03.09 Approved Minutes

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT

 

SPECIAL MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

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

CITY HALL, ROOM 421, SAN FRANCISCO, CA  94102

 

COMMISSION MEMBERS:  Commissioners Paul Pelosi Jr. (President), Ruth Gravanis (Vice-President), Angelo King, Darian Rodriguez Heyman, Jane MarieFrancis Martin, Matt Tuchow, Johanna Wald

 

ORDER OF BUSINESS

Public comment will be taken before the Commission takes action on any item.

 

1.      Call to Order and Roll Call. The Commission on the Environment Meeting convened at 5:09 p.m.  Present:  Vice-President Gravanis, Commissioners Martin, Tuchow and Wald.  Excused: Commissioners King, Pelosi Jr. and Rodriguez Heyman.

    

2.   Approval of Minutes of the January 27, 2009 Commission Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Upon Motion by Commissioner Tuchow and second by Commissioner Wald, the January 27, 2009 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (AYES:  Vice-President Gravanis, Commissioners Martin, Tuchow and Wald; Absent:  President Pelosi Jr., Commissioners King and Rodriguez Heyman) (Explanatory Document: January 27, 2009 Approved Minutes)

 

3.   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. Craig Williams presented information and discussed advantages of Clean Energy Reverse Mortgages. (Explanatory Document: Clean Energy Reverse Mortgages (CERM))  Commissioner Martin recommended that Mr. Williams review San Francisco’s draft legislation to develop a loan program that would function similarly for energy improvements to include solar but not exclusively.

 

4.   Approval of the 2009 Reduced Risk Pesticide List. (Explanatory Documents:  Resolution Approving List and 2009 Reduced Risk Pesticide List) Staff Presenter:  Chris Geiger, Ph.D., City Toxics Reduction Coordinator (Informational Presentation, Discussion, and Action)

 

Dr. Geiger reported that every year a series of meetings are held to review the Reduced Risk Pesticide List for City-owned properties to determine whether products are really needed, if they are being used, if they work, and if there is something safer available that can be used instead.  This process was completed in November and December of 2008 and fewer changes were made this year than before.  It was reported that seven products are being added, most of which are reduced risk products, and 17 changed, which includes language changes to the list.  Major changes include (1) adding a new class of reduced risk products for ants; and (2) two chemicals triclopyr and abamectin have moved up in the hazard list because of new data received. 

 

Dr. Geiger reported on his efforts to implement two recommendations within the next two months that include: (1) one of the herbicides used at Sharp Park Golf Course, dicamba, has a negative rating for endangered species risk and an alternative should be found for golf courses, which are the only places where it is used, that have endangered species concerns.  It was recommended that the list be amended to account for this revision; and (2) it is expected that rodenticides would be removed from the list to control gophers because they do not work effectively. 

 

Commissioner Tuchow inquired about the effort to keep up with the products that are being developed in a field that is constantly evolving and changing.  Dr. Geiger stated that discussions are held with the pest managers, products are researched, and when there is a need, additional research is done, and new products are screened to identify potential hazards.  Meetings are then held with the group of pest managers to talk about exposure and suggested use.  Products are screened based on pests and other things that are discovered.  Commissioner Tuchow inquired if there was a process for reviewing the highest tier of toxic chemicals on a periodic basis to see if there are less toxic alternatives to replace them with.  Dr. Geiger reported that review is done annually on alternatives that might be available with review of Tier 1 products having the highest priority.  One problem is that there is such a huge variety of Tier 1 products.

 

Dr. Geiger reported that this effort is now tied into the LEED Green Building system for certification on existing buildings, and the technical reference standard for pest management refers readers to the San Francisco hazard screening list. 

 

Commissioner Martin inquired whether a proactive effort is being made to encourage and place bat boxes, owl boxes, and to make raptor perches to compensate, offset, and mitigate chemical use and the need for the use of even Tier 3 products.  Dr. Geiger reported that the Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is experimenting with owl boxes.  The Recreation and Park Department has tried raptor perches at various times in the past but they don’t have an active program at this time. The problem is that it is hard to link raptor perches with population of rats in order to determine whether it is really effective and there is no data that makes a connection.  SFPUC is working on this effort and trying to figure out ways to monitor its effectiveness.   Commissioner Martin recommended that the IPM program research this alternative to chemical use.  Dr. Geiger reported that the list does not contain non-chemical products, but that the recommendation could be added to educational materials. As a program to start in the parks, it would be a good idea, but indicated there would be labor requirements involved in this effort and a grant could be sought after if necessary. Commissioner Martin stated that there are raptor groups that may be interested and it could become a special project.  Dr. Geiger stated that he would contact a couple of groups to see if they are interested.

 

Commissioner Wald asked if there are activities underway to make this information available to other places and jurisdictions.  Dr. Geiger stated that the list is location specific so is not being promoted to other jurisdictions; however, the whole program is being promoted.  Dr. Geiger reported that he would be holding a lecture in two weeks at the National IPM Symposium in Portland and also holds smaller lectures around the Bay Area.  An effort is also being made to upgrade the web presence for this program and make it more usable.  One idea from a hearing was to include an outreach component to the annual public hearing on the pesticide list, which would feature a case study instead of just a hearing.  Acting Director Assmann reported that Green Cities California is developing a Best Practices website for other cities to use and suggested that IPM be submitted as a best practice that could be used as an example for development in a specific jurisdiction.  Dr. Geiger stated that the LEED Green Building Standards is another good avenue.  It was reported that one of the projects being worked on is to pull together resource and pest prevention methods that could be incorporated into technical reference manuals.

 

Commissioner Wald inquired how the exemption process works and if there is a role for the public in that process.  Dr. Geiger reported that traditionally there has not been a role for the public before the exemption is issued because of the timeframes and logistical aspects of these exemptions.  The department requesting the exemption has to know very soon whether it is granted.  The process involves submitting an application by the department staff member, review by Dr. Geiger, and then a discussion is held with consultants and/or the department where the pest management is involved.  Sometimes a meeting is organized or sometimes it is people asking to use a different formulation of the same pesticide or to use the least hazardous product experimentally.  It is either granted or not.  If granted, a special time limit is issued, which is never for more than a year. At the end of the year, anyone granted an exemption would have to justify the use of the product at a public hearing. 

 

Acting Director Assmann inquired as to how many exemptions are received and granted.  Dr. Geiger reported that approximately 10 or 12 a year have been received and about half may be granted.  Commissioner Wald inquired whether it is usually the same people making the requests.  Dr. Geiger reported that most requests are received from the golf courses.  Departments have the ability to do something on their own under the ordinance if there is a public health or other emergency, but a report must still be made to the IPM program and at the public hearing.  Dr. Geiger reported that changing the cosmetic requirements during the tournaments would allow for major reductions in pesticide use.  Vice-President Gravanis recommended a Policy Committee future discussion on possible methods to change cosmetic requirements when it affects environmental well being.  Commissioner Martin inquired if there could be an educational opportunity around this effort.   Dr. Geiger stated that organizing a green golf tournament would be a possibility.  There was a big green golf event on World Environment Day, but the tournament itself did not come through for funding reasons.  It was suggested that a famous golfer be enlisted to participate. Commissioner Martin recommended creating a green rating certification process for golf courses.  Dr. Geiger also discussed education efforts to train the golfers to use colored golf balls.

 

Public Comment:  Mr. Brent Plater, Lecturer, San Francisco State Environmental Studies Program, thanked the IPM program staff for all their hard work and for the opportunity to comment on the list.  Mr. Plater stated that he is a member of the Golf Course Task Force and is working on a project to restore Sharp Park to its natural state in part because there are two endangered species there, one of which is the San Francisco garter snake.  A recommendation was made to take dicamba off the list and to facilitate public involvement in the exemption process.  Mr. Plater reported that there is an injunction against applying a suite of pesticides at Sharp Park and other places around the state because of its impact on the frog.  There has been recent data issued since 2006 that dicamba impacts endangered species, mammals and birds in particular, and this development could be incorporated into a discussion about whether or not an exemption should apply.

 

Ms. Lurilla Harris stated that she would like to see Roundup removed from the list because it has a bad effect on all wildlife.  Ms. Harris reported on her request several years ago to the Department of Public Works (DPW) to supply her with a product that would get rid of the fennel which was taking over near an area where she lives, and they brought her Roundup.  It was explained that up to then, there were garter snakes, salamanders, mealy bugs, snails, spiders and other small wildlife in the area, but after Roundup was used, that was not the case, and the fennel was not bothered and returned the next year.  Ms. Harris stated that there are no snails left, that there are only a few salamanders, no garter snakes, and there is concern for what the birds are eating.  

 

Unidentified Speaker discussed a concept called Brown Fairways which he stated is a better environmental approach to the cosmetics of golf courses and improves the performance of golfers.  

 

Commissioner Martin discussed the two categories of exemptions, emergency and non-emergency and suggested crafting language for what constitutes an emergency exemption.  Dr. Geiger explained that for all exemptions granted alternatives for that purpose are compared.  Commissioner Martin discussed alternatives that include taking out the infected area and re-turfing as an alternative to using the product.  Dr. Geiger indicated that the economics of this type of labor may influence the decision to use the product or not.  Acting Director Assmann recommended having hearings to discuss the problems and solutions.  Commissioner Wald inquired whether the Golf Course Task Force discusses these issues at their hearings.  Acting Director Assmann recommended scheduling a joint hearing. 

 

Vice-President Gravanis stated that because the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) states that dicamba has the potential for risks to endangered terrestrial animals and plants and Sharp Park is one of the only golf courses where we know we have endangered species that could be impacted, it was recommended that a prohibition be added to the list against using this product at Sharp Park or any other place where endangered species are discovered.  It was suggested that a future discussion be held at the Policy Committee on changing the exemption process to be more of an open process or for a one time public hearing to be implemented. 

 

Upon Motion by Commissioner Wald and second by Commissioner Martin, Resolution No. 001-09-COE was approved with an amendment to the list to prohibit the use of dicamba at Sharp Park and other areas should endangered species be discovered there.  (AYES:  Vice-President Gravanis, Commissioners Martin, Tuchow and Wald; Absent:  President Pelosi Jr., Commissioners King and Rodriguez Heyman) (Explanatory Document:  Resolution No. 001-09-COE and Revised Reduced Risk Pesticides List)

 

5.   Hearing on Marin County Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure, and the Effects of Partially Treated Wastewater Spillage on the Bay Ecosystem. (Explanatory Document:  Commissioner Pelosi Jr.’s Statement, “Cleaning Up Our Bay, A Regional Problem” Sponsor:  Commission President Paul Pelosi Jr. (Informational Presentation and Discussion)

 

This agenda item was tabled.

.

6.   Update on Lights-Out San Francisco and Coordination with the Earth Hour Project. Sponsor: Commissioner Martin; Staff Speaker:  Acting Director David Assmann (Informational Report and Discussion)

 

Acting Director Assmann reported on three inter-related projects that are going on at this time (1) the Earth Hour (the one hour turn off the lights on March 28th which expanded into a full day of activities); (2) the second is a benchmarking project for commercial buildings to try to get them to reduce lighting and to benchmark their energy use; and (3) Lights Out SF which is the concept of targeting the top 44 buildings in San Francisco so that they turn their lights off to stop damage to migrating birds.  Commissioner Martin inquired about the LED streetlights project.  Acting Director Assmann reported that there is a small SFPUC pilot being implemented on LED streetlights which has not moved beyond the pilot stage.  The other issue is the generic light pollution that exists primarily because of streetlights and other lights having most of their light go into the atmosphere and not accomplishing its intended purpose and being inefficient at the same time. It was explained that LED streetlights that are directional are a positive alternative because they use less energy, are more directed so you don’t have the light pollution, and you use less energy at the same time. 

 

Acting Director Assmann reported that the Earth Hour project encompasses a one hour/one day event in March to be held on an annual basis; benchmarking commercial buildings is meant to be a one-year project, and Lights Out SF is meant to be an ongoing project.  Acting Director Assmann reported that work is being done with PG&E on Lights Out SF and to a lesser extent with the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA).  An effort is being made to target the 44 tallest buildings and getting BOMA to sign a pledge that they will turn their lights out, and energy efficiency assistance is being offered at the same time.  After the one-year evaluation process of the 44 buildings, another set of buildings can be considered.  It was explained that the 44 tallest buildings would have the biggest impact on migrating birds.  Efforts are now underway to start identifying the facility managers and energy efficiency responsibilities, whether it is PG&E or our staff for those buildings.  Audubon has initiated a volunteer effort where people are now going out and walking around those buildings at 5:00 in the morning to see how many birds are killed in order to evaluate the problem.  The next stage would be to start contacting the building managers which will happen before the end of the month.    

 

Commissioner Tuchow left the meeting at this time (6:10 p.m.) and quorum was lost.  The meeting adjourned due to a loss of quorum. 

 

Agenda Items 7 -9 were not heard as part of the meeting proceedings due to a loss of quorum.

 

7.   Announcements. (Discussion). 

 

8.   New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion). 

 

9.   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.

 

10.  Adjournment.  The Commission on the Environment meeting adjourned at 6:10 p.m. due to a loss of quorum.

 

** 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 meeting website with each agenda or meeting minutes at https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/environment-commission; and (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709, or  via e-mail at Monica.Fish@sfgov.org.

 

Respectfully submitted by,

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709

FAX: (415) 554-6393

 

*Approved: March 24, 2009

 

 

 

 

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