Working toward a Sustainable Future for San Francisco






Notes of General Meeting of Sustainable City Volunteers
On Implementing Sustainability in San Francisco
Setting Out Strategy for 1998 - 1999

November 18, 1998
Golden Gate University

Sustainable City’s leadership was extremely pleased to see 35 - 40 people come to a Thursday evening meeting near Thanksgiving to discuss how to move San Francisco to the next step of implementing sustainability. The organization results from the merger of Sustainable City and Sustainable San Francisco, and is now being led by Beryl Magilavy, recently director of the Department of the Environment for the City and County of San Francisco.

These notes are a combination of the discussion at that meeting and information on next steps to implement San Francisco’s sustainability plan. If you would like to join that effort, please contact us.

Sustainable City is organized to create change -- to achieve a sustainable future for San Francisco. Its work is currently divided into three primary work areas:


  1. Sustainability Plan Implementation: To encourage achievement of objectives of the Sustainability Plan for the City of San Francisco, enacted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in July, 1997; and subsequent community-based versions.

  2. Marketing Sustainability: To increase understanding and acceptance of sustainable policies and practices by local decision-makers and the general public in the Bay Area.

  3. Sustainable Development: To encourage sustainable development in San Francisco–- development that incorporates energy and water conservation; transit-oriented design; space accommodation for collection of recyclables; building materials and internal furnishings and fixtures that are made from recycled and reused products, are recyclable, and are low-toxic; and other features that will enhance the resource efficiency of the buildings and the health of their occupants.


Sustainability is providing for the needs and quality of life of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations and the natural world to provide for their own needs. It is in essence nothing more than responsible long-term planning. The City of San Francisco has historically been deficient in developing a broad vision that incorporates the three fundamental components of a successful city in the long term:
(1) maintenance of a healthy environment, (2) equitable, locally focused, nonpolluting economic growth and (3) social justice for all the city’s residents.

A collaborative community effort in 1996 created The Sustainability Plan for the City of San Francisco, which sets out a strategy for achieving sustainability. Nearly 350 people from city agencies, the environmental advocacy community, business, universities, and the general public participated in drafting the plan. The goals and objectives of the plan were adopted by city officials in 1997.

It has become clear that if the objectives in the sustainability plan are to be achieved, strong community advocacy is vital to augment the efforts of city agencies. Sustainable City (1) harnesses the volunteer efforts of the many San Franciscans who are concerned about their future and are willing to provide the ongoing research work and idea-marketing necessary to help the general public and decision-makers make positive decisions about the city’s future quality of life, and (2) provides ongoing focused public participation in the civic debate to increase understanding about and adoption of sustainable development concepts in new projects. Sustainable City provides a public focus in conjunction with government and business to address a broad sustainability agenda.


Generally, during the next two-year period, Sustainable City will focus on the following areas. Each work group will adopt its own strategy and time-frame under the general direction of Sustainable City’s board. The focus will be on visible work-product, rather than informational meetings. The whole organization will meet in mid-January to compare notes and finalize short-term strategies.

  • Sustainability Plan Implementation: the collection and analysis of information on sustainability plan implementation; production of issue papers to educate the public and policy-makers on the importance of specific actions, objectives and indicators of the plan; and liaison with the City Planning Department on incorporating the features of the sustainability plan into the general plan;

    Sustainable City will work closely with San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, Redefining Progress, a yet-unidentified organization representative of progressive businesses, and multiple city agencies in compiling and disseminating this information.

    This group is nearing completion of the research phase of an assessment of sustainability plan implementation to date by city agencies. Following the research phase, additional volunteers will be needed to analyze collected data and prepare the written report. Expected completion date: February, 1999.

    This working group is chaired by Donelle Gregory. Next meeting: Monday, December 14, 6:30 p.m. To participate, call her at 437-1899; e-mail

  • Marketing Sustainability: dissemination of the information outlined above, and information on sustainable planning generally, to San Francisco’s elected officials and the general public in San Francisco and the Bay Area (and via the Web, throughout the world).

    This work is divided into two sections. A general marketing committee is working on determining a print media strategy, discussing the possibility of collaborating on a new television show, and other projects.

    This working group is chaired by Kassie Wilner. Next meeting: Wednesday, December 16, 6:00 p.m. To participate, call her at 989-1446; e-mail

    There are also a number of people working specifically on the world-wide web, including establishing links with other sites, developing a central database of information, and incorporating an ongoing calendar listing on Sustainable City’s web-site:

    The web team is communicating via the sustainable-city-webteam e-mail forum (for which you can find info on the website). At that meeting they will be looking to see who has interest in:

  • Finding useful web resources to link to from our site;
  • Translating good print media articles into on-line articles for our site;
  • Coordinating development of our environmental/political events calendar;
  • Coordinating our on-line almanac of changes in our local natural environment;
  • Enriching our website with photos of San Francisco;
  • Helping with technical support tasks, such as installing "perl scripts" and developing web databases.

    This working group is chaired by Kevin Shrieve. Next meeting: Wednesday, December 2 at 7 p.m. To participate, e-mail him at

  • Sustainable Development: participation in the implementation of San Francisco’s sustainability plan and advocacy of sustainable development in San Francisco, in its broadest definition. Initially, this work will focus on "green building" in the city, specifically participation in drafting a green building ordinance for municipal buildings and discussions with the developers such as the Mission Bay development, the University of California expansion into the Mission Bay area, and Treasure Island.

    This working group is chaired by Beryl Magilavy. Next meeting: Tuesday, December 8, 4:00 p.m. To participate, call her at 552-7732; e-mail

  • Organizational Development: fund development, establishment of working committees, volunteer development, and other administrative activities to enable the organization to work from an adequate financial base, to enlarge the participation of volunteers and to enrich their experience, and to establish the organization as a credible player in civic discussion.

    This working group is chaired by Janet Jacobs. Next meeting: Monday, December 7, 7:15 p.m. To participate, call her at 282-3541; e-mail


    Sustainable City’s work relies on San Franciscans concerned about leaving a legacy for the future. We invite you to join our work, and ask for your financial support to broaden the effort. We are a virtual organization, without office overhead–every dollar received goes directly toward program costs. Please join us in working toward a future we can all participate in and be proud of.

    Checks should be sent to Post Office Box 430236, San Francisco, California 94146. Contributions are tax-deductible.