Policy Committee‎ > ‎2011 Meetings‎ > ‎

10.24 Approved Minutes






MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2011, 5:00 P.M.






COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Johanna Wald (Chair), Ruth Gravanis (Vice-Chair), Rahul Prakash



1.    Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Commission on the Environment Policy Committee meeting convened at 6:03 p.m.  Present:  Commissioners Wald and Gravanis; Excused:  Commissioner Prakash.


2.   Approval of Minutes of the August 8, 2011 Policy Committee Regular Meeting. (Explanatory Document: August 8, 2011 Draft and Approved Minutes) (Discussion and Action)  Upon Motion by Commissioner Gravanis, second by Commissioner Wald, the August 8, 2011 Meeting Minutes were approved (AYES:  Commissioners Gravanis and Wald; Absent:  Commissioner Prakash).

Public Comment:  Mr. David Pilpel asked that in the future, the first reference to his public comment include his first name.


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.


Ms. Lauren Smith, Environmental Studies student, San Francisco State University, addressed the Committee in the areas of recycling and toxics reduction.  She proposed that Recology distribute to the public a separate bin with four different sections to hold non-recyclable and toxic material, e.g., paint, motor oil, lightbulbs, batteries, and electronics that would be picked up and replaced with an empty bin at time of pickup. This system incorporated into the

normal waste management program would make it easier to recycle this type of material and ensure proper disposal without having to make special pick- up arrangements.  She stated that this proposal would also help reach the City reach its’ zero waste goals by 2020 and meet Sustainability Plan report card and Strategic Plan goals.


Ms. Lauren Spalter, San Francisco State University student, proposed (1) that San Francisco considers a bottle-labeling and machine-recycling program as one she has seen in Germany. As soon as you are done with the beverage, it is recycled in the machine that is located in every store and shopping center, and tax money is received back on the bottle; (2) sending a letter to bottled water companies to influence them to use glass bottles.  She commended the efforts she has seen in San Francisco and Germany, and suggested influencing every-day Americans to green the city and return to nature.


Mr. David Pilpel suggested that students with the assistance of Department of the Environment staff write a story in San Francisco State University’s newspaper, the Golden Gate Xpress, about what students should do in the areas of recycling and toxics reduction.


Ms. Lurilla Harris discussed the inattention of university students to instructions on how to recycle and compost in the cafeteria bins.


Ms. Alicia Torres, journalist student, San Francisco State University, stated that she is writing a blog about green business in San Francisco and has written about subjects such as lightbulbs and energy efficiency, solar panels, and the Tenderloin neighborhood gardening project.  She stated that she would bring back suggestions that are made to the editors and thanked the Department and Commission for helping the city be green through its support and regulation.


Deputy Director Assmann suggested that students access the Department of the Environment’s Community InSight’s website as a way to add their ideas and receive feedback. He commended the students for researching the Sustainability and Strategic Plans as a basis for their ideas.


4.   Approval of the 2010 San Francisco Buy Green Program for City Staff Annual Report for recommendation to the Commission on the Environment.  (Explanatory Document:  2010 Buy Green Annual Report and Presentation) Sponsor Melanie Nutter, Director; Speakers: Chris Geiger, Green Purchasing Manager and Jessian Choy, City Toxics Reduction Assistant (Presentation Time: 15 minutes) (Discussion and Action)


Ms. Jessian Choy recognized Dr. Chris Geiger and Ms. Julie Bryant for their contribution to the Buy Green Program for City Staff Annual Report.  Topics of discussion included:


·         Strategies to influence behavior change amongst City staff to buy green products through consultations, information-sharing, and incentives. 

·         The increase and decrease of green product purchases in 2010.

·         Personal health benefits of buying green and harmful chemicals in the blood-stream that may result from the purchase of non-green products. 

·         Creation of (1) a new website SFApproved.org http://www.sfapproved.org/ that lists best green purchasing information; (2) a new report listing names of who purchased green and prohibitive products for the purpose of accountability, gathering information, conducting research and offering incentives; (3) a “Buy Green Scorecard” that gives Department points for buying more than 75 percent of green products, attending a consultation, and acting as department green leaders.

·         The San Francisco Public Library received the “Buy Club Green of the Year Award”.  The Department’s Climate Team was thanked for influencing staff to fill out their scorecards.

·         Departments spent $500,000 out of $7 million in 2010 on prohibitive and limited use products. 


Ms. Choy discussed strategies that are being considered: (1) Department of Human Resources to provide City departments with an option to add a buy green category to performance appraisal forms so staff can be motivated to buy green and receive recognition; (2) to change the purchasing process so that vendors offer online customized catalogs of allowed purchases; and (3) revamp the City purchasing software. 


Commissioner Wald suggested finding a way to make the purchasing process easier for people to buy approved items and difficult to buy unapproved items so it will encourage the purchase of approved products.  Ms. Choy reported that the Department of Technology has done so with LEED Gold computer purchases. Dr. Geiger reported that the Office Supplies Contract and online system is filtered for approved and prohibitive products, but there are challenges with other contracts. He explained that the entire City purchasing system has to be replaced, but that it is expensive and is not possible during this budgetary time.


Commissioner Gravanis inquired about the role of the City Purchaser in City department ordering.  Ms. Choy explained that departments have discretion for purchases of up to $10,000 and are required to purchase from City contracts for anything above $10,000.  Each department has their own process for purchasing.  Some may have green leaders that advocate for green purchases. Deputy Director Assmann reported that City departments are required to purchase from City-approved vendors, but they do not have to go through Centralized Purchasing.  The current budget has forced the Controller’s Office to give departments more discretion in purchasing than in the past, so now the Department of the Environment has to work with individual departments to make sure they are doing the right thing. 


Commissioner Wald suggested working with the Controller’s Office to implement a different approach such as institutionalizing on the internet the limits, criteria, and products that were previously agreed to.  She suggested identifying and working on the worst problem areas by volume first and developing a system for the City to use.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that could be accomplished through an Executive Order or Board of Supervisors Ordinance to restrict or setup new procedures for purchasing of certain items.  Dr. Geiger explained that the current purchasing system cannot easily track purchases so purchases are not necessarily being filtered. 


Commissioner Wald suggested working with approved vendors to agree to sell only the approved products on the list. If the product is not on the list, the purchaser would have to call for approval.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that there is a stringent system for becoming a City vendor and is one area that could be worked on. Dr. Geiger reported that contract language is added whenever possible.  Ms. Bhatia suggested targeting approved vendors.  Ms. Choy suggested reviewing the past record of vendor sales before reapproving their City-approved vendor status. Deputy Director Assmann reported that it is a requirement that vendors who sell over a certain quantity or dollar amount report annually on prohibitive products.  Dr. Geiger reported that vendors are now required to report on all sales in green contracts, but not other contracts.  He concurred that vendors should report on sales of prohibitive products and would review the list of products that are not being covered. 


Commissioner Gravanis commended the approach that is being taken to establish collaborative relationships with City departments and the progress that has been made.  She suggested that discussions be held with the Recreation and Park Department on selection of toilet paper dispensers in their facilities as the current ones create a lot of waste. Dr. Geiger reported that he and Ms. Bryant are working with Recreation and Park Department staff on selection of different products and to switch over to electric hand-dryers.


Commissioner Gravanis suggested that there be a follow-up with departments to make sure that they are recycling and composting products and recharging batteries they are purchasing.  She suggested that Zero Waste staff present at a future Committee meeting on how their efforts correspond with purchasing efforts.  Ms. Choy reported that she often meets with departments and discusses incentives for purchasing rechargeable batteries, asks how often batteries are being recharged, and makes them aware of the availability of a new hybrid rechargeable battery that can last up to one year.  Dr. Geiger discussed infrastructure obstacles that some departments face with rechargeable batteries. Ms. Choy discussed her work making it easier for City gardeners who don’t have recycling and composting bins readily available.  Dr. Geiger reported that the Zero Waste team is working with hospitals on recycling and composting of disposable food-ware.


Commissioner Wald commended Ms. Choy and Dr. Geiger’s strategies to influence behavior change and presentation.   She asked that an effort be made to share these strategies with other Department staff so they can take advantage of them. Deputy Director Assmann reported that he would consider adding the buy green category to the Department’s appraisal form.


Public Comment:


Ms. Rebecca Evans, former Commissioner, inquired whether (1) non-rechargeable batteries are being properly recycled and (2) why departments would purchase a product if it was prohibitive.  Ms. Choy reported that departments receive points for having battery recycling bins.  These bins contain instructions on who to call to pick bins up.  Meetings are held with departments to make them aware of enforcement and fines. Ms. Choy reported that non-green products may be purchased because departments may not be able to change out fixtures to accommodate certain products.


Ms. Alicia Torres discussed the availability of LED lanterns and flashlights and suggested that employees consider buying their own hand-cranked radio, LED lanterns and flashlights to cut down on general office equipment costs and the purchase of non-green products. 


Mr. David Pilpel suggested (1) that this is an opportune time to contact the City Purchaser to revamp the purchasing system; (2) include a story that sets an example of how a City department changed its practice and benefits that resulted; and (3) influence City staff to visit and purchase products from Building Resources.


Upon Motion by Commissioner Gravanis, second by Commissioner Wald, the 2010 Buy Green Program for City Staff Annual Report was approved for recommendation to the Commission for placement on the consent calendar upon approval by the Commission President. (AYES:  Commissioners Wald and Gravanis; Absent:  Commissioner Prakash)   


5.   Local Opportunities to Drive Product Stewardship. (Explanatory Document:  California Product Stewardship Council: A Better Way: Product Stewardship and Presentation) Speakers:  Sushma Bhatia, Toxics Reduction Program Manager and David Assmann, Deputy Director (Informational Report and Discussion)


Deputy Director Assmann reported on discussions held at the last Rate Board Review meeting about the appropriateness of using garbage rates and other City funds to pay for litter costs and other options to pay for these costs.  He discussed the large expense that the Department of Public Works incurs to pay for litter cleanup.  A cigarette litter fee was approved through the legislative process that put a twenty-cent fee on every pack of cigarettes sold in the city to cover a portion of litter removal costs.  The City was sued for that fee and recently won the lawsuit. Unless it is appealed, it is legal to charge the fee and use the fee money to cover some of the cost of litter removal in the city.  Litter studies have shown that the number one item in the litter stream are cigarette butts, and the fee charged was proportional to the percentage of cigarette butts in the litter stream. 


Deputy Director Assmann reported that because of a redefinition of fees at the state level through the initiative process, this same model cannot be applied to other elements of litter, and a voter-approval process would be required. As a result, the avenue of revenue to cover Department of Public Works costs has been shut off.  Part of the rate review process is to review all City services for illegal dumping, litter, and toxic materials and determine who or what to charge to cover the cost for removal, e.g. the General Fund, people who created the problem, or people who produced the products in an unsustainable way.  Local governments joined together to form the California Product Stewardship Council, which looks at a different way of managing products through a cradle to cradle system that is dependent on a producer or product manufacturer collecting material and making it into something else.  He reported that consumer products are now an enormous part of the waste stream and product waste is skyrocketing as a result.


Ms. Sushma Bhatia discussed the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) or Product Stewardship, which is requiring manufacturers to share in the responsibility of recycling or disposing the product at the end of its life. She discussed why it is important, what has been done around the state to advocate for EPR initiatives, and where the City can take a leadership role to promote EPR at the local level. Topics of discussion included:


·      The increase of product waste since 1960. (Slide 2)

·      Change in the nature of products in the waste stream that contain toxic components and/or are single-use. (Slide 3)

·      Producer Responsibility Definition. (Slide 4)

·      Flow Chart of current and proposed system. (Slide 5)

·      Voluntary and Mandatory Product Responsibility models to take back products. (Slides 6-7)

·      State of EPR adoption in California for toxic products only. (Slide 8)

·      Local Producer Responsibility Efforts. (Slide 9)

·      Drug Take Back Program. (Slide 10)

·      Local Collection of Hazardous Waste. (Slide 11)

·       Local Priorities and Barriers to Producer Responsibility. (Slides 12-13)


Commissioner Gravanis reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration was sponsoring a “Drug Take Back Day” on October 29 and inquired about the amount of publicity for this program.  Ms. Bhatia reported that “Drug Take Back Day” is being promoted and is a voluntary program sponsored in conjunction with state and local law enforcement for collection of controlled and non-controlled substances. The Drug Take Back pilot collection program will only be for non-controlled substances to be collected at some, but not all pharmacies, and may not be convenient for everyone. Deputy Director Assmann stated that consumers do not distinguish between controlled and non-controlled substances, and to have a more robust program, federal regulations would have to be changed in order to set up collection for both at pharmacies.  


Commissioner Wald inquired about costs that are associated with these programs. Ms. Bhatia stated that consumers ultimately pay through taxes or garbage funds for disposal of the product, or the producer that collects the product will collect costs through an increase in the cost of the product.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that the idea of EPR is to make it as efficient and low-cost as possible and would cost less than local government programs. Mr. Kevin Drew, Department of the Environment Zero Waste program staff, discussed the possibility of adding a fee or deposit to the sale of alkaline batteries in order to pay for recycling costs.  A discussion was held on successful battery recycling programs that have been recently implemented, e.g. battery recycling collection buckets in apartment buildings and curbside collection. 


Public Comment: 


Ms. Lurilla Harris inquired about the disposition of the drugs that are turned in at collection sites. Ms. Bhatia reported that almost all medications are incinerated.  Ms. Harris asked if incinerating the drugs would release toxins in the air.  Ms. Bhatia stated that there are different types of landfills and incinerators that can be used to capture the dangerous chemicals.  


Ms. Rebecca Evans inquired about the source of sharps and why they are considered contaminants.  Ms. Bhatia explained that sharps are used to administer insulin and discussed safety concerns in the case when medicine is left in the sharp and improperly disposed of.  A discussion was held about proper collection methods for sharps.


Mr. David Pilpel stated that EPR should be thought about in a more holistic way than just zero waste and toxics reduction.  He suggested implementing “buy less” and “unburden your-self of your stuff” neighborhood campaigns through the integration of existing programs such as EnvironmentNow and Gigantic 3.  Mr. Pilpel suggested that designated people be sent to people’s homes and work with social service agencies to assist with campaigns and integrate strategies.  Ms. Evans stated that outreach methods don’t always reach tenants and discussed the amount of people with similar issues.  Mr. Drew stated this topic involves consumer responsibility.


A discussion was held on next steps.  Deputy Director Assmann stated that he would research whether adding a deposit on batteries is a legal option. He discussed analyses that could be implemented of how many batteries are sold in San Francisco, what other products are being collected, and what percentage of what products are being distributed.  California sales figures could also be reviewed.  Commissioner Wald suggested adding a point-of-sale fee on alkaline batteries as a local ballot measure that could then be brought to the state level.  Mr. Pilpel suggested putting informational signs (similar to the Cell Phone Ordinance sign approach) to educate the public about the disposal and feasibility of purchasing alkaline batteries as opposed to rechargeable battery alternatives.  He suggested that the Department and Committee work on a Proposition 26 proposal to recommend to the Commission.  Mr. Drew discussed Ontario, Canada’s product stewardship efforts and discussions about implementing product bans.   This agenda topic would be brought back to the Commission at a future date.


  1. Approval of a Resolution adopting as Commission policy an acknowledgement of the importance of protecting, restoring and enhancing San Francisco's indigenous biodiversity, and encouraging development staff to seek funding for biodiversity staffing and programs for recommendation to the Commission. (Explanatory Document:  Draft Resolution and Background) Sponsor:  Commissioner Ruth Gravanis; Speakers:  Commissioner Gravanis and David Assmann, Deputy Director.  (Discussion and Action)


Commissioner Gravanis reported on the need for the Commission and the Department of the Environment to develop a biodiversity policy framework for restoring and protecting San Francisco’s biodiversity.  She explained that biodiversity is not only ecological restoration but includes protection of wildlife throughout the City, by means such as avoiding light pollution, designing building facades so as not to impair migratory birds, and regulating pesticides.


Commissioner Gravanis reported that the reason this effort has not been pursued before now is because of a lack of funding and resources.  The Department’s activities are funded by grants and contracts, and specific sources of funding are directed to specific projects. She suggested that development staff prioritize fundraising to employ staff with expertise in this area to launch programs and develop a plan for biological biodiversity.  Activities that are currently taking place without funding include development of material to place on the Department’s website and adding brochures about nature in the city to Eco Center shelf space. 


Public Comment: 


Ms. Rebecca Evans, on behalf of the Sierra Club, spoke in support of the Resolution and biodiversity policy.  She agreed with the background document that states that not all invasive species are bad and stated that when looking at restoration or protection of resources, it is important to look at plants that may exist for the feeding of specific critters.  Ms. Evans stated that she has seen a lot of degradation of resources in San Francisco, and supports a biodiversity policy.   


Mr. David Pilpel agreed that the Commission on the Environment should not only be about the urban and built environment, but about the natural environment. He stated that an initial step is to have Department staff available to understand, comment and inform discussions.  He pointed out that there are existing Department programs such as urban forestry and agriculture that could be integrated into this effort.


Mr. Damien Raffa, educator, spoke in the support of the Resolution and Biodiversity policy.  He stated that this policy be in the portfolio of concerns for the Department of the Environment because of the relationship between the environment and protecting biodiversity on the planet.  A direct relationship to real nature is essential to make all environmental policies relevant, and it is important to protect the natural heritage and biological diversity that still exists in San Francisco. Mr. Raffa reported that he would gather support for this topic at the full Commission meeting on November 22, 2011 during public comment.  Commissioner Gravanis discussed the potential concerns and misconceptions that have been expressed about this agenda topic.


Commissioner Wald motioned to recommend the Resolution with un-substantive word changes to the Commission’s Consent Agenda.  A discussion ensued about consent agenda procedures and the ability to have public comment in support of the Resolution. Commissioner Wald amended her original motion and motioned to approve the Resolution for recommendation to the Commission for its regular calendar, second by Commissioner Gravanis. (AYES:  Commissioners Wald and Gravanis; Absent:  Commissioner Prakash)


Items 7 and 8 were heard together.

7.   Commission Outreach List Project Update.  (Explanatory Document:  Outreach List) (Continued from the August 8, 2011 Meeting) Sponsors: Commissioners Wald and Gravanis (Informational Report, Discussion and Action)

8.   Purposes of Commission Outreach List and Criteria for Inclusion. (Continued from the August 8, 2011 Meeting) Sponsor:  Commissioner Ruth Gravanis; Speakers: Commissioner Gravanis and Director Nutter (Discussion and Action)


Commissioner Gravanis discussed the history of the outreach effort and outcome of the survey to environmental organizations that was sent in order to influence more active engagement between the Commission and environmental groups on activities and policy issues.  She suggested revisiting the survey and responses to see if this process was an effective vehicle for accomplishing this effort. 


Discussions were held on next steps to (1) revise the survey; (2) potentially employ volunteer staff to verify the accuracy of the expanded list of organizations and contacts; (3) access the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (MONS) list of environmental organizations once it has been established; (4) verify that the survey was sent to the Commission agenda mailing list; and (5) review the list that received the original survey, verify it was sent to the right people, and then follow-up on the responses to the survey.


Commissioner Wald proposed not expanding the current list at this time because of work by the Mayor’s Office and overlap with the Community InSight project.  She suggested focusing on the current Commission agenda mailing list and verifying that the right people from those organizations are receiving notices. Commissioner Wald suggested revisiting this issue at a future date to determine what impact the InSight project is having on public participation and the status of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services effort.  Commissioner Wald suggested working with people who are involved in the America’s Cup in the dialogue about what key issues the City should be working with others on.  Commissioner Gravanis suggested also working with people who are involved in the Precautionary Principle.


Public Comment:  Mr. David Pilpel suggested sending a survey to the current Commission agenda mailing list asking to verify the contact person and whether there are other things that the Department, Commission and its Committees should be doing given their work in policy and oversight.   He suggested that the Director and Deputy Director consider convening periodic meetings of some number of organizations discussing both the organizations’ and Department’s activities and identifying what partnerships can be formed. 


Deputy Director Assmann stated that this effort should be spearheaded by the Department’s Outreach staff once the Project Manager and new staff members are on board.  This agenda item was continued to the November 14, 2011 meeting to discuss next steps.


9.   Committee Suggestions for the Commission on the Environment 2011 Annual Report Content. (Explanatory Document:  Commission 2011 Annual Report Draft)  (Discussion)  Commissioner Wald asked that last week’s carbon milestone and the Community InSight project topics be added to the 2011 Report.  This agenda topic was continued to the November 14, 2011 meeting.


10.  Director’s Report and Updates.  Speaker: Deputy Director Assmann for Melanie Nutter, Director (Informational Report and Discussion) Deputy Director Assmann reported that there would be a hearing on October 25 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at Pier 1 to share comments on the Draft America’s Cup Sustainability Plan.


11.  Announcements. (Discussion)  There were no announcements made at this time.


12.  New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)  Commissioner Wald suggested that the November 14, 2011 meeting agenda include review of the Commission’s 2011 Draft Annual Report and Commission Outreach discussion led by Deputy Director Assmann.  Commissioner Gravanis suggested that the November 14 meeting include a discussion on the Balloon Release Ordinance.


Public Comment:  Mr. David Pilpel inquired suggested additional discussion on Extended Producer Responsibility at the next meeting.     


13.  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.


14.  Adjournment.  The Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 7:15 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

Telephone (415) 355-3709; Fax (415) 554-6393

The next Commission on the Environment Policy Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 14, 2011at 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 Policy Committee’s website https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/policy-committee with each set of minutes, or (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary at telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at [email protected].  


Approved:  November 14, 2011

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