September 8 2014 Policy Committee Meeting Approved Minutes


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2014, 5:00 P.M.


COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Johanna Wald (Chair) and Ruth Gravanis


1. Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Policy Committee meeting convened at 5:04 p.m.  Present:  Commissioners Wald and Gravanis.

2. Approval of Minutes of the August 11, 2014 Commission on the Environment Policy Committee Meeting. (Explanatory Document:  August 11, 2014 Approved Minutes) (Discussion and Action)  Upon Motion by Commissioner Gravanis, second by Commissioner Wald, the August 11, 2014 Meeting Minutes were approved (AYES:  Commissioners Wald and Gravanis).

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. Anastasia Glikshtern spoke of her concern with the increase in use of Tier 1 and 2 herbicides in San Francisco particularly by the Natural Areas Program.  She discussed the role of the Precautionary Principle in helping to promote alternatives to the use of pesticides and herbicides.
4. Recovering Material from the Black Bin.  Sponsors:  Commissioners Wald and Gravanis; Speaker:  Jack Macy, Zero Waste Program and Minna Tao, Recology, San Francisco.  (Informational Presentation and Discussion)

Mr. Jack Macy reported that the primary strategy in maximizing source separation is to collect materials as clean as they can be for their highest and best use.  He stated that even though Department staff has been working for many years on creating programs, doing outreach, providing financial incentives, and influencing most properties to participate in the program, there is still significant compostable and recyclable material in the black bin.   Mr. Macy discussed Department efforts to do more outreach to increase compliance and reported on obstacles such as older building infrastructure and visitors that are unfamiliar with City policies.  The priority is to source separate compostable items, which accounts for a third of material found in the black bin, and then create biogas as an energy fuel to use in fleets.  Mr. Macy reported that there are efforts to work with partners to do research and development, identify and look for opportunities to test potential technologies that are cost-effective, resource efficient, fit in a limited space, result in higher diversion, and produce marketable products.  He discussed plans to upgrade Recology’s Zero Waste facility to achieve these goals.

Mr. Macy reported on potential technologies such as low temperature mechanical biological technologies that would conserve and reuse resources as opposed to high temperature technologies that would result in the opposite.  A discussion was held on technologies that are available to separate unopened packaged food that is commonly found in the black bin.  He stated that Recology is looking at procuring a high pressure press and converting its fleet to natural gas.  Mr. Macy reported that the last rate process identified the need for source separation in the rate funding process and would fund a building extension to the transfer station to test technologies on a larger scale.  Other possibilities discussed include a potential processing charge for those that have a lot of recycling and compostable products in black bins.    

Ms. Minnie Tao of Recology reported on Recology’s work with the Department of the Environment and Mr. Macy on the source separation effort and producing newer and cleaner materials.  Mr. Macy reported on Recology’s allocation of resources to this effort beyond what was set in the rate process.

Mr. Macy discussed Department resources that are being directed to additional outreach for participation compliance.  Commissioner Gravanis reported on the mix of material that can be found at City Hall bins and suggested adding signage next to the bins.  Communications and Policy Director Guillermo Rodriguez reported on the Outreach Team’s efforts to provide consumer education on source separation.  Commissioner Wald suggested (1) the possibility of shrinking the black bin and supplying residents another bin for things that they don’t want to deal with; (2) reaching out to building managers before new construction to discuss requirements; (3) publicize commercials on a City channel about source separation and what to do about textiles; and (4) request that the Board of Supervisors promote efforts and educate people about results achieved.  Mr. Macy reported on Recology’s pilot program to offer a ten percent discount to residents who reduce their trash pickup service.  He discussed the inability of Recology’s truck infrastructure in picking up smaller bins. 

Public Comment:

Mr. David Pilpel discussed operational issues that would interfere with creating an additional container.  He noted that there will always be residual material found in the black bin and spoke in support of source separation and creating energy from organic material.   He suggested that additional effort be made to create programs for (1) allocating edible leftover food that people and restaurants are throwing out to people in need; (2) creating a public disposal/reuse area for people that are moving to dispose of their textiles and leftover items; and (3) making sure that criteria is being met by certified green businesses.  Mr. Pilpel announced that Recology would be hosting an “Artists in Residents” event and asked that the Commission be kept up to date on Waste Management’s suit against Oakland on their waste service contract that was awarded to California Waste Solutions. 

5. Informational Presentation on San Francisco Unified School District’s (SFUSD) EcoLiteracy Program. (Explanatory Document:  Presentation) Sponsor:  Commissioner Wald; Speaker:  Elishama Goldfarb, Environmental Literacy Content Specialist, San Francisco Unified School  and Peter Brastow, Senior Biodiversity Coordinator (Informational Presentation and Discussion)

Mr. Elishama Goldfarb reported on his experience and background as an environmental educator and presented on SFUSD’s Ecoliteracy program that is funded by a grant from S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.  He stated that the goal of the program is for all SFUSD students to graduate from high school as environmental-literate citizens.  The program sets out to support and organize professional development, school-based projects, direct service to students, and research and evaluation.   Mr. Goldfarb reported that students are being educated through classroom learning, school garden learning, and outside the classroom through field trips to San Francisco’s natural resources that can be found in our urban environment.  

Mr. Goldfarb defined environmental literacy and discussed objectives of the program for environmentally literate citizens to understand the connections and interdependence of urban and rural areas, to make decisions to protect and improve the environment, and act by forming new patterns of behavior based on education they receive by SFUSD.  He reported on resources and programs available to students, adults, and educators in San Francisco, SFUSD’s Eco Literacy web portal, and plans for upcoming events.

Commissioner Wald and Mr. Goldfarb discussed plans for measuring success of efforts to change behavior.  Mr. Goldfarb reported that the UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science would be assisting in this effort through the Proof of Concept project.  Commissioner Gravanis and Mr. Goldfarb discussed Next Generation Science Standards adopted by California and 25 other states.   Mr. Goldfarb reported on funding available to continue the program and time needed to work with partners including the Department of the Environment in an effort to reach all students at each grade level. 

Biodiversity Coordinator Peter Brastow reported that the Department of the Environment’s School Education program is working with Mr. Goldfarb to educate students on ecoliteracy.   Mr. Brastow reported on his background working with the National Park Service Golden Gate National Recreation Area as an educator and manager.  He stated that he has been hired by the Department to implement the City’s policies around nature and biodiversity and is working on a fact sheet and upgrading the City’s website on nature and biodiversity.  Mr. Brastow discussed the policy framework that is needed to connect local nature and biodiversity and efforts to hold a summit on how to work together more effectively and create messaging so people can connect to the environment in a real way around the planet and locally. 

Environmental Education Program Manager Tamar Hurwitz reported on the good work that the School District is doing in this program.

Public Comment:

Mr. Anastasia Glikshtern suggested that children not be educated to believe that the concept of healthy landscapes depends on native plants and animals and that anything else is an “invasive species.”  She spoke in opposition to the Natural Areas Program use of herbicides to cut down 18,500 trees to restore native habitat.  

Mr. David Pilpel suggested developing curriculum that encourages students to develop critical thinking about issues, choices made in life, and how policies affect those choices, instead of thinking in absolutes.  He suggested contacting Director Deborah Raphael, a former science teacher, for input and to elevate the importance of the ecoliteracy program across City departments.

6. Director’s Update. Guillermo Rodriguez, Communications and Policy Director for Deborah Raphael, Director (Discussion)

Communications and Policy Director Guillermo Rodriguez reported that Director Raphael is in attendance at an Urban Sustainability Network in Texas.  He announced (1) that the Department of the Environment would be hosting a media fellow from Vietnam to discuss the Department’s renewable portfolio, climate strategy, and tour Recology’s Zero Waste facility; (2) the September 11 Board of Supervisors Government Audits Committee meeting on the Civil Grand Jury Report on sea level rise and the City’s infrastructure;  and (3) September 24 Department of the Environment and Environmental Protection Agency press conference to celebrate green custodial companies that have been trained and certified as green businesses.

Mr. Rodriguez reported that the Commission’s community meeting is scheduled for September 30, 2014 at City College of San Francisco, discussed outreach efforts, and potential agenda items on (1) Recreation and Park Department’s operational plans for zero waste in Dolores Park; (2) Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and Community Investment initiative on historical corridors on 24th Street and the Department’s partnership to make these businesses green businesses; and (3) presentation by community based non-profits that the Department has been supporting and funding.  Commissioner Wald suggested an agenda topic on what the Department does for the community.  Mr. Rodriguez reported on status of bills that have been before the state legislature, five of which are on the Governor’s desk for signature. 

Public Comment: 

Mr. David Pilpel suggested that a discussion be held at the next Policy Committee meeting on the outcome of bills.  He asked for an update on the Blue Green awards issued to other City departments and the schedule for the Green Business awards and other public events. 

7. Communications.  (Information and Discussion)  There was no additional correspondence received by the Commission since the last update.

8. Announcements. (Discussion)  Commissioner Wald announced that she would be out of town for the next two and a half weeks.

9. New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)  Commissioner Wald suggested future agenda items that include Committee priorities when a new Commissioner has been appointed, consumer education (categories and sharing economy), strategic plan timeline, and labeling of compostables, plastics and recycling.   

Public Comment:

Mr. David Pilpel requested a copy of the future agenda pending items working document and was directed to Director Raphael for additional information.   He suggested Committee discussions on the Green Business program and consumer education as it relates to incentivizing thrift store purchases.

10. Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.
11. Adjournment.  The Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 7:04 p.m.

** Copies of explanatory documents are available at (1) the Commission’s office, 1455 Market Street, Suite 1200, San Francisco, California, 94103 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  Photo identification is required for access to the building; (2) on the Policy Committee’s website, or (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary at telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at [email protected]. The meeting audio can be reviewed at the website link by meeting date 

Approved: October 8, 2014