06.09 Approved Minutes

 

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT

SPECIAL RETREAT MEETING APPROVED MINUTES

THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2011, 10:00 A.M.

WAR MEMORIAL, 401 VAN NESS AVENUE, THIRD FLOOR, ROOM 308

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94102

 

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

 

ORDER OF BUSINESS

 

Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Commission on the Environment Retreat convened at 10:15 a.m.  Present:  Commissioners Tuchow, Gravanis, King (10:50), and Wald. Excused: Commissioners Mok, Prakash and Stephenson.

 

Public Communication and Engagement Presentation.  Speakers:  Melanie Nutter, Director, Mark Westlund, Public Outreach Manager, Thea Hillman, Communications Manager, Deanna Simon, Outreach Specialist, Friday Apaliski, Outreach Coordinator, Sushma Bhatia, Toxics Reduction Green Business Program  (Explanatory Documents:  Community InSight Campaign and Outreach Presentations, Outreach Tracking, and Online Campaign Tracking Comparison) (Informational Presentation and Discussion)

 

Public Communication Metrics and Reporting. (Discussion)

 

Commission President Tuchow welcomed staff, Commissioners, and members of the public to the retreat.  He announced that the purpose of the retreat is to review the Department’s activities and initiatives focused on the topic of communications.  It is important that the Department of the Environment publicize the value of the Department’s work and communicate effectively with different stakeholders that may include the public, City government, other municipalities and governments at the state and county level. There are also other stakeholders that are important for the Department to communicate with. The retreat today will discuss several of the initiatives that the Department is focused on.  Another aspect of communication is to consider what is being communicated and how it is being communicated.  A discussion will be held about the importance of metrics and determining key performance indicators.  How should the Department evaluate its success and its progress towards its goals?  How should the Department report to not only City government, but to people in general about those metrics or key performance indicators? 

 

Director Nutter announced that the focus of the discussion today is to present to staff and Commissioners case studies of the Department’s successful activities, initiatives, and campaigns centered on outreach and communications.  There will be a brainstorming session to discuss missed opportunities, identify audiences that are not currently being communicated effectively, and discuss different messages that could be used on certain programs. The retreat will be a working session between staff and the Commission to identify what is working for the Department as it relates to communications and outreach, and what else could be accomplished in the future.  The Department has so many great programs and is so successful in doing environmental work.  We want to make sure that the Department’s successes and programs are communicated to the world and inform people how they can participate in Department programs.

 

Staff, Commissioners, and members of the public introduced themselves and staff members described the program areas they work in. 

 

Community Insight Campaign.  (Explanatory Document:  Community InSight Presentation) Director Nutter reported that the Community Insight project is a Department-wide campaign that was launched on Earth Day. The first goal of the campaign is to establish meaningful engaged dialogue with the public and share ways for them to participate in Department programs. The Department does a lot of outreach and communication, but there is not always an opportunity for a two-way exchange to consider what the public is thinking, what is working and not working for them.  A secondary goal is to outreach cross-departmentally about the Department’s programs and goals. There have been a number of benefits achieved from the Community InSight campaign that Ms. Hillman will elaborate on as well as discuss where the campaign is today and next steps.

 

Ms. Hillman reported that the Community Insight project is a community engagement project led by the Department of the Environment and was the idea of Director Nutter.  The core group of staff working on this project includes the Outreach and Volunteer teams, EnvironmentNow, Ms. Shawn Rosenmoss, Mr. Kevin Drew, Ms. Alexa Kielty, and Ms. Calla Ostrander.  Presentation topics include:

 

  • The single essential message for this project is “Share Your Ideas, We’re Listening!” The three main questions that are being asked in a variety of ways and at different venues to engage people (Slide 2).
  • Tools and Distribution Methods to reach San Franciscans in order to create real dialogue between our Department, volunteers, staff and people being talked to (Slide 3).
  • Participation at Earth Day—video conversations and ideas for communications website Ideas4SF.org. (Slide 4).
  • Ideas4SF.org:  Online Discussion Forum for dialogue with the public.  Number of ideas and votes placed on website to date (Slide 5).
  • Metrics to be utilized for connecting with people (Slide 6).
  • Working our Networks – who networks are, how to better collaborate with them and with each other (Slide 7).  Commissioners, staff, and Mr. David Pilpel, member of the public, shared their networks.
  • Chinatown NGO, Small Business, Mission, Gardening, Board of Supervisors, Library, CHP/Glide, Student Group, City Employees, and Surfrider Collaborations and staff assigned to collaborations (Slides 8 – 17).
  • We need to Network.  Commissioner input into events and activities to partner with and discussion of Commissioners as conduit for sustainability and environmental issues that mayoral candidates are hearing from the public (Slide 18). 

Mr. Westlund reported that the Community InSight Campaign allows the Department to share ideas for activities outside of its jurisdiction with other City departments. For example, the most popular ideas so far have been on transportation.  It enables the Department to go to the Municipal Transportation Authority and other departments to engage in this topic and discuss how to respond.    

 

Commissioner Tuchow inquired if the goal of sharing networks would be to find people to communicate about the Department’s work or to surface ideas.  He stated that there will be different audiences depending on what the goal is.  Ms. Hillman reported that a lot of the Department’s business is to educate people about what the Department does, and how they can take part in our programs in as creative and engaging way as possible.  It oftentimes means creating venues or going to venues where people are talking and creating dialogue.  We want to make sure that we are having substantive conversations that may or may not be related to a typical environmental issue.  The goal is to identify how to connect with people that can support Department programs. How do we tap into people that don’t necessarily consider themselves as environmentalists, but have something to gain from participating in our Department? 

 

Commissioner Tuchow asked if the key elements of this campaign are to engage people who are not politically active and are not environmentalists or to generate ideas from those who are already sold on this cause.  He asked what approach would be taken to reach people who are not politically engaged and sell the value of these ideas to them. Director Nutter stated that one of the overarching goals, which is part of the “Government 2.0” movement, is about engaging with members of the public and getting government to listen.  It is less about a City government that will tell you what to do without any interaction and more about accessibility to government.  This approach has established a positive connection that has been seen by people serving the community.  The response has been “you are a City agency that is listening to us and will be creating City programs around my concern and my neighborhood.” 

 

Director Nutter stated that the second overarching goal is for the Department to create dialogue and play a leadership role with the upcoming new administration about its vision for San Francisco’s environment and sustainability. The third overarching goal is to speak with people who consider themselves as environmentalists and identify how to bring in new voices, new organizations, and new entities to work with and talk about sustainability and the environment possibly through a different lens.  Example: there is a connection between disaster preparedness, adaptation and sustainability issues, and there is a constituency of folks who consider disaster preparedness as their number one concern.  We can connect with these people on the issues of sustainability as it relates to disaster preparedness and broaden our network of people who are working on sustainability. These are the overarching goals, and there are other tangible goals and benefits that will result.

 

Commissioner Wald stated that we do need to reach out and connect to people who we are not now connecting to, and it is important that the residents of San Francisco understand what we are doing and how we can help them. She spoke in support of the program overall, but stated that it is too general, that it has to be to some end.  For example in her work, it would be to change public policy on a given issue.  She realizes that might not be appropriate here, but it is not enough to say that we want people to believe that the city of San Francisco government is listening to us.  It has to be listening to us about what, about how?  What does listening to us mean?  Are we really going to create programs based on what people tell us?  How many?  What kind of programs?  What kind of process?  To what end is all of this effort? 

 

Director Nutter explained that the outcome from other cities that have participated in similar programs has been to create a document delivered to the administration that reports on the public’s views of sustainability policies and programs.  The outcome for the Department could be to update the 1996 Sustainability Plan, create a document on the public’s views of policies and programs, and consider delivering an update on San Francisco’s sustainability vision and constituent views to the new administration that could lead to new policies and programs.  A decision has not been made to say what is being committed to because the outcome is not known at this point.   Commissioner Wald inquired how it is possible to design something without thinking about what the outcome is going to be because it may not produce the outcome that you want.  Director Nutter stated that this is being considered and is part of the discussion today.

 

Commissioner Gravanis discussed the importance of monitoring the Ideas4SF website for quality assurance.  She asked if the Department would respond to the less informed ideas that go up on the website in a way to raise people’s level of awareness before a bad idea starts to get a lot of attention.  She expressed her concern that this type of information would get perpetuated instead of it being an opportunity to educate people. She asked if the Department would pursue ideas that may be popular but not good ideas.

 

Ms. Apaliski reported that the website is in its pilot stage and has been upgraded and changed several times over the past six months in order for it to work at its best capacity. Part of that upgrade has been to discuss how to implement a response plan. This site allows for an official response to be issued as an administrator so it is officially from the Department.  Responses have currently been sent to some of the more popular ideas.  Every week ideas are reviewed, and the Outreach team reaches out to program staff about ideas they can respond to.  There is an opportunity to acknowledge good ideas and respond with what the current status is. There will be categories of ideas that are completed, ideas that are planned, and in process.  Anybody who has interaction with a particular idea will be e-mailed a response so that they don’t have to come back to the site to check the status. We want to make sure we are responding with a complete answer and responding with something meaningful. 

 

Commissioner Gravanis suggested that more thought be put into a response before it is sent out. She urged moderating the website more in order to ensure that messages that are counter-productive to the mission of the Department to make San Francisco’s environment better be taken down, that spelling errors be corrected, and responses that may make someone feel foolish in a public venue not be issued. She stated that she also shares Commissioner Wald’s concerns about establishing ultimate goals. 

 

Commissioner King stated that he dislikes a world where everything has to be perfect.  People should have the freedom to share their views in person and in this type of venue.  There should be a place where this type of information can be discerned and responded to. 
 

Commissioner Wald stated that it is important to establish and communicate the rules of the operation to the public in order to manage expectations. The public should be told if the site will not be moderated or responded to if that is the case.  Ms. Apaliski stated that when we say we are listening, it doesn’t suggest we have an answer right away. The right balance has to be struck.  Commissioner Wald stated that people should be informed about when they could expect a response so they are not angry with the Department if they don’t hear back right away.  Ms. Hillman stated that she shares these concerns, but does not want to promise things that can’t be delivered because it would reinforce a negative perception of a City department creating expectations that cannot be met.  The objective is to invite people into a discussion forum to interact, and the Department will interact when it can. We found overall with this project that one of the goals is for staff and volunteers to have in-depth meaningful conversations at events and meetings where real ideas are being exchanged.  Confidence is being built in our Department, in our programs, and in the City as an entity that cares about people. It is hoped that process will lead to an end.

 

Director Nutter stated that an action item resulting from the discussion today would be to determine how to communicate expectations. Consideration has been given to sending an auto reply to each person that posts an idea to state what action will be taken. We have been trying to strike a balance about not over-promising, over-committing, and managing expectations.  The site does not say what the end product will be because we want to think that through. Commission input about managing expectations is helpful and will be discussed at future Community InSight meetings.

 

Ms. Hillman discussed the plan to issue an open letter in the fall to all mayoral candidates asking them to post ideas on the Ideas4SF site and/or respond to people’s ideas, vote on them, and take part in this conversation. From those ideas, a report would be posted back to the public on all of the ideas collected, what responses from mayoral candidates tell us, and what we want to tell our next mayor.

 

Commissioner Tuchow stated that a City entity should not be endorsing the views of any particular political candidate.  The City Attorney should be consulted about hosting a forum for candidates and whether that would be viewed as a neutral position or not.  There may be an issue with posting some candidate’s views and not others.

 

Commissioner King stated that it would not be appropriate for a City department to host this type of forum.  It should be in the purview of outside environmental agencies to do, not a City department. A discussion can be held internally about issues that the Department supports. The Department could issue a statement saying what may be important for the next mayor to consider, but asking for feedback on the viewpoints of mayoral candidates is inappropriate.

 

Public Comment:  Mr. Pilpel suggested referring the public to existing reports and communication vehicles that may help answer their inquiries, e.g., the Annual Report.  He urged the Department to direct comments made about other department activities to those departments.  Since the outreach effort is using Impound Fund money, it should be more focused on zero waste and toxics reduction with other issues as time permits.  The campaign should not be a try to fix everything project.  

 

Ms. Hillman asked for feedback about what type of events the Department could be hosting in order to connect to people that do not consider themselves as environmentalists and may not know about the Department.  She discussed the possibility of hosting a potluck at a particular location, offering an incentive, and holding discussions about an environmental issue. Commissioner King spoke in support of this type of activity and messaging.

 

Mr. Westlund stated that the Outreach team employs a combination of public relations, community-based social marketing, traditional and guerilla advertising, and grassroots outreach to advance Departmental goals. The Outreach team works in partnership with community groups, the recycling company Recology, as well as other City departments and regional agencies to ensure our diverse communities are aware of and participating in the Department’s programs. The team works closely with EnvironmentNow and that team’s outreach workers, and with volunteer/intern coordinators.  Today’s presentation will provide a snapshot of the exemplary campaigns that are worked on, audiences we talk to, what communities we are reaching, what methods we’re using, how we’re measuring what we do, and what the results are.  It is not inclusive of all projects, but selected to provide an idea of the breadth of audiences, methods, and measurement types.

 

Commercial and Residential Zero Waste, EnvironmentNow! Outreach Program.  (Outreach Presentation) Ms. Simon presented on the Commercial and Residential Zero Waste, EnvironmentNow! Outreach Programs’ achievements, outcomes, and challenges. On the commercial program, she discussed the objective and methodology to support San Francisco businesses to be in compliance with the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance.  Targets are San Francisco businesses that do not compost or recycle and restaurants that do not compost but do recycle.  The team partners closely with Recology who provides a list of resistant customers that are worked with.  Ms. Simon discussed communities/ethnicities reached; neighborhoods/districts served, material costs, metrics of how many businesses are compliant, results to date, successes and challenges (Slide 2). 

 

Ms. Simon reported that the objective and methodology for the Residential Zero Waste EnvironmentNow! Program is outreach to residents to introduce the use of the green bin for composting, increase the use of the blue bin, and address plastic bag contamination in both bins.  She discussed program partners, communities/ethnicities reached/neighborhood/districts served, material costs, metrics, and results by districts served (Slide 3).

 

Commissioner Tuchow inquired about which pool was targeted, how effective the team has been in reaching that pool, and what approach was used.  What were the successes and challenges?  Ms. Simon stated that the first pool was to target all businesses in the Bayview neighborhood without recycling and composting service.  Now there is a focus on restaurants that have recycling but not composting.  The restaurants are on board, are interested in the program, but do not know what the benefits are to them.  Commissioner Tuchow stated that it sounds like a great program that is achieving success in converting businesses to composting that have not done so before.  Could the program be achieving more with more people?  Ms. Simon stated that they would like to increase the scale of the program, but there are not enough people to do so.  It would achieve more with more people assigned to the program. 

 

Commissioner Wald inquired about the overall goal of the program. Example, if there are a hundred businesses in the Bayview neighborhood that were not doing trash pickup, and there are two people assigned to reach 75% of those businesses by a certain period of time.  In order to determine how successful the program is, you could ask, did you reach that many people? The context would help show people exactly how successful this program is given the limited resources that you have and will help build support for expanding it. 

 

Ms. Simon reported that five people have visited approximately 250 businesses in the Bayview neighborhood that were on the list of businesses that did not have this service, most of which are now compliant. Some had follow-up visits and had to enter the enforcement process. The goal was reached and then another area was targeted. There are 200 restaurants that the team will be visiting that have been identified as those in a certain area that have language needs and don’t have composting.  We are about 2/5 of the way through the process. These businesses are visited anywhere from 2-4 times to make sure they are doing it right, staff are trained, and then there is a follow-up visit. The goal is compliant businesses.  Director Nutter explained that we have one goal which is the outreach goal to visit all of the businesses and a programmatic goal to convert all of them.  If there are 250 businesses to convert, and if our goal is to convert 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%, where are we in reaching our goal?

 

Commissioner Tuchow asked how many EnvironmentNow staff would be required to expand the program to scale. Ms. Simon suggested expanding the number of staff to 10-12 people that could move through the city quickly. 

 

Public Comment:  Mr. Pilpel suggested working in coordination with the Public Utilities Commission who is working with restaurants on implementing its Fats Oil and Grease Ordinance.  Ms. Simon explained that staff is coordinating between its own programs, but not yet working with a range of other City departments on this effort.

 

Commissioner Tuchow inquired what metrics drive the residential program and would lead to assumptions about achieving our goal of zero waste. In addition to interaction with people, what are some of the bigger goals?  Mr. Robert Haley, Zero Waste Program Manager, explained that there is more potential for diversion from the commercial sector.  Overall approximately two-thirds of generation and potential diversion is commercial.

 

Commissioner Wald inquired, given that so much diversion is from the commercial sector, if it would make sense to take some of the resources away from residential and apply it to commercial and then when more savings are achieved, put it back to residential.   Mr. Haley explained that the Zero Waste program staff and Recology are focused on and suited to do large commercial work and EnvironmentNow staff can assist with residential and some small businesses.  Commissioner Tuchow stated that the program is doing good work but doubts that people in the city know what we are doing and its value.  Is there a way to communicate in a focused manner what our goal is, how the Department’s efforts are helping this goal, and how personal behavior effects how goals can be reached? 

 

Commissioner King stated that it is important to make the economical argument that not only is this good for the planet, but it will save people money to engage in these types of behaviors.  The messages should not be punitive and should be communicated so that people believe it is in their best interest to partake in these programs.

 

Commissioner Gravanis stated that there is a clear nexus between these two programs, our activities, immediate objectives, long-term environmental goals and the funding source, which is the Impound Account. Members of the public have challenged how Impound Account funds have been used in the past.  The information to justify how that money is spent is included here and should be publicized sooner than later. There is an additional benefit from the residential program in that once people learn to recycle on their own, they carry that knowledge with them to the public, events they attend, and education on this activity multiplies.

 

Residential Energy Efficiency Home Improvement Performance Program (SFHIP) Campaign.  (Outreach Presentation) Ms. Apaliski reported that the objective of the campaign is to reduce the City’s carbon footprint in residential housing which accounts for 22% of the city’s carbon footprint.  The Objective is to create a market for home performance (demand) in order to increase home value from energy efficiency, improve health and comfort, and build awareness of the concept of how to make home performance more energy-efficient.  She discussed program objectives to train and increase the contractor work force, the goal to upgrade 300-400 homes by June of next year, and rebates offered based on energy savings.  She reported that the target audience includes homeowners of single family or 2-4 unit buildings.  A discussion was held on audience segments, outreach to increase participation in the program, and program metrics. (Outreach Presentation Slides 4-5.)

 

Residential Toxics Reduction Shade Tree Mechanics Program.  (Outreach Presentation) Ms. Hillman on behalf of the Residential Toxics Reduction program presented on the Shade Tree Mechanics program objectives to target Shade Tree Mechanics (STM) and Do It Yourselfers to increase automotive oil and filter recycling.  Shade tree mechanics are mechanics that do automotive work for family, friends, neighbors, and others without a permit or shop and work in their homes or sidewalks to change oil.  They store large amounts in their homes and often dispose of it improperly. She discussed outreach methods and partners, communities/ethnicities that are reached, their fears, incentives, costs, barriers, successes, metrics, and challenges to establishing metrics for this type of program. Ms. Knowles discussed the importance of relationship-building, the social walk-through technique that is used to reach STM’s, and provided additional information on the program.  She recognized EnvironmentNow!, program staff, and partners that have been instrumental to the success of the program (Slides 6-8).

 

Commissioner Tuchow asked if the conversations held with mechanics can provide a sense of metrics.  Ms. Knowles stated that because the metrics rely on self-reporting, the numbers are not exact.  Ms. Hillman stated that metrics appear to be reasonable and not inflated and can be translated into gallons and quarts. Commissioner Wald inquired if the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) tests for these products in the water before it is treated and could possibly shed light on what is coming down the drain.  Ms. Knowles stated that would be a good question to engage in dialogue with the SFPUC about.  Mr. Schwartz, Department staff, suggested that conversations be held with mechanics about acquiring permits.

 

Commercial Toxics Reduction Program—Greening the Dry Cleaning Business. (Outreach Presentation) Mr. Westlund reported that the Bay Area Air District and state regulations mandated that dry cleaners move from perchloroethylene, a toxic chemical for dry cleaning to another less polluting technology, e.g., hydrocarbon based or wet cleaning. There was a cultural interest to stay with the hydrocarbon base because it was the closest chemical they were used to using.  The Department was asked to start an advertising campaign targeting the public to influence people to complain about the product to their dry cleaners and to ask them to switch to wet cleaning.  The Outreach team suggested targeting dry cleaners instead of the general public and worked with an outreach firm to visit those dry cleaners that were in the process of making that decision.

 

Ms. Bhatia discussed her work with the outreach team to achieve the goal of converting dry cleaners to wet cleaning. She discussed outreach methods, program staff approach with businesses, training provided to businesses, communities/ethnicities reached, rebate incentives, costs, successes, challenges, and metrics.  Ms. Bhatia reported that there are about 300 cleaners in San Francisco, 120 of which are dry cleaning shops that have dry cleaning machines that use toxic solvents on site.  It was explained that every dry cleaning solvent has a different impact on the health and environment and referred to a chart that discusses comparison of hazards, regulatory concerns, and costs for alternative dry cleaning technology (Slide 10). (Presentation Slides 9-13)

 

Ms. Hillman reported that Department programs reach other communities and neighborhoods and include federal housing projects, the recent immigrant community, and lower income apartment dwellers and home owners.  She distributed two metrics documents, one of which is program-wide metrics and the other an on-line advertising campaign document that is used to build capacity amongst the team.

 

Commissioner Tuchow inquired about the overarching goals of the Toxics Reduction Shade Tree Mechanics and Greening the Dry Cleaning Business programs and how these programs fit into the Department’s overall goals.  For example, the overarching goal of the Zero Waste program is zero waste.  Ms. Bhatia and Ms. Knowles provided information on this inquiry.  Deputy Director Assmann explained that the overarching goal of the Toxics Reduction program is human health.    

 

Public Communication and Engagement Input and Brainstorming Session. (Discussion)  

 

Commissioner Tuchow stated that there should be a communications focus in each program area, a clear target audience, the ability to convey a message to the audience, and to receive input from the audience. The programming discussions today focused on specific industries and the Community InSight campaign. The idea is that there needs to be a dialogue, an understanding, and a vehicle for the public to communicate with the Department, and that Community InSight can be incorporated into each Department program area. They go hand in hand.  He asked about the connectivity of the campaign to all Department programs.  Director Nutter stated that the campaign is a good way to connect all programs.  She stated that she communicates the Department’s mission to protect the urban environment, promote social equity, and build the green economy in her discussions about the Department’s unifying goals before discussing programmatic goals. Deputy Director Assmann stated that the Department’s overarching program goals all have a climate change element with the exception of toxics reduction which is human health related.  Our challenge is to quantify and set up steps in each area that fits into those two umbrellas. 

 

Budgeting for the Community Insight Project.  Deputy Director Assmann reported that expenditures for work in this area are allocated proportionately within each area depending on work performed and revenue received. Mr. Westlund reported that the campaign is generally inexpensive because of a City-based website contribution and volunteer time at events. Director Nutter reported that since there is staff participation from each program, funding is sourced from each program area.

 

Staff Discussions.  Staff and Commissioners presented their ideas about key elements surrounding messaging. Topics included conveying a sense of urgency about Department programs; identifying different profiles of people and what they care about; crafting messages for certain audiences (targeted outreach); directing people to more information (documents, reports, fact sheets); utilizing message media (web, whole group, events, handouts); conveying the Department’s overarching goal on human and planetary health; selecting annual discussion themes; Strategic Plan role in messaging; avoid scare/alarmist tactics; identifying how the theme of economics and jobs fits into program work; working with networks and structures; building trust and ability to deal with emerging issues; sharing ideas, resources, stories and information; the importance of making friends in influencing and educating others; outreach through existing networks, businesses, religious and neighborhood organizations; establishing advocates for the Department’s messages; relaying optimistic messages; establishing meaningful relationships; finding areas for interaction; providing clarity; listening to opinions and providing realistic feedback on Department’s goals; communicate more internally; provide context to the community on the Community InSight website; and setting and providing policy ideas to Commissioners to help do our jobs. 


Public Comment:  Mr. Pilpel stated that a consumer-based culture has been created; e.g. on recycling, because it is easy to make purchases and throw it into the blue recycling bin later.  We should challenge ourselves and others to accept less, be somewhat constrained, and make conscious choices for the planet and for ourselves.  It is important that for each program area, people are made aware that the Department is there to help them make better choices.

 

Commissioner King discussed the importance of environmental and health issues to the Bayview community.  He suggested not using scare tactics to influence people to take action and pointed out that advertising oftentimes exaggerates an issue to make an impact.  The economic impact of programs should be promoted. Identify effective methods of communication with people of different cultures and education levels and those who do not consider these issues to be important and make it relevant to them.  Comparisons should be made that people can relate to in order to push the urgency of the message. Start a long-term campaign in schools so the next generation can more readily accept this mindset.

 

Commissioner Wald stated that it may not be possible to identify or send a message that works for everyone.  It is clear that Department program areas have a message that works for their particular audiences, but there is no such thing as your typical San Franciscan.  For conversations beyond specific program area audiences, it is important to set priorities, because you can’t talk to everybody about everything that we do.  People cannot absorb it.  We have to decide who we want to talk to and what we want to talk to them about without diminishing the importance or value about any of the other work we do.  We are a Department that does comprehensive programs and a lot of great work, and I am going to talk to you about two of our programs.  Talk to different neighborhoods in different ways.  You can’t be friends with everybody, so let your friends talk to their friends and so on.  Think about who the key people are in all of the ways we might define friends and who will carry the message to their friends, business acquaintances, customers, etc.  Identify advocates for messaging. That is a measurable goal that goes beyond establishing a relationship.  We want these people to do something and we need to decide what it is. 

 

Public Comment:  Mr. David Pilpel suggested that conversations with people include a message for them to ask a friend to make contact with the Department in order to continue the conversation. Connections can be made with people through other people, networks, the Green Business Program, BC3, and point-of-sale materials at non-traditional and traditional places.  When you influence people to believe something, more and more people will believe it.  You have to be aware of the cynicism people have of government.  He commended this Department and Commission for holding this type of meeting and having this type of collaborative discussion where people are listened and responded to. You are good people in trying to make this work, but the rest of the world operates differently and has varying expectations about how they are heard, how well programs work for them, and if programs are being measured effectively.  Building trust helps the city and sets a better standard.  Other departments should engage people in a similar way so they will know that government will help them when they have a problem. 

 

Director Nutter stated that this campaign is a different way of engaging the public and is a worthwhile effort to try.  She discussed the interest expressed by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors in this campaign.

 

Commissioner King stated that it is important to set expectations.  It is helpful for society to converse with various departments.  People may not always need a response and may just want to vent.  He discussed his concern that the Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance is not working as intended and that people are not bringing their reusable bags to the supermarket, which results in the use of a proliferation of paper bags.   

 

Deputy Director Assmann stated that there may be unintended consequences of various programs, and that efforts should not stop to improve policies once they are in place. This policy may have accomplished one thing, but created another problem, so now let’s fix that problem and work on it until it is solved.  Take it to the next step.  There are a lot of situations where there are tradeoffs; e.g., you are solving an energy efficiency issue in lighting at the expense of creating a toxics issue because there is mercury in lighting.  It is important to influence the Board of Supervisors to pass a more comprehensive bag policy similar to what other cities have.  Commissioner King suggested making canvas bags widely available to the public.  Ms. Fish suggested starting a collection of reusable paper bags at supermarkets and making them available for shoppers who do not bring their own.

 

Next Steps. (Discussion) 

 

Commissioner Tuchow thanked everyone for their great work and stated that there is more that can be done to challenge ourselves. There were discussions today about the urgency to do what we can, reach as many people as possible, and identify commonality between programs.  Telling a story is a lot easier if you have an overarching metric; e.g., reaching zero waste by x date.  The message can be that the work accomplished by the EnvironmentNow! program will help us achieve zero waste by two-percentage points, and without this program we would have to fill that gap.  It is important to identify how individual programs fit into the overall goal of the Department and identify short and longer-term campaigns, be opportunistic, and take advantage of opportunities and initiatives such as the dry cleaning initiative.  Discussions were held today, as Commissioner King mentioned, about engraining behaviors in our youth through education.  Commissioner Tuchow suggested that next steps could be to also interact with people outside of San Francisco and other communities, other stakeholders, e.g. other NGO’s.  He asked Commissioners and Staff for their ideas about next steps and whether they agree that these are things that should be collectively thought about.

 

Commissioner King stated that the Commission should form policy that will help the Department and Commission do its work and reach its goals.  It is also important for the Commission to educate themselves on policies that have been established and improve upon them.  He stated that he feels challenged by the wonderful work that staff is doing.

 

Commissioner Gravanis stated that the number one role of the Commission is to set policy for the Department.  Staff was asked to relay their policy ideas to the Director and the Commission whenever possible. There are unintended consequences and tradeoffs of policies.  Messages to the public about policies oftentimes give an unintended message that it is okay to buy more and recycle, why not waste food and buy more than you need, because you can throw it in the compost, or it is okay to buy more cars as long as we switch to electric vehicles without being aware of the consequences of electric vehicles.  It is important to anticipate problems that may come up.  She asked that as next steps, staff research whether there is such a thing as biodegradable plastic and hidden issues surrounding this product.   

 

Director Nutter stated that she has created an ongoing list of policy ideas that would help accomplish programmatic goals and suggested identifying the best time for staff and the Commission to review those ideas.  She asked staff to think about and continue providing their ideas.  She reported that the Strategic Plan is complete and ready for presentation at the all-staff meeting. Commissioner Tuchow suggested identifying Strategic Plan implementation metrics of times, dates, and milestones.  Staff discussed the importance of integrating the Department’s vision statement around sustainability, equity, and economic viability into communications and everything the Department does. 

 

Public Comment:  Mr. David Pilpel stated that even bad policy ideas could be a good place to start to sort things out.  

 

Commissioner Wald stated that today’s retreat discussion was extraordinary.  The conversation that was held is not a luxury, but is a conversation about the great work that the Department does. The Department has accomplished so much that it can talk about issues such as communicating, branding, and measuring.  We should all understand the importance of this discussion today and its significance to the good work that is being done.  The Commission and the Department is different than others and is growing and changing. 

 

Review the Commission’s Accomplishments and Discuss Policy Goals for 2011.     (Discussion)  This topic was not discussed at this time.

 

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. 

 

Ms. Pauli Ojea, EnvironmentNow announced that the Department is hosting a movie at its Eco Center next Thursday on Unnatural Causes, Is Inequality Making us Sick?  It is a documentary about the social factors that impact our health and natural resources, and what happens to culture and health when water resources are diverted from a community.  It takes place in Arizona in a Native American community. The Department of Public Health, Breast Cancer Action, and the Native American Health Center are scheduled to be in attendance. The topic ties in health and the environment.

 

Mr. Pilpel asked that Department staff prepare an objective analysis of the Yellow Pages Ordinance. 

 

Adjournment.  The Commission on the Environment Special Retreat Meeting adjourned at 2:05 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted by,

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709; FAX: (415) 554-6393

 
Approved:  July 26, 2011 
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