Q   U   A   R   T   E   R   L   Y

 Volume 2, Number 2

Summer 1998 

 Index of

 Director's Report: Sustainability Plan Anniversary
 Bringing Caltrain Downtown: A New Initiative
 SSF Board Member Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
 Biodiversity: The Other Side of Multicultural
 Twenty Year Transportation Plan Foresees Intense Congestion
 SSF's New Website and Community E-mail Forum
 What's Happening at the Department of the Environment


Director's Report: Sustainability Plan Anniversary

As the year turns we are offered many opportunities to review our situation, evaluate where we’ve been and think about where we want to go. Birthdays, anniversaries, new years, new moons, new seasons, all give us measuring points along our way. This summer marks the first anniversary of the city’s adoption of the Sustainability Plan for the City of San Francisco.

Last July the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution adopting the plan as a guideline for policy and practice. Sustainable San Francisco has spent this past year reminding San Francisco about this important direction in city policy and practice.

We’ve focussed our work during the past year in two areas: education and advocacy. Our educational efforts have taken us to various groups and organizations to talk about the sustainability plan. We’ve talked, for example, to groups as diverse as the San Francisco Beekeeping Association, the Bayview Hunters Point Project Area Committee, and Castro Area Planning and Action. We’ve participated in panel presentations for the Bay Area Environmental Forum, the League of California Cities, Business for Social Responsibility, and the University of Calgary.

On the advocacy front, we’ve cited objectives and actions from the sustainability plan in our positions in favor of the "Core Bicycle Network" proposal, passenger rail on the Bay Bridge, extending CalTrain to a downtown station, and restrictions on jet ski use. We’ve joined the Land Use and Transportation Coalition in addressing the need for transportation alternatives to the single-driver vehicle in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP); and Alliance for a Clean Waterfront, advocating environmentally sustainable development practices along the San Francisco waterfront. Our work with the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Development is helping lay the foundation for regional cooperation in adopting sustainable practices.

Internally, we’ve expanded our Steering Committee and now have representatives who are active in several areas covered in the plan: Biodiversity, Transportation, Hazardous Materials, and Municipal Expenditures. Additionally, Kevin Shrieve, a new Steering Committee member, and Donelle Gregory have taken our rather pedestrian website and transformed it into a sustainability resource center. Thanks to their work, SSF is now hosting a community e-mail forum (list-server), an open forum about local sustainability issues.

So where do we go from here? We’ll be concentrating more of our energy on our website and e-mail forum. We’ll continue to encourage sustainable development in the several projects on the table for the city, especially Mission Bay. We’ll invite new members to our Steering Committee and (hopefully) bring someone on board to help with that unrelenting need: fundraising. Any volunteers?

Do contact us. We’ve had a fruitful year and we look forward to the next one. We hope you’ll join us in our work to realize a sustainable San Francisco.


Bringing Caltrain Downtown

Written by Dave Masssen

Following Mayor Brown’s derailment last year of the project to extend Caltrain into downtown San Francisco, a coalition of environmental groups, including Sustainable San Francisco, is heading a campaign to write the extension into City law. While circulating petitions to qualify the measure for the 1999 ballot, the groups are simultaneously working to convince at least four Supervisors (the minimum needed) to put it before San Francisco voters this November.

If approved by a majority, the ordinance would make it City law to extend the Peninsula rail line from its present end at Fourth and Townsend to a regional, intermodal downtown transit station, preferably at the present Transbay Terminal site. It directs the Mayor, Board of Supervisors and all relevant city officers and agencies to take necessary actions to effect the extension, preserve the right-of-way identified in the already completed draft environmental report, pursue electrification of the line and develop needed funding. Financing the project as proposed in the ordinance would not affect San Franciscans’ taxes in any significant way.

Sustainable San Francisco decided to support the cam- paign because extending Caltrain downtown is a specific recommended action in the sustainability plan. Further, it was clear that the sometimes-maligned citizen initiative process would be the only way to move the project forward in the near future should the supervisors be unwilling to sponsor the measure.

Characterized as probably the single most important transportation project in the Bay Area from an environmental point of view, the convenient transit linkages it would provide would draw significantly more commuters and travelers from their autos. Other cities and towns in California are discovering the multiple benefits of central train stations and transit-oriented development and are even competing for new stations. While MUNI has opened the E-line street car to Fourth and Townsend, its cars cannot handle a Caltrain-load of passengers, and more riders would prefer to go all the way downtown without having to transfer.

A popular measure among San Francisco voters, the initiative easily obtained about half the needed signatures in its first two and one-half weeks of circulation. On the other hand, the Mayor’s opposition and clout at the Board of Supervisors causes concern about developing enough Board support for this year. As you read this, the August 5 deadline for Supervisors’ commitment is just upon us or has passed.

What You Can Do:
Call Susan Stephenson, volunteer coordinator for the campaign, at 415/648-2686 to offer your assistance. Your valuable help will be welcome in the final, easy signature-gathering phase or in outreach, fundraising, graphics, or other organizational aspects of the campaign.


SSF Board Member Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Denise D’Anne, Manager and founder of the Resource Conservation Program, received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Waste Reduction from Mayor Willie Brown. This is the first such award ever presented. Denise has long history of waste reduction efforts going back to 1973 while a clerk in the San Francisco Health Department. She has expanded on the concept of recycling to include every imaginable material that is either made ready for reuse, donated to charities, or recycled. She encourages reduced consumption as the answer to our ever increasing garbage problem and scarcity of resources.


Biodiversity: The Other Side of Multicultural

Written by David Graves, SSF Steering Commitee Member

I have an ecologist acquaintance who boldly displays on his desk the motto “Think Like a Species”. I often comment to myself “What a great idea for a bumper sticker!” The message being that we humans are not the center of the universe. That there’s a whole lot of other distinctive life forms (that’s where biodiversity comes in) out there on earth who require their own living space for survival.

Call it anthropocentrism, call it humanism. It’s all the same. For the last five thousand years or so of recorded history, beginning with an ancient Near Eastern tyrant called Gilgamesh who clear-cut the cedars of Lebanon to make a fortress of his city, we humans (once of the earth, as in humus) have pretty much exploited whatever we wanted from the earth without reciprocating. And that’s where biodiversity suffers.

Before this guy Gilgamesh came along, you see, nature pretty well took care of itself, spreading out its various, diverse life forms wherever a particular earthly niche---sea, air, desert, woodlands, and so on---presented itself. Evolution unfolded in this manner through billions of years, sometimes peacefully, as when sea-borne green algae gently washed ashore to first take root as land plant, sometimes violently, as when, according to one theory, dinosaurs starved to death when plant life died off for lack of sunlight due to the impact of a meteor.

But then biodiversity kicked in again when a distant relative of ours, a primate called a lemur, took advantage of the dinosaur’s absence and split off (leaving lemurs still) into monkeys, apes, and finally humans, which is where homo sapiens finds itself today as one of the latest examples of biodiversity. Except for one thing: other diverse life forms are experiencing increasing difficulty competing with the insatiable hunger of humans to expand their ever-growing living space.

Let’s look at a recent San Francisco Chronicle news feature, for example, to bring the lesson a bit closer to home. It’s Wednesday, which means, of course, there’s the ever popular weekly Chronicle section called Home: all about how we humans can spruce up our living space, this time by cultivating our own “exotic garden,” as if San Franciscans lived in a tropical rain forest. How wonderful! Why not bring an attractive plant species of planetary biodiversity into our own backyards (it’s like eco-tourism, but not having to go anywhere)? The trouble is that San Francisco isn’t part of a humid, moist tropical rainforest ecosystem. But not to worry! A simple twist of the wrist and water faucets provide life-giving moisture. But not, again, without biodiversity suffering somewhere else, whether it be California Central Valley agricultural crops wilting from water diversion or coho salmon unable to reach spawning grounds because of too shallow creeks.

And finally, there’s the small matter of seeds, nature’s way of perpetuating itself, wherever it takes root, in someone’s backyard garden or a Brazilian rainforest. Out where I live in the San Francisco Excelsior District, fierce, fog laden winds from the ocean commonly rake the landscape, carrying bits and pieces of whatever (including backyard garden seeds) to deposit finally atop McLaren Park, where a frail, struggling native plant community lives. The moisture contained in fog-laden wind aids the cause of newly introduced “exotic” rainforest plants, because San Francisco happens to have a climate---but not the same ecosystem---found in other parts of the world. Consequently, without companion animals brought along to inhibit growth, so-called “introduced” or “alien” seeds get a huge jump start, their seedlings often eventually crowding out native plants.

By now, dear reader, you might be tiring a bit of this romp through the complexities of biodiversity and saying to yourself: “So what does all this have to do with multicultural, as your title suggests?” Simply this: as much as we San Franciscans pride ourselves in supporting our city’s multiculturalism, with all its vibrant and diverse lifestyles, we fall seriously short in supporting equally the biodiversity of our San Francisco natural heritage, including plants and animals, with all its own vibrant and diverse lifestyles. And the kicker is: We can’t expect to survive very long as a species without a flourishing biodiversity, without, for example, a wide range of agricultural crops to adorn our dinner tables, the native plants adapted to the Franciscan peninsula for thousands of years, and the myriad of dependent animals feeding from and pollinating these plants.

Therefore, you see, it’s all connected, this thing we call life. Without biodiversity, there would be no human, multicultural values to celebrate. Like a web, biodiversity provides the essential structure and support for life to continue as we know it here on earth. Tear a few strands from its complex, intricate design and the entire system falters and possibly could collapse. Think about it for awhile. As a species, that is.


When not taking school children and their teachers into McLaren Park to study nature, David Graves, a Sustainable San Francisco steering committee member, struggles with restoration issues like removing from the park “exotic” sweet fennel (foeniculum vulgare), a host plant for the remarkably beautiful---and successfully adaptive---“native” anise swallowtail butterfly. 15 July 1998.


Twenty Year Transportation Plan Foresees Intense Congestion

Written by Stuart Cohen, Bay Area Land Use and Transportation Coalition

Although the Bay Area’s draft twenty year transportation “blueprint” includes hundreds of projects at an estimated cost of $89 billion, there will be no dancing in the streets when the plan is finished. There won’t be any room.

Congestion figures released today as part of the draft 1998 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) show that Bay Area traffic woes are just beginning. Although the plan aims, in its own words, to “improve mobility,” “support economic vitality,” and “enhance sensitivity to the environment,” things will be worse in twenty years than they are now.

According to the plan, people will be driving further, spending more on transportation, and creeping along in intense traffic, all while a smaller share of trips are taken by transit, walking, and bicycling,” says Stuart Cohen, Director of the Bay Area Transportation Choices Forum. “It assumes sprawl development is inevitable, then uses taxpayer funds to literally pave the way for this sprawl.”

The Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition, an alliance of forty groups, has recommended that the RTP adopt basic goals for the region: That people, on average, would not drive more than they do today, and the share of trips taken by transit, walking and bicycling do not decline. Coalition members also say capital funding for transit operators should be fully funded, to avoid future service cuts or unnecessary fare increases.

If you think it is bad during BART strikes or holiday weekends, it’s only going to get worse over the next twenty years,” said Cohen, “MTC should fully fund transit operators capital needs, then apply for federal funds to prepare a ‘Smart Growth’ alternative.”

The Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition is calling on MTC to fully fund budget shortfalls that transit operator’s expect over the next twenty years. Furthermore, they are calling for regional agencies to apply for federal money to plan “Smart Growth” alternatives. In such alternatives, congestion isn’t fought with new highways that inevitably fill up, but with smarter planning. This includes more compact growth, with housing, shops, and offices next to transit, or in comfortable walking distance so people have choices in how they travel.

What You Can Do:
1) Attend an RTP workshop in your area. For schedule information, contact the Bay Area Transportation Choices Forum, at 510/843-3878; and/or

2) Call or write to your MTC Commissioner. Ask them to adopt quantifiable performance goals and to include 100 percent funding for transit operator capital shortfalls.


SSF's New Website and Community E-mail Forum

On August 1, Sustainable San Francisco will launch a new and improved website that will provide information and links to information on sustainability and the 15 topic areas covered in the sustainability plan. Sustainable San Francisco endeavors to continue to compile information to create an online sustainability resource center for the Bay Area. You can visit the new site at http://www.sustainable-sf.org.

Topics of interest to the forum might include:

• Announcements regarding events, workshops, forums, programs, and publications;

• Descriptions of successful actions or activities that you or your organization are taking to create a sustainable Bay Area;

• Discussions regarding the concept of sustainability and how progress towards sustainability is measured?;

• Your ideas and questions.

To subscribe, send an e-mail to majordomo@lumiere.net with no subject header. In the body, type only the words: subscribe sustainable-sf. Or, for a daily digest: subscribe sustainable-sf-digest.


What's Happening at the Department of the Environment

Written by Karen Noll, Department of the Environment Reporter

San Francisco’s Department of the Environment (DEnv) is entering its third year of existence. There are many interesting things taking place there and Sustainable San Francisco aims to keep you informed about department-related issues. In our spring issue, we reported on the monthly Environmental Commission meetings that have taken place in the first four months of 1998. In May, the focus of the commission meeting was on sustainable business practices. In June, there was an update to the commission made on the impending sale and plans for the Hunter’s Point and Potrero power plants. The commission meeting in July was cancelled. At the end of each commission meeting, the DEnv’s Director, Beryl Magilavy, gives a departmental report to the Commission.

A continuing topic for the DEnv is the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) ordinance. In mid-July, the DEnv held a meeting with Mayor Brown and the directors of other city departments to discuss implementation of the ordinance. IPM is a new program and San Francisco is in the spotlight for this as the city is being watched by other municipalities around the nation. The purpose of IPM is to decrease the use of particular pesticides by city departments. As a beginning step in implementing the IPM ordinance, each city department will designate an “IPM Coordinator” to be the point person who will follow up with IPM-related work and requirements. Additionally, a “Toxic Minimization Program” will be drafted which will aim to reduce the use of toxic chemicals by city agencies and on city property.

The Department is also exploring the potential for funding and development of a weekly environmental indicators report, which will contain information on topics such as the state of San Francisco’s air and water quality. This report would be disseminated through the department’s website and local mass media, and would aim to increase public awareness of how and where our impact on the environment can be (and needs to be) reduced. The department will also be producing its own annual report with the first issue scheduled for October 1998.

There are also, of course, other plans in the works. For example, the DEnv is beginning to work with the city purchasing department to develop green purchasing guidelines for various departmental supplies. Sustainable San Francisco will continue to follow developments in this area, as well as others. If you would like more information about the department, please contact Sustainable San Francisco or the DEnv directly at 415/554-6390.

Sustainable San Francisco
P.O. Box 460236
San Francisco, CA 94146
voice: 415/285-6106
Fax: 415/648-2558

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