It is a nearly zero carbon footprint fuel and would reduce the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds as compared to a rail-haul opportunity. Mr. Smith urged the Committee to reagendize this item so the City has the opportunity to fully examine and explore those elements in the RFP that may have been expanded and in which notice was not provided to the participating parties, as well as to explore opportunities that the City has to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a comprehensive approach to disposal options. Ms. Fish reported that the February 23 letter that Mr. Smith referred to was forwarded to all Commissioners, and that the Landfill Search update was scheduled for hearing at the March 23 Commission meeting.
4. Review of Responses from Environmental Organizations to the Commission on the Environment’s Outreach Survey. The Committee may make recommendations for a follow-up to the survey and may refer this item to the Commission for consideration. (Explanatory Documents: Commission Survey to Environmental Organizations, Summary of Responses, and Individual Responses) Sponsor: Commissioner Jane MarieFrancis Martin; Department Speaker: Jean Walsh, Public Outreach Specialist (Discussion and Possible Action)
Ms. Walsh reported that the survey was emailed at the end of October/beginning of November through an online survey tool to 75 groups in the Bay Area that includes neighborhood groups, community-based organizations, non-profits, and environmental organizations. She stated that the survey contained ten questions, and twelve responses were received. Ms. Walsh highlighted the individual and summary of responses as reflected in the explanatory documents. Committee members and Ms. Walsh suggested providing outreach to groups about providing meeting agendas because 43% stated that they did not see agendas or know about the meetings. Committee members indicated that they would provide follow-up suggestions in the future.
Public Comment: Ms. Kathy Howard cited the survey question “Are there general environmental areas of concern that you feel needs more attention?” and the survey response that asked “Does the Commission weigh in on environmental effects of City Planning decisions?” Ms. Howard stated it is a good idea to do so.
5. Status of Urban Forest Master Plan Revision and Potential Changes to the Management of the Urban Forest. Sponsor: Commissioner Jane MarieFrancis Martin; Speakers: Carla Short, Department of Public Works Representative, Terry Milne, Urban Forestry Council Chair, Doug Wildman, Friends of the Urban Forest, and Mei Ling Hui, Urban Forestry Council Coordinator (Discussion and Possible Action) Commissioner Martin reported that the Planning Department and Sherwood Design were invited to present an update on the status of the Urban Forest Master Plan, but were not present at this meeting.
Ms. Carla Short, Department of Public Works (DPW), Urban Forestry Division was present to discuss the potential changes to the management of the urban forest. She stated that DPW is considering relinquishment of maintenance responsibility for trees in the public right of way to adjacent property owners. She explained that this proposal is a means of bringing DPW’s asset base in line with its resource base for maintenance and would provide a more equitable approach to maintenance responsibility because currently, the responsibility for maintenance of two-thirds of the City’s street trees are with adjacent property owners and one-third with DPW. The proposal would propose relinquishing the majority of trees maintained by DPW to adjacent property owners as exists for the two-thirds.
DPW would retain jurisdiction, existing protections would remain in place, and pruning standards would still apply. Commissioner Martin inquired about the number of trees impacted for relinquishment. Ms. Short stated that the exact number of trees is being analyzed. She explained that DPW maintains 40,000 street trees. It would continue to maintain all trees in medians, along certain primary corridors such as Market Street, and certain trees that were planted in the last few years for the Trees for Tomorrow program because property owners were promised that the city would have that maintenance responsibility. Commissioner Martin inquired about the dollar savings to DPW. Ms. Short sated that she would report back on this information. Commissioner Martin inquired what the funding would be for maintenance of the 40,000 trees currently, and what amount it would take to continue the maintenance. Ms. Short stated that funding is assigned to Bureau of Urban Forestry crews that do tree maintenance, landscape maintenance, and to the cement shop that makes repairs around sidewalk trees. She explained that roughly one million dollars is received in sales tax funding for tree maintenance annually, and that she would provide specific dollar amounts at a future date. Commissioner Martin stated that it would be beneficial to review this data when looking at the Urban Forest Master Plan revision and different scenarios to either consolidate maintenance or redistribute it.
Commissioner Martin asked if the proposal to relinquish maintenance is currently in process or is being looked at as a last resort. Ms. Short stated that the proposal is not a last resort and is being seriously considered because DPW has recently laid-off 14 staff members that played a direct role in maintaining San Francisco trees and landscape. She explained that the industry standard for pruning trees is every three years depending on the species, and the current cycle with the recent loss of staffing is once every nine years. The department would like to make sure that it is not just doing emergency response. The more that maintenance is deferred it is more likely that there will be emergencies, and as emergencies increase, it defers routine maintenance even more. So unless there is a change in resources, the department needs to look at a change in assets.
Commissioner Martin inquired whether a review has been done on the change to environmental benefits and the quality of tree care that would be provided as a result of relinquishment. Ms. Short stated that there has not been sufficient research done to be able to state a finding with confidence. She cited research prepared by a Masters Degree student at U.C. Berkeley. She found that when trees were maintained by the department, they were larger, more mature and consistently maintained in comparison with trees maintained by adjacent property owners. Ms. Short stated that it is important to consider having experienced professionals perform tree care because property owners without intention of their own often end up damaging trees, which would end up requiring removal or more maintenance responsibility because of the stress response to the damage. Ideally, there would be professional and good tree care for every tree in the City.
Commissioner Martin inquired whether there are pruning standards that are required but not being enforced. Ms. Short stated that the Board of Supervisors adopted pruning standards that were recommended and written by the Urban Forestry Council. Enforcement exists, but it usually takes place after damage has already taken place. Having a standardized system of who would do the work would not eliminate illegal pruning but might improve the quality of pruning. Commissioner Martin inquired whether DPW was looking at enforcement since more trees would be in the care of people who are not trained. Ms. Short stated that the department is considering and discussing these concerns. DPW is interested in the best solution and is looking at as many alternatives as possible, e.g., what the costs would be for additional tree maintenance responsibility and the cost savings in relinquishing trees. However, the new budget reduction is looking at asset reduction and not taking on more responsibility.
Commissioner Martin inquired what could be done to improve the situation or to maintain the status quo. Ms. Short responded a long-term funding mechanism. Ms. Short stated that an outdated research (2005) was prepared that indicated that the cost of DPW maintaining all street trees would be approximately $23 million annually. That would allow for restocking as needed and additional planting for a three-year pruning cycle. DPW is discussing updating the in-house analysis. Commissioner Martin asked what the process would be aside from the cost. Ms. Short stated that the Urban Forestry Ordinance that is part of the Public Works Code allows the department to take over tree maintenance by notifying the adjacent property owners and then scheduling public hearings on an as requested basis. There is a process in place to relinquish tree maintenance responsibility and take over tree maintenance responsibility.
Commissioner Martin inquired what the process would be if the department would select relinquishment of tree maintenance and how the public would be notified. Ms. Short stated that the Public Works Code requires proper notification, e.g., a notice would have to be placed on the tree, impacted and adjacent property owners would receive a letter on the proposal to relinquish the trees, and public hearings would be held on the request of property owners. Those hearings would be held at City Hall with a hearing officer appointed by the DPW Director. Ms. Short confirmed that if this were to move forward, 25,000 trees would have to be noticed, and mail notification would be sent to adjacent property owners. Commissioner Martin asked if there was a possibility to do a mass notification instead of on the individual trees. Ms. Short explained that would require an amendment to Article 16 of the Public Works Code that may be considered and would have to go before the Board of Supervisors.
Ms. Short stated that DPW and Planning are interested in moving the Urban Forest Plan forward and are looking at grant applications for additional funding. She stated that it would be helpful to look at best practices in other municipalities as well as including a survey of existing trees because there are many trees that are maintained by adjacent property owners that are not captured in any database. It is essential to have records of what exists to plan for the City’s future. Reasonably good records do exist for trees that DPW, Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), property owners, and developers have planted with a permit, but people frequently plant trees with no process.
Ms. Short stated that as far as enforcement, Article 16 outlines what is legal or not--it is unlawful to remove a street tree planted in the public right of way without a permit because it is protected under the Code. DPW most frequently deals with street trees and street trees that are in unaccepted streets and other public rights of way as well as on DPW property that are protected under the Code. There is a description in Article 16 on what maintenance shall mean and when it is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner as well as when it is the responsibility of the department. It must be consistent with the City and County of San Francisco Pruning Standards, the American National Standards Institutes (ANSCI) 300 standards, and ISA Best Practices Pruning Guidelines, whichever is more protective of the trees. Property owners through deliberate acts or gross negligence who damage a tree can receive a fine equal to the value of the tree or if not known, an in-lieu fee may be charged, which is what it costs the department to plant a tree and water it for three years, essentially to reestablish a tree.
Commissioner Martin inquired what the Commission or Committee can do to provide support. Ms. Short stated that anything the Commission could do to influence resources toward the Urban Forest Master Plan and long-term tree maintenance would be beneficial. She explained that the will within the departments is there, but the financial crisis presents a need to stop the process. Commissioner Martin stated that it would help the process for the Commission to know what type of funding would be required to complete the entire scope of the Plan or key pieces of the Plan in addition to identifying what key tasks could be done in-house and resources that would require.
Commissioner Gravanis stated that from a fairness point of view, people who purchase homes may be unhappy if there had not been full disclosure by the real estate agent about the provisions in Article 16 or changes that could be made to it in terms of relinquishment of maintenance responsibility. She discussed the possible negative reaction by property owners when they realize the expense to maintain the large and mature trees that were planted by the Federally Assisted Code Enforcement (FACE) program. Ms. Short explained that if you buy a property right now, in 68,000 cases you would inherit a tree in front of your house if there is one. She explained that it is not included in disclosures legally but that DPW has worked with the San Francisco Association of Realtors to encourage them to provide disclosures. It is possible that a homeowner may inherit a large tree that cannot be removed just because it requires maintenance. Two-thirds of property owners have this maintenance responsibility because they own property not maintained by DPW. It could be said that one-third of property owners have their trees maintained for free when two-thirds don’t.
Ms. Short reported that the Urban Forest Master Plan scope calls for researching best practices from other municipalities that might bolster an argument in favor of relinquishment of all trees or taking over maintenance of all trees. Commissioner Martin stated that Sherwood Design Engineers, who is responsible for that part of the scope of the plan revision, had completed the revision and it sounded as if the consultant would be willing to package it to distribute. She suggested that Department staff follow up on acquiring economic data collection and analysis that was prepared by EDAW. Acting Director Assmann asked if there was discussion recently of what it would take to go to the next stage. Commissioner Martin stated that she did not get a detailed account of what was included, but it did include the general category of best practices. Acting Director Assmann stated that the Department would be happy to follow-up with the contractor, but that the stumbling block would still be acquiring resources.
Commissioner Martin suggested comparing key information with the internal review that DPW is doing about taking on more maintenance if a fee was imposed or relinquishing tree maintenance. The relinquishment discussion means that there will be a public forum for talking about the way we collectively maintain trees, and about the fairness issue. A discussion would be held on the sorry state of the existing canopy because of budget cuts and the way it was set up, unlike other jurisdictions where the city or some central agency takes care of all of the trees. She stated that her impression is that most property owners are not aware that there is another option that may cost less. Commissioner Martin asked when the budget figures would be available. Ms. Short stated that the department is currently working on preparing figures that would be part of the budget presentation to the Board of Supervisors for the current budget cycle.
Mr. Terry Milne, Urban Forestry Council Chair, stated that the Council has not been a part of the Urban Forest Master Plan revision process for over a year. The Plan was discussed for about fourteen months and then sent to the Planning Department to work on, but then budgetary cuts arose. Some Council members did attend general scoping meetings when the effort was in progress. He stated that the Council is anxious to do whatever possible to move the Plan forward either incrementally or fully, and it has been in their Work Plan to keep apprised of developments. Environment staff has looked into grants and doing the work in sections with assistance from the Council. Mr. Milne reported on the amount of work that went into developing the Plan before it went to the Planning Department and their consultants and how the Council would like to see the Plan completed.
Mr. Milne recalled a discussion with the Department of Public Works about taking over the maintenance of all trees in San Francisco, which he thought was the best thing that could happen for urban forestry in San Francisco but those were the days before the budget cuts. As far as relinquishment of tree maintenance to property owners, he stated that he was personally involved in a pilot project for relinquishment about 10-12 years ago that ended up with four trees being cut down and most of the other trees were taken care of by the City because the neighborhood did not like the idea that they would have to maintain mature trees at a huge cost, so home owners started applying for removal permits. He stated that relinquishment of tree maintenance may not be good for San Francisco’s urban forest overall, especially when a large amount of trees may be affected. Mr. Milne reported that he has not talked to the Planning Department for quite some time about the status of the Master Plan revision. Commissioner Martin asked if the Urban Forestry Council’s preference was for the Department of Public Works to take over maintenance of all trees. Mr. Milne stated that Council members who were involved in these discussions felt that DPW could do a better job than individual home owners and discussed the effect on trees when and if property ownership changed. He stated that some property owners may do a good job and others may not.
Commissioner Gravanis stated that when the DPW budget goes to the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee, Board members would ask for information about how much money would be saved and what the difference would be in the standard of care. Ms. Short stated that she is not sure when those numbers will be available, but she is anticipating that there will be a lot of questions. The Department is trying to be responsible for trees that they have maintenance responsibility for, and that is why this proposal is being reviewed. DPW has experienced a loss of staffing for tree maintenance and is trying to do the responsible thing. Commissioner Gravanis suggested doing a comparison on what it would cost to do the inspection and enforcement if trees are relinquished, because if these trees are transferred to private property owner responsibility, then it is possible that DPW would be allocating staff time to inspect trees, put notices on individual doorknobs, or to tell them what needs to be done, then follow-up to see what has been done, then do required paperwork, and incur legal cost of appeals. She suggested comparing the costs and then seeing what advantages are in terms of the beauty of our trees.
Public Comment: Ms. Howard stated that she is a 30-year resident of San Francisco and discussed the Eucalyptus tree in front of her residence. She discussed the poor pruning job that was done by the original company that was hired by her landlord and the subsequent hiring of a good arborist that has maintained the tree to its present state of age and beauty. She stated that trees are a benefit to the City and to homeowners and beautifully maintained trees are important. She expressed her discomfort at the prospect of relinquishing tree care to homeowners because of the bad pruning she has seen in neighborhoods. Ms. Howard stated that the cost of an arborist to prune a tree may frighten people. She suggested implementing a program where homeowners can have trees pruned by the City and actually pay for it as a mechanism for retaining staff. Ms. Howard stated that noticing people would require providing instructions in many languages about pruning and topping and would also require a web site that contains pruning guidelines. She spoke in support of doing whatever is possible to preserve the urban forest.
Mr. Doug Wildman, Friends of the Urban Forest stated that he is concerned that the relinquishment of tree maintenance to adjacent property owners would reduce the standard level of care and eco-system services. He stated that the quality of trees in the city would be reduced due to the random nature of hiring for tree maintenance service that would result in poor pruning practices, and felt that tree removal permits would be more frequent as stated by Mr. Milne. Mr. Wildman stated that the City of San Jose has relinquished the care of their street trees in the last year and suggested learning from their experience. Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) believes that the City’s care of trees would be the best scenario for all city streets. FUF was looking forward to the Urban Forest Plan providing direction in this area. He suggested trying to acquire whatever portion was completed by the contractors if possible. Commissioner Martin asked if FUF could provide services on the scope of the Plan or for fundraising. Mr. Wildman stated that he would be happy to see what the City of San Jose has experienced. He stated that state grant money is being pursued but it is always in jeopardy. A more stable possibility would be to find a foundation or corporation to finish the Plan. He stated that he does not know the scope of the Plan well enough but suggested working with the Planning Department and DPW to find out what is most essential and who could do the work.
Ms. Mei Ling Hui, Urban Forestry Council Coordinator, discussed the prospect of DPW taking over care of all city street trees, which she stated has been considered for some time and was included in the 2009 Annual Urban Forest Report that was published in September 2009. That ability does hinge on funding and staffing related to funding. She stated that in some ways it may help the urban forest because it would bring people’s attention back to it. A lot of people don’t understand tree care requirements so this proposal would start conversations about taxing and financing and a fee for service for DPW staff. Commissioner Martin asked whether the Urban Forestry Council had any suggestions for follow-up. Mr. Milne stated that there is no current plan, and that he is in attendance at this meeting to find out the status.
Commissioner Gravanis suggested that an intern could work on acquiring the basic statistics/costs, e.g., what is the cost of pruning an average tree to pruning standards if DPW does the work and following up on Ms. Howard’s suggestion, what if a private property owner would pay DPW to do the work for an individual tree by appointment, or what would the savings be if a whole block signs up for tree maintenance? Mr. Wildman stated that DPW is set up to do a whole block at a time. Commissioner Gravanis suggested finding out what it would cost as a basis of comparison if all City trees were maintained to standards by DPW versus individual homeowner contracts with tree companies that may or may not qualify to do the work. Mr. Wildman suggested researching the difference in cost of providing care for one tree versus blocks of trees at one time. Commissioners Gravanis and Martin discussed scheduling an update on this agenda item as a possibility for the May meeting.
6. Approval of Resolution requesting that the Commission on the Environment support the Golden Gate Park Alliance’s request for the Planning Department to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Beach Chalet Soccer Field project. The Policy Committee shall discuss and vote on the Resolution for recommendation to the Commission on the Environment to consider at their March 23 meeting. Sponsor: Commissioner Ruth Gravanis (Explanatory Documents: Draft Resolution File No. 2010-02-COE, Golden Gate Park Alliance Letter to Commission on the Environment, Synthetic Playfields Report, “New Soccer Complex to Drastically Alter Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach”, Golden Gate Audubon Appeal and Letter to City Agencies; Department of the Environment Staff Responses) Speakers: Kathy Howard, Member Steering Committee, Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance and Noreen Weeden, Audubon Society representative (Presentation time: 10 minutes) (Discussion and Action)
Ms. Noreen Weeden reported that the Golden Gate Audubon Society is a local non-profit organization that has been active since 1917 and has 10,000 members. Its mission is to protect Bay Area birds and other wildlife and to conserve and restore native habitat. She reported that the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is proposing to convert four grass fields to artificial turf and install 60-foot lighting that will remain on until 10:00 p.m. at the Beach Chalet soccer fields in Golden Gate Park. She explained that Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach are parts of the Pacific Flyway, an important migratory route that millions of birds use in the spring and fall. Night lighting can cause birds to become confused and disoriented because birds that migrate at night navigate using the moon and stars. She stated that one of the key findings in a book by Dr. Travis Longcore and Catherine Rich called Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting is that “animals can experience increased orientation or disorientation from additional illumination and are attracted to or repulsed by glare that affects foraging, reproduction, communication and other critical behaviors.” Ms. Weeden described the negative impact that artificial night lighting has on birds nesting and roosting in this part of the park and stated that Golden Gate Park provides a vital habitat for wildlife.
Ms. Weeden stated that in 1930, the California Academy of Sciences published a handbook on the birds of Golden Gate Park and identified 111 species of birds. She showed a presentation of the variety of birds’ species that are seen in the park and playfields and discussed the enjoyment experienced by people who go to the park to enjoy the birds and who participate in events such as the “Christmas Bird Count.” Ms. Weeden discussed her participation in the Synthetic Turf Task Force that made recommendations to the Recreation and Park Department and stated their belief that conclusions were predetermined. She reported that the Recreation and Park Department has completed six artificial turf sites to date, some with lights, and three sites are planned all with lights including this multi-field site at Beach Chalet. In the future, two additional field sites are planned in western Golden Gate Park.
Ms. Weeden discussed Golden Gate Audubon Society’s participation in the process as follows--On August 7, 2009, a meeting was held with the Recreation and Park Department General Manager and a letter was provided expressing concerns on the project. On September 14, a letter was written to Supervisor Mirkarimi to support his Resolution to halt the conversion of natural playfields to artificial turf until additional information became available. On December 9, a letter was written to the Planning Department and Recreation and Park Department about the applicability of the California Environmental Quality Act, and a meeting was held with City Fields Foundation and Recreation and Park Department staff. Two community meetings were attended to voice concern. At the community meeting, Ms. Weeden learned that the Recreation and Park Department claimed a categorical exemption for this project. On January 12, a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appeal was filed with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. The City Attorney determined that the filing was premature because the Planning Department was reviewing the project.
Golden Gate Audubon feels that the project will have environmental impacts that must be considered and listed examples such as increased use of human traffic, increased trash and food waste, an increase in population of predatory animals attracted to food, waste, and trash, effect on local wildlife, a change in the night sky in the western part of the park, and increased pollution, as well as many other concerns and potential impacts as outlined in the explanatory documents provided. Ms. Weeden discussed Golden Gate Audubon’s concern for the residents and visitors and wildlife in the parks. She stated that the City emphasizes being green and the plan to remove habitat and replace it with brightly lit green plastic covered with crumbled tires is not green. On behalf of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Ms. Weeden asked the Committee to support the proposed Resolution requesting that a full EIR be prepared for this project.
Ms. Kathy Howard, Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance, provided a picture of the proposed project (see explanatory document). She stated that Golden Gate Park is included in the Golden Gate Park Master Plan and is in the National Register of Historic Places, which portrays the park as a place that is pastoral and an urban respite. She indicated that this project does not fit in with this categorization. She stated that the current fields would be enlarged and expanded, there would be bleachers; a champion field; 20-foot fences; concrete paths with concrete around it; an enlarged parking lot; path, parking lot; and stadium lighting, which can be seen from Ocean Beach. She suggested that Committee members view the field on 20th and Wawona Streets that have stadium lighting for an example of what the proposed project would look like. Ms. Howard submitted a letter for the record from the Defense of Animals that discusses environmental impacts. She noted that additional explanatory documents have been submitted that include three pages of all the environmental impacts as well as Golden Gate Audubon Society’s appeal to the categorical exemption. Ms. Howard stated that she is not against soccer and suggested that the fields can be renovated with newer technology for grass playing fields that professional players enjoy that would retain the park and environment and also for the sake of the players. She urged the Committee to approve that a CEQA study be prepared for this project.
Commissioner Martin inquired about the project sponsor and its timeline. Ms. Weeden reported that the Recreation and Park Department is the sponsor for the project working with the City Fields Foundation. Ms. Howard stated that she is trying to acquire detailed financial information but explained that City Fields Foundation will be paying for part of the project and the Recreation and Park Department would be paying part through bond money. Ms. Howard stated that she felt that people did not knowledgeably vote for use of bond money for this type of project.
Commissioner Gravanis asked Department of the Environment staff to report on whether there could be significant environmental impacts as a result of this project. Acting Director Assmann reported that a summary was provided from Department staff--Dr. Chris Geiger, Mr. Paul Ledesma, and Mr. Faiz Khan (see explanatory document summary). Dr. Geiger, Green Purchasing Program Manager, stated that Department staff participated as members of the Task Force that reviewed the technology, but not the specific site. He stated that the only interaction he has had with the Recreation and Park Department was about recycled infill in the synthetic turf at that particular site. Assistance was provided to the department in developing purchasing specifications for synthetic turf products that they may be purchasing for a variety of sites in the City. Those specifications were more stringent that any he has seen. Dr. Geiger stated that the Golden Gate letter is good, complete, and clear but there are inaccuracies about the conclusions of the Task Force, which he described in the explanatory document summary.
Dr. Geiger reported that Mr. Dan Mauer, Recreation and Park Department Project Manager, sent communication that a biological assessment and arborist study were prepared and sent to the Planning Department. Ms. Weeden stated that the Recreation and Park Department had hired a consulting firm to do a biological assessment, which in her opinion was not a comprehensive study because it was prepared for only one day in January. Project plans and an evaluation of the trees and habitat that would be removed had been reviewed as part of the study. Commissioner Gravanis inquired whether they included the impacts on wildlife from vegetation removal. Ms. Weeden stated impacts were included from what they saw on a single day. Ms. Howard reported that both reports contain flaws that would be discussed in an appeal if it becomes necessary. She stated that the reason for the EIR is so all the potential impacts could be discovered.
Mr. Ledesma, City Government Zero Waste Coordinator, stated that the Recreation and Park Department should work with the Department of the Environment to encourage manufacturers to develop recycling and end-of life programs for synthetic turf. Staff engaged the synthetic turf representatives when they were interviewed by the Recreation and Park Department on this topic as well as developing recycled content. The industry had not as of a year ago seriously contemplated recycled content or end-of-life management in the product they were selling and it was taken as a serious defect in their product. It was made clear to the Recreation and Park Department and City Fields Foundation that the Department of the Environment would not support synthetic turf unless they press the industry forward.
The Recreation and Park Department and City Fields Foundation adopted this position as well and have been participants in carrying this message forward to the industry. Since that time, industry representative have spoken more coherently about managing products, developing plans for taking the fields back, and for finding pathways for recyclability and reuse opportunities. Commissioner Gravanis inquired if there was a binding contract that could be implemented. Mr. Ledesma stated that an infrastructure is not yet in place. The purchasing specifications included a requirement that a commitment be made in writing to develop an end-of-life management plan in seven years, which is the term of the life of the field. Commissioner Gravanis asked if there was a guarantee that they would develop a plan. Mr. Ledesma stated that the industry can’t be pressured to develop a plan that they are not capable of at this time. He stated that the best that can be done is to communicate in the best way possible that a failure to meet that requirement would be seen in a negative light with future placement of the field.
Mr. Ledesma reported that the City would actually be purchasing the product for this field, and there would be service agreements for maintenance. Agreements could be made as part of the purchase that the manufacturer takes the product back. City Fields and Recreation and Park Department will be including this agreement in their final contract. Commissioner Martin suggested a lease option as a mechanism to encourage responsibility since the product would be theirs in the end.
Ms. Hui, Urban Forestry Council Coordinator, stated that the arborist report is recommending trees for removal that are largely in poor health. (Explanatory Document: Hort Science Arborist Report). The report does not provide a hazard rating on trees, but does provide an assessment of health from 1 to 5, 1 bad to 5 very good. There is a recommendation that approximately six trees that are in moderate or good condition be removed as part of the plan. The rest of the trees they say are in poor condition. People that are preparing the report are field experts and she trusts their opinion. She stated that proper forest management is to ensure that your forest is safe. If the Recreation and Park Department is seeing this as an opportunity to rehabilitate the aging forest in Golden Gate Park and making sure that their trees are properly maintained, then it is a good thing. Ms. Hui stated that it would be ideal if the six trees that appear to be in moderate or good health that are large trees could be preserved. Those trees are Monterey Cypress, which are one of the two signature species of Golden Gate Park. Commissioner Gravanis stated that the Planning Department concluded that a categorical exemption was not required quite some time ago before wildlife and arborist studies were completed in 2010.
Commissioner Gravanis stated that one of the advantages of doing an EIR or expanded Negative Declaration is that you can call for mitigation measures that would consider unanswered questions, such as an alternative configuration to save trees and a more detailed assessment on wildlife in the area. A discussion was held on the possibility of requesting a Negative Declaration if the project did not qualify for an EIR in order to consider mitigation options.
Mr. Terry Milne, Bernal Heights Tree Committee, urged the Committee to approve the original Resolution because an EIR would further examine alternatives or mitigations for the proposed removal of 60 - 100 trees at that end of the park, some of which are large and mature. He stated that he is surprised that the arborist report does not contain a hazard assessment because he knows that the Recreation and Park Department are aware of hazardous trees, so it leads him to believe that none of the trees in that area are hazardous. Ms. Hui stated that the report proposes removal of 22 trees and 43 shrubs (myoporum) that could also be considered trees depending on the location they are grown in.
Commissioner Gravanis recommended an amendment to the Resolution Resolved clause to urge that an expanded or mitigated Negative Declaration be prepared to thoroughly address the full range of possible impacts if it is determined that a full EIR is not required. Commissioner Martin moved that the Resolution be amended to include this request as well as the inclusion of potential impacts of the project. Commissioner Gravanis seconded the motion. (AYES: Commissioners Gravanis and Martin; Absent: Commissioner Wald).
7. Director’s Updates. Speaker: David Assmann, Acting Director (Informational Report and Discussion)
Acting Director Assmann reported that every City department was required to issue layoff notices to the vast majority of City employees with the understanding that there would be reinstatement notices issued the third week of March rehiring the vast majority back at a 37 ½ hour work week. This reduction would amount to a 6.25 % pay cut and would have an impact on projects and programs in the Department. The layoffs are not final because there are union negotiations in progress from now until May, the effective date of the layoffs. The layoffs affect all staff with the exception of EnvironmentNow and Energy Watch staff. He explained that the Energy Watch staff has billable hours that if were reduced would result in a $150,000 reduction in revenue.
Acting Director Assmann reported on the large number of energy projects that were funded in the past month. He stated that seven new Energy program positions were created as a result of energy grants and stimulus funding that the Department would be receiving. He explained that because of the addition of staff, the Department is overcrowded and is negotiating conference space in the basement. The existing conference facilities on the first and third floor would be converted into work space.
Acting Director Assmann reported that the Department is working with DPW to help them find revenue ideas. He stated that Ms. Rosenmoss, Manager of Grants and Fundraising would be communicating with Friends of the Urban Forest about grant possibilities. He discussed the Department of Conservation funding that was guaranteed for cans and bottle recycling that the state borrowed for the General Fund. As a result, programs were cancelled and the Department lost a quarter of a million dollars in revenue. Mr. Assmann discussed the federal funding allocation for electric vehicle infrastructure to setup charging stations in San Francisco public garages and upcoming energy efficiency work for boiler retrofits. He explained that the Department budget has to be before the Board of Supervisors by June 1 and will take a lot of time because of changes to a 37.5 hour workweek which may or may not occur. The budget will not be balanced until an agreement has been reached.
Commissioner Martin inquired about the effect of the budget reductions on the Mayor’s program to plant 25,000 trees in five years (5 thousand a year). She asked if there has been conversation with the Mayor’s Office about the general decline of the urban forest and DPW’s relinquishment proposal. Acting Director Assmann stated that there have been no specific discussions. Commissioner Gravanis suggested conveyance of these issues to the Mayor’s Greening Director, Astrid Haryati. Commissioner Martin asked Acting Director Assmann to report back in the next Director’s Report if there is something that can be done to make sure the Mayor is aware if the goal he has set forth. Acting Director Assmann discussed conveyance of the idea to the Mayor’s Office of assessing property owners for the cost of DPW assuming tree care. Commissioner Martin suggested adding the idea of property owners also hiring DPW to do sidewalk replacement in tandem with tree care, which she believes is an option as of last year.
8. Announcements. (Discussion) Commissioner Gravanis announced a February 2010 San Francisco Bay Crossings article written about work that Commissioner Martin is doing with PlantSF called “Determined Resident brings Slice of Nature to City Sidewalks.”
9. New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)
Commissioner Gravanis discussed the possibility of holding two Policy Committee meetings to discuss all of the proposed items. She discussed suggestions for future agenda items that include—
· April--GreenPoint Rated and Green Building presentation on building retrofits, Wastewater Master Plan update, and pharmaceutical update.
· Mayor Executive Order on preventing sale of single-serve plastic water bottles as part of event permitting process.
· April, May or June meeting --Treasure Island Environmental Impact Report.
· Cell phone tower safety.
Commissioner Martin requested—
· Staff advise if outdoor heat lamps in public spaces may be an issue of interest to pursue further relative to energy use.
· May meeting--Urban Forest Master Plan update.
· May or June meeting—Discussion on hiring of a Department Biodiversity Manager and identifying a funding source. Presentation by Ms. Shawn Rosenmoss, Grants and Fundraising Manager.
· Staff advise if MSG may be an issue of interest to pursue further relative to toxics and/or environmental justice. Commissioner Gravanis suggested consulting with the Health Department.
· Dry cleaning update.
· Transbay Cable project status.
· June—Staff presentation on emergency preparedness planning and environmental impacts. Discussion of gas wrenches that would turn gas off in case of emergency.
· June--Acting Director Assmann suggested a future update on state legislation and new producer responsibility bills.
· Environmental impacts of disaster planning and disaster preparedness.
Toxic Sewer Sludge--Committee members announced that the Public Utilities Commission is no longer using the term organic and there are no planned distributions in San Francisco.
Public Comment: Ms. Howard discussed automatic gas shut off valve that would turn the gas off if there was an earthquake and associated costs. Commissioner Martin stated that the gas shut off valves are controversial because PG&E would have to be called to come out and turn the gas back on.
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 Commission on the Environment Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 7:32 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: May 10, 2010
Policy Committee > 2010 Meetings >