08.23.12 Commission on the Environment Special Retreat Meeting Approved Minutes




THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, 2012, 10:00 A.M.




COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Commissioners Matt Tuchow (President), Ruth Gravanis (Vice-President), Joshua Arce, Angelo King, Alan Mok, Heather Stephenson, Johanna Wald



Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Commission on the Environment Retreat meeting convened at 10:07 a.m.  Present:  Commissioners Tuchow, Gravanis, Arce, King (10:17), Mok, Stephenson and Wald.  Commissioner Arce was welcomed to the Commission on the Environment.


Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Commission on matters that are within the Commission’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.


Mr. David Pilpel emphasized a sense of urgency on all of the Department’s activities and environmental initiatives, citing the state’s efforts to revise the California Environmental Quality Act. 


Ms. Scarlett Russell, Center for Biological Diversity intern, discussed the Clean Air Cities campaign that is an idea to influence as many cities as possible to sign Resolutions recognizing the Clean Air Act that would take significant steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and effects of climate change. She urged the Commission to propose a Resolution to the Board of Supervisors in support of the Clean Air Act and discussed opposition expressed by Congress. (Explanatory Document:  Links to Cities that have signed on with Resolutions and sample Resolution.)  Commissioner Wald requested sponsorship for developing a Resolution through the Policy Committee.


San Francisco Department of the Environment Strategic Plan Assessment and New Format. (Explanatory Documents:  2011-13 Strategic Plan, Strategic Plan Assessment, Outline of New Format for Strategic Plan, Potential Projects, and Article on Top Ten Environmental Concerns of the 21st Century http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/Top-Ten-Environmental-Concerns-of-the-21st-Century) Sponsor and Speaker:  Melanie Nutter, Director (Information and Discussion)


Deputy Director Assmann referenced a scientific article in Nature magazine, which reports on what scientists think are the ten most important environmental concerns for the country in the 21st century and discussed how the Department’s new goals and Strategic Plan that is being developed align with these concerns. He presented a summary of the issues that are listed that include (1) climate change; (2) loss of biodiversity; (3 and 4) the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles; (5) the water cycle; (6) ocean acidification; (7) chemical pollution; (8) atmospheric aerosol pollution; (9) land use changes; and (10) the stratospheric ozone layer.


Director Nutter reported that at a recent senior staff retreat, staff mapped out which current program areas match up with global priorities and discussed how to align future goals with these priorities.Commissioner Wald inquired if there was more overlap of Department work in any particular area.Deputy Director Assmann reported that most of the Department’s work was focused on higher priority items, and that there is work to be accomplished in other areas.


Director Nutter reported that the Strategic Plan Assessment exercise assessed the Department’s 2011-13 Strategic Plan goals in each program area.She presented on the Executive Summary of the Department’s achievements, challenges, and future projects over the past two fiscal years. (Reference Executive Summary and Strategic Plan Assessment explanatory documents.)Commissioners addressed topics included in the Executive Summary as follows:


Commissioners, Director Nutter and Deputy Director Assmann discussed tactics being considered to reach 100% diversion from landfill now that recycling and composting infrastructure has been put in place in virtually all buildings.Next steps include providing education and outreach to increase diversion and advocating for Extended Producer Responsibility programs on products that are not recyclable or compostable.


Commissioner Arce discussed the success of the GoSolar SF program and suggested that the Department and Commission propose additional funding for the program that is running low on funds.He suggested that the Department show how many jobs are created as a result of environmental initiatives and partnering with labor organizations to create more sustainable jobs. He inquired whether there is a strategy for connecting low-income and limited English-speaking households to recycling programs and employment opportunities.Director Nutter discussed grants awarded to community organizations that are focused on reuse and making sure that people have access to programs and jobs.Deputy Director Assmann reported on the work of multilingual Environment Now staff that go door-to door providing education and outreach to San Francisco residents on Department programs.


Commissioner Wald requested a report on electric-vehicle charger station use by residents in multi-family buildings.


Commissioner Tuchow inquired about problematic products that comprise the ten percent in landfill and the availability of programs for composting of diapers. Deputy Director Assmann reported that composite products are problematic and reported on successful programs in other countries and work being done to set up Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems so that manufacturers can produce products that are more easily recyclable and can be taken back.The Legislature is currently working on EPR programs through various bills. It was reported that there are solutions being tested in other countries for diaper disposal, and there are private companies addressing compostable diapers.


Commissioner King stated that it is important to influence private companies to assist in implementation of programs.He suggested that the Executive Summary include the economic impact of Department activities.Director Nutter reported that the new Strategic Plan format would have an additional focus on the economic and job impact of Department activities.


Director Nutter reported on Department challenges and future projects as listed in the Executive Summary. Commissioners provided the following comments:


Commissioner Gravanis suggested that support of Community Choice Aggregation programs should be one of the challenges the Commission addresses in order to meet renewable energy goals.


Commissioner Arce commended the Director and Department staff for the subject matter that is covered and impressive outcomes of the Department’s work. He suggested holding joint meetings with City agencies on inter-related programs and community meetings for the purpose of education and outreach on Department programs.Director Nutter reported on plans to hold joint meetings with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).Deputy Director Assmann reported on past Commission neighborhood meetings and joint Commission meetings.It was agreed that more inter-agency and community meetings are needed, but that outreach is required to make community meetings worthwhile.


Commissioner Mok commended the Department on its work but agreed that more feedback is needed from the community.He suggested holding one or two neighborhood meetings a year.


Commissioner Tuchow discussed the importance of communicating the Department’s successes so that other City agencies and all San Franciscans can appreciate the importance of the Department’s work.Director Nutter discussed partnerships that the Department has with City agencies in carrying out its work, opportunities to break down silos, and plans to engage in more interagency collaboration through implementation of new programs. She discussed the Department’s credibility with its stakeholders and plans to continue to focus on communicating successes and engaging stakeholders in the Department’s work.


Commissioner Wald suggested adding to the list of challenges relationships with other Departments, internal challenges, establishing metrics, and identifying ways to communicate successes to San Franciscans.She suggested that the Commission assist the Department in resolving these challenges.


Director Nutter presented on the Department’s new goals and timeline for the Strategic Plan that is a high-level guiding document emphasizing the Department’s vision and strategy. She reported that the eighteen goals in the current Strategic Plan were condensed to four over-arching goals (1) protect nature; (2) strengthen neighborhood resilience; (3) promote economic and social equity; and (4) safeguard public health, and that there would be a separate Work Plan guiding the Department’s work. Director Nutter presented on the proposed Strategic Plan process and timeline for goal, objective, strategy, tactics, and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) development. (Reference SFE Strategic Plan: New Goals & Timeline Draft explanatory document.)


Commissioner King suggested adding a key goal to influence public behavior to reduce consumption and participate in environmental initiatives that will result in public benefits.He suggested exercising caution with the goal of safeguarding of public health and discussed the similarity of this goal with protecting nature.Director Nutter reported that behavior change is one of the tactics of how to reach the vision and will be reflected in objectives and in the work plan.She explained that many Department programs do correlate with protecting public health by addressing environmental pollution and toxic health issues.


Commissioner Wald spoke in support of the new Strategic Plan format and in having a separate work plan that guides the Department’s work. She discussed the value of strategic plans in providing a focus for the Department so as not to be diverted by other requests.Commissioner Wald reported on her objection to two of the proposed goals: goal 2 to “strengthen neighborhood resilience” because she stated that the terminology being used is not transparent enough to constituents and goal 1 to “protect nature” because there is no current program on biodiversity and the urban agriculture program is being postponed.She suggested substituting the words “protecting nature” with “protecting the urban environment” and making sure goals are communicated as being equally aspirational.Commissioner Wald suggested that a future discussion be held to discuss the Policy Committee’s plan to prioritize work on a Sustainability Plan and how it would correlate with the Strategic Plan.


Director Nutter reported that the Department of the Environment should be focused on nature and that this plan includes aspirational goals that the Department would like to see in place in the next year.She reported on discussions held at the Senior Staff retreat as to whether the Strategic Plan should be a parallel process with the Sustainability Plan and suggested that further discussion be held with the Policy Committee on this topic.Deputy Director Assmann reported on the amount of time that the Department spends on goal 1 to protect nature that are in addition to the two programs being challenged and suggested possibly reordering goals.He stated that efforts are focused on protecting nature outside of the urban environment so the suggested terminology may not apply as well.


Commissioner Arce discussed the idea of creating a sense of urgency about Department programs and suggested reassigning goal 1 to a lesser priority so as to prioritize more urgent goals.He suggested adding terminology to Goal 3 to read “Deliver environmental policies and programs that also promote social and economic equity, environmental justice, and job creation.”


Commissioner Stephenson spoke in support of the new Strategic Plan format.She stated that one of the biggest barriers to behavior change is the ability to portray messages in a positive way so that people feel the action is achievable. Commissioner King agreed that reaching out to people should not incorporate a strategy where they may feel threatened.


Director Nutter stated that she sees the Strategic Plan audience as a way to thread communities into what is being done but not as an outreach document, and that goals are not ranked by priority.She sees the audience for the Plan as Staff, Commission, Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and active stakeholders, but that the audience could be expanded in the future.


Commissioner Tuchow spoke in support of the new Strategic Plan format and suggested making goal 3 broader so it includes economic development.He suggested that goal 2 to “strengthen neighborhood resilience” should define boundaries of other agency jurisdictions and where cross overs are.


Public Comment:


Mr. Steven Krefting stated that he was a member of the first Environmental Commission, and that from the beginning, there was a Sustainability Plan that was developed through working groups, and from that document came the Strategic Plan.He encouraged combining the two processes by updating the existing Sustainability Plan and reconfiguring it to match how the Strategic Plan is organized, so that the Sustainability Plan is the overarching document.He suggested that the Commission take leadership to support the expansion of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary.Commissioner Gravanis suggested that this issue come before the Policy Committee.


Ms. Scarlett Russell spoke in support of forming alliances between union workers and environmentalists and volunteered her assistance in this effort.She stated that she did not hear discussions on resource conservation as it applies to blue roofing systems, water conservation, or water recycling and the ability for these programs to create jobs.Ms. Russell spoke in support of implementing behavior change through school outreach and education.She offered her services as a community organizer to help organize future community meetings.


Mr. David Pilpel suggested (1) that acronyms in the Strategic Plan and Assessment documents should be spelled out and that documents should be dated; (2) providing additional information on partnerships with other organizations and City departments; (3) developing working groups to achieve work plans; (4) list program areas where programs such as Healthy Homes reside and provide descriptions; (5) include goals and metrics of the Department’s volunteer program; (6) include a consumption and behavioral change goal so that it is accomplished in a meaningful way; and (7) incorporate more of Charter Section 4.118 functions into the Strategic Plan.


Commissioner Arce suggested that the Department and Commission hold discussions with the Public Utilities Commission General Manager and the laborers union about water conservation and capturing gray water and apprenticeships in this area.Commissioner King suggested inviting union staff members and other organizations to Commission meetings where Strategic Plans are being discussed in order to provide them with an opportunity to discuss how they are applying environmental policies.Deputy Director Assmann reported that water is the responsibility of the SFPUC, but that the Department is providing outreach education in schools for the SFPUC, and reported on meetings being held with unions on different topics.


11:15 – 11:55 p.m.  Commissioner Led Initiatives (Climate/Renewable Energy, Sustainability Plan, Metrics, Biodiversity, and Others) and Focus for the Coming Year. Sponsors and Speakers: Commissioners Johanna Wald and Ruth Gravanis (Discussion and Possible Action to Endorse the Priorities of the Commission Policy Committee)


Commissioner Wald suggested that a discussion be held on identifying ways that the Commission and Commissioners can provide more value to the Department as individuals and collectively.She explained that the purpose of the discussion was to focus on how the Commission as a whole might carry out its work and provide input into the priorities that the Policy Committee has preliminarily selected to work on.


Commissioner Gravanis asked the Commission to consider if there are achievements listed in the Executive Summary that the Commission has played an important role in achieving.She reported that the Policy Committee is in the process of reviewing the Commission’s accomplishments for inclusion into the Annual Report and requested input into the Commission’s achievements.The Commission has provided valuable oversight to the Department and taken actions on various issues, but is that enough to justify its existence?Is the Commission doing everything that the Charter and Bylaws call for, and to what extent should Commissioners deal with Commissioner-led initiatives or just provide input into staff work?Should there be more action items on the Commission’s agenda versus discussion, and should the Commission take a more active role, and if so how?


Commissioner Gravanis discussed the Department’s upcoming move and asked whether Commissioners should assist with fundraising.A discussion was held on whether the Commissioners would add value to the Department by participating in press conferences, Board of Supervisors meetings along with staff, testifying at Board of Supervisors Committee meetings as individuals or as Commission members, or meeting with other agency Commissioners. Commissioner Gravanis stated that she provides outreach to her community contacts to attend Commission meetings, but could be doing more to develop two-way communications about meeting discussions and relaying how the Commission can help others meet their goals.


Commissioner Tuchow advocated for Commissioners assisting the Department with fundraising because the strategic planning process involves deciding on priorities and achieving goals with limited resources. He acknowledged the Department for its achievements without Commission input, but suggested that the Commission take a more active role to expand the Department’s achievements.He suggested that the Commission align its contributions with the Department’s Strategic Plan goals.


Commissioner Wald stated that she brings expertise to the Commission and the Department, her contacts, information and ideas from contacts, and has expertise in foundation fundraising.She reported that she would like to do more to support staff work, but does not want to create more work for staff.


Commissioner King stated that he brings his experience as a San Franciscan and recipient of the Department’s programs.He is an eye-witness of the Department’s policies and effectiveness in the community.He stated that the Commission should be more involved in identifying policies that go before the Board of Supervisors and providing other agencies with their advice.


Commissioner Stephenson stated that Department work is being handled by capable people and inquired whether the Commission’s involvement would assist staff or would add to its workload. Director Nutter reported on the time involved in the agenda planning process for meetings and would prefer the outcome to be more action-oriented.She stated that there is capacity building that the Commission could be doing such as representing the Department by meeting with international delegations to discuss the Department’s activities and sustainability goals, be more involved in controversial issues that require additional leadership, such as meeting with other Commissioners, attending Board of Supervisors meetings, and talking with members of the Board. She suggested identifying a joint project for the Commission and staff to work on that will be useful and part of the Strategic Plan.Deputy Director Assmann discussed the value added of Commission meetings with other agency staff that brings more importance to an issue and accelerates cooperation between the Department, Commission, and other agencies.


Commissioner Arce suggested that Commissioners communicate to staff their desire to help and work to develop unique and dynamic partnerships that are strategic and powerful enough to address the challenges before the Commission.Director Nutter concurred that it would be useful for Commissioners to communicate with staff about their availability to assist with Department programs.Commissioner Arce suggested that Commission meetings be televised so as to create more awareness about the Department’s programs and activities.


Commissioner Wald reported on the four priority topics that the Policy Committee wants to focus on and suggested a discussion of how to synchronize the priorities with the Strategic Planning process and how to execute prioritization efforts at Committee meetings.


Commissioner Stephenson suggested that the Commission be presented with not only the successes of Department work, but on challenges that the Department faces in its work and programs that are not working.


Commissioner Tuchow suggested that the Commission could play more of a problem-solving role in order to expand the Department’s programs.He suggested that the Policy Committee prioritize combining the work of the Sustainability Plan with the Strategic Plan.Director Nutter suggested that the Commission and Policy Committee begin assessing all of its existing environmental and sustainability plans to determine what is needed. Commissioner Tuchow suggested reviewing the feedback from today’s meeting and developing action items for future Commission meeting agenda topics.


Public Comment:


Mr. David Pilpel spoke in support of joint Commission meetings with other City agencies. He provided additional suggestions for Commission involvement (1) review quarterly budget reports and provide more budget oversight; (2) receive staff reports on travel expenses and results achieved; (3) establish more presence by being involved in press conferences and meetings with supervisors; (4) reference Charter Section 4.118 to expand Commission work; (5) consider a targeted, random, and proportional approach on initiatives; (6) communicate the Commission’s involvement in Department and City activities; and (6) be involved with the SFPUC on implementing a food waste digestion policy in San Francisco.


Mr. Andrew More O’Ferrall inquired about enforceability mechanisms that the Commission and Department may have in order to meet goals that are not being met as a result of other people or agencies that are not meeting their goals that affect Department programs.He suggested establishing an enforcement mechanism that could possibly provide revenue for programs.


Ms. Nancy Cross discussed her concern with air quality and tobacco smoking in the city and the non- enforcement of laws by relevant agencies.


11:55 – 12:30 p.m. Commission Committee Structure and Bylaws.  (Explanatory Documents: Commission Bylaws and Charter Sections 4.118 and 4.102 – 4.104) Sponsor and Speaker:  Commissioner Angelo King (Discussion)


Commissioner King reported that the Commission currently meets most of its Charter requirements, but suggested that Commissioners annually review their Bylaws and Charter section three months before the annual retreat in order to add clarity or suggest changes as it pertains to the Commission’s duties and responsibilities. He pointed out that the Commission has not created an Annual Statement of Purpose as called for in Section 4.102 and discussed the benefits that this document would provide in communications with the Board of Supervisors so the Board has the knowledge to route relevant initiatives to the Department and Commission. He suggested that Commissioners invest time in direct communication with Board of Supervisors members relaying who the Commission is, its goals, and jurisdiction.


Commissioner King suggested that the Operations Committee discuss the structure for holding special meetings with outside agencies and relevant commissions and add additional Operations Committee meetings to provide more budget review.Deputy Director Assmann suggested better synchronization of Operations Committee meetings to match the annual budget and grant cycle.Commissioner King suggested that Committees schedule initial meetings to educate Commissioners and the public on any particular agenda topic, and then schedule a second meeting to provide more input and recommend an action. He inquired about approaches that the Commissioners can take to relay disagreements on particular strategies in program areas.Director Nutter suggested that Commissioners relay their input on disagreements with strategies by providing advice at meetings, asking the right questions, and discussing differences in ideas with the Director and Deputy Director.Commissioner King suggested that Commissioners play more of an active role in identifying ideas that could be routed to Committees, requesting staff expertise, and then preparing a Resolution making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.


Commissioner Stephenson discussed obstacles to providing oversight on subject matter that may be assigned to the Policy Committee and suggested identifying effective communication strategies between Committees.


Commissioner Arce inquired about the process for Charter Section 4.118 “Commission shall have the authority to review and make recommendations on any policy proposed for adoption by any City agency regarding conformity with the long-term plans for environmental sustainability, except for those regarding building and land use.” Commissioner Wald reported that other City agency presentations are usually initiated by Commissioners or the Director and not by City agencies themselves. An example of a presentation to the Policy Committee was a presentation by Port staff on their policy banning single-serve plastic water bottles at city events on Port property.Deputy Director Assmann reported that there are sustainability plans that other agencies have created, and the Commission has not had input into because it is not a mandatory requirement.


Commissioner Wald suggested holding joint meetings with other Committees to discuss revising the Bylaws to refine the boundaries between the two Committees and making it possible to allow the President to appoint a temporary member to Committees when a member is not available to attend.She suggested providing less detail in the Bylaws as it relates to Commission meeting locations and schedules. Deputy Director Assmann reported on Bylaws requirements for the President to appoint Committee members to one-year assignments.Deputy City Attorney Thomas Owen reported that joint meetings of Committees would have to be noticed as a Commission meeting if more than a quorum of members are present. The Bylaws could be amended to allow for appointment of a temporary member to Committees. Commissioners agreed that this Bylaws amendment should be made.


Commissioner Tuchow suggested that Committees hold discussions on the role of the two Committees and Bylaws requirements before a discussion is held at the full Commission.He discussed the broad role of the Commission as reflected in Charter requirements and Bylaws and discussed the importance of aligning the Commission’s goals with the Department’s goals through the direction of the Director.


Commissioner Gravanis suggested that the Commission consider the ability of the President to create temporary Ad Hoc committees to work on special projects.


Public Comment:


Mr. David Pilpel spoke in support of amending the Bylaws to allow for the appointment and removal of temporary members as needed.He pointed out that the Bylaws would also have to be amended to include the Operations Committee meeting location change when the Department moves to 1455 Market Street.Mr. Pilpel suggested (1) advertising Committee meetings as the Commission of the whole to allow for more than three members to attend a meeting; (2) that the Commission plays a more active role in doing more investigations and providing recommendations on policies as outlined in Charter Section 4.118;(3) Commissioners play a leadership role in making presentations on environmental themes at the Public Library; and (4) be provided with written reports from other Department task forces/groups in order to be informed of their work.


1:00- 1:10 p.m. Public comment on all matters pertaining to the subsequent closed session on Public Employee Performance Evaluation.


Mr. David Pilpel suggested that the Commission schedule a periodic performance evaluation for the Commission Secretary as well as the Executive Director.  He suggested that evaluations include discussions on personal goal setting, capacity building, leadership development, skills, and partnerships.


Vote on whether to hold closed session to evaluate the performance of the Executive Director, Melanie Nutter.  (Cal. Govt. Code § 54957; SF Admin. Code § 67.10(b).)  [ACTION]


Upon Motion by Commissioner Gravanis, second by Commissioner Wald the Commission voted to hold closed session (AYES:Commissioners Tuchow, Gravanis, Arce, King, Mok, Stephenson, and Wald).




Possible closed session to evaluate the performance of the Executive Director, Melanie Nutter.  (Explanatory Document:  Performance Appraisal) (Cal. Govt. Code § 54957; SF Admin. Code § 67.10(b).)  [DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION]


The Commission convened in closed session at 1:28 p.m.




Reconvene in open session:  Open session reconvened at 2:05 p.m.


  1. Vote to elect whether to disclose any or all discussions held in closed session.  (Cal. Govt. Code § 54957.1(a); SF Admin. Code § 67.12(b).)  [ACTION]


Upon Motion by Commissioner Gravanis, second by Commissioner King, the Commission voted to elect not to disclose any or all discussions held in closed session(AYES:  Commissioners Tuchow, Gravanis, Arce, King, Mok, Stephenson, and Wald.)


  1. Possible report on action taken in closed session and the vote thereon.  (Cal. Govt. Code § 54957.1(a); SF Admin. Code § 67.12(b).)


No report was issued and no action was taken.


Adjournment.  The Commission on the Environment Special Meeting Retreat adjourned at 2:07 p.m.


** 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 Commission’s website http://www.sfenvironment.org/commission/agendas; (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at [email protected] within three business days of a meeting. If any materials related to an item on this agenda have been distributed to the Commission after distribution of the agenda packet, those materials are available for public inspection at the Department of the Environment, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 during normal office hours or will be made available on the Commission’s website http://www.sfenvironment.org/commission/agendas as attachments to the agenda or meeting minutes.

Approved:  September 20, 2012