|Sustainability Plan / Introduction|
Sustainability is a word you have to spell to people over the phone. How can there be a community plan based on a word that is not in common use? While the word itself has not yet come into the vernacular, the idea it represents encompasses an urgent need, recognized by a growing number of people around the globe, to provide for a positive common future. This sustainability plan has come into being because many people in San Francisco are convinced that there is both a self-interested and an ethical obligation to live in a way that considers the rights to livelihood of future generations and of the other living beings on this planet.
Sustainability: A Definition
For simplicity, this planning process has used the UN’s definition of sustainability:
Certainly, there’s a good deal to be inferred here, particularly when it comes to social equity within human society and the rights of the earth’s non-human beings. Nonetheless, it was felt that there would be a pretty good consensus among San Franciscans about the direction in which it is important to move without getting hung up on the definition’s details. The community process that developed this plan was focused on producing a plan for action, not debating the fine points of the definition.
Human Activity in the Closed System of Planet Earth
All human activity interacts with the natural systems of the planet. These activities may not have a negative effect on nature if the quantities of pollutants generated do not exceed the quantities that can be absorbed by natural systems. Habitat modification can be accommodated by animals and plants if it is slow and slight, allowing them to adjust or move elsewhere.
However, the volume of chemicals introduced into the environment today far exceeds the assimilation capabilities of natural systems. This has caused global warming, acidification of forests, and chronic human-health problems, among many other ills.
The reduction of numbers of non-human creatures and destruction of their habitats has exceeded the levels their populations can accommodate. This has resulted in Canada’s eastern seaboard fisheries closing, massive extinctions of species, and the reduction of genetic diversity in many surviving species.
If human activities even slightly exceed the levels acceptable to natural systems, those systems will degrade, sometimes slowly, sometimes -- once a critical point has been reached -- catastrophically. For almost all systems, the level of disruption that triggers catastrophic decline is unknown.
The obvious, inescapable result of many of our current life practices is the degradation of the systems that support them, even if the effects aren’t immediately apparent.
Society cannot be stable unless the basic human needs of all its members are met. Increased local self-reliance and equity, educational opportunity, and a guarantee of participation and accountability in civic discourse create a strong population of people who have the leisure to plan for their own and society’s best interests in the long run, rather than being forced to continually focus on the most short-term human needs. Social and cultural diversity, attention to environmental justice, and an understanding of the integral connections between humans and the natural world, will create a vibrant community base on which to build a successful long-term culture. Children and youth, representing the “future generations” that form part of the core of sustainability’s definition, obviously must be better nurtured and prepared to be full participants in a future society where appropriate technology and civic participation play a central role.
It is important to emphasize that the sustainability plan should be a means, not an end. The plan is only a tool for future action. However, to proceed in a sensible way to change long-standing environmental practices, it’s necessary to come up with some goals, actions, and objectives to be achieved. To begin to fulfill our responsibility to our own futures and that of our children is the aim of this sustainability plan.
The Plan’s Sponsors
Nearly 400 people, from every walk of life, have volunteered their time to produce this plan. Sustainable San Francisco structured the drafting process so that people with expertise on the issues covered in the plan could produce a draft in a fairly short time-frame.
This has been an enormous undertaking, with thousands of hours of time committed to discussions, drafts, revisions, and meeting management. The hope was to produce a draft that was comprehensive enough to make a very solid foundation upon which a wider public could make suggestions for improvement. With this broad base of support, the finalized plan has the best chance of being effective.
Structure of the Plan
For each topic, the plan sets out:
A separate section lists indicators for all topic areas. The indicators were designed to be numerical measurements that:
Topics Addressed in the Plan
Clearly, several topics are overlapping. While, for instance, nearly every environmental topic section addresses public education, environmental justice, and the other topics from Section II, special groups were formed to focus exclusively on these topics, in order to ensure that they were addressed in depth.
Land-use is a vital issue that does not have a separate section; there are land-use implications to almost every section’s proposed actions. It is addressed to the greatest extent in the Transportation, Economy and Economic Development, Food and Agriculture, and Parks sections.
Baseline data for the indicators section has yet to be compiled.
The Plan Drafters
Although there was remarkable unanimity among the plan drafters
about the basic attributes of a sustainable society, as would be expected in any
exercise of this size and scope, participants didn’t always agree on the best
strategy for achieving it. Some feel strongly that the plan does not go far enough
and contains too many compromises; others feel that it has gone too far and is unrealistic.
That it is incomplete is beyond doubt. The plan would be incomplete at twice its
length, and aspects of it will loose their timeliness as circumstances change every
day after its publication. Nonetheless, while not aspiring to be a perfect treatise,
the document can provide the rough game-plan that is necessary
for a concerted effort to achieve a sustainable society, an
effort that has been orchestrated by as broad a cross-section of the community as
has been gathered in many years for a common purpose.
As large as the drafting group is, it represents only a tiny fraction of the public in San Francisco who must make the plan part of their personal agendas for it to succeed. This draft represents an invitation to all San Franciscans to think about a common future, and an opportunity to make a choice of the routes to that end.
The fact that a new agency has been created, however, should not minimize the importance of the work of the City’s older environmental agencies, many of which participated in the drafting process. They are already implementing some of the actions proposed here, and plans for more are in the works. Several of the City’s agencies are on the cutting edge of environmental program leadership, and it is hoped that the focus on sustainability issues provided by this plan will help secure them the resources and support they need to move forward even more aggressively on an agenda for San Francisco’s future, and will make them role models for agencies that have been slower to share this common vision.
A number of the plan’s actions are suggested for the private sector and individuals. Implementation of these actions will be essential for a fundamental change in the way San Francisco interacts with the natural world, and the various advocacy groups, city agencies, and activist individuals involved in drafting the plan will work with the environmental department to ensure that these changes move forward.
Many of the actions suggested in this plan will go nowhere without new sources of funding. It is up to the creativity of our City leadership, including business and the non-profit community, to find this funding through new money and more efficient use of current resources.
Changes of law and regulation must be addressed one at a time, and will take more concerted drafting and public discussion than has been possible in this preliminary drafting process. They will take time and persistence.
This plan is a first step in the long process of changing attitudes that separate humans from the rest of the natural world and ignore the long-term results of human behavior. It is a process of developing the wealth of the community, and strengthening the health and capacities of all the City’s residents. Through vision, persistence, and a plan of action, San Franciscans will be able to create a healthy society that respects the needs of all its members, and the needs of the natural systems of which they are a part.
Acknowledgments for an effort as large as this one are by necessity woefully incomplete. We greatly appreciate the support and participation of everyone who donated their time to this effort.
This effort has been made possible by the financial support of the City and County of San Francisco, Bureau of Energy Conservation, Columbia Foundation, The Fred Gellert Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, and True North Foundation.
Sustainable San Francisco’s Web page was created and maintained as donations by Nick McBurney and Z Smith.
A special thank-you to Felicia Marcus, regional administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Region IX, for encouraging so many of her staff to participate in this process.
We cannot begin to thank all the individuals and institutions who have donated time and expertise to this community effort. However, we would like to specifically mention our steering-committee members (who planned out this effort), coordinators (who recruited the drafting-group participants, kept the meetings together, and often did most of the group’s drafting), facilitators (who were responsible for the meetings running smoothly and for work product being produced), and recorders (who took notes at the meetings and some of whom did most of the group’s drafting):
Anne Marie Malley
Holly Van Houten
Organizational Participants in the City Circles drafting the Sustainability Plan
(The City Circles also Included Many Individual San Francisco Residents)
Advocates for Parks
Algalita Marine Research Foundation
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
American Institute of Architects
American Lung Association
American Red Cross
Applied Development Economics
Architects, Designers & Planners for Social Responsibility
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Bank of America
Bank of California
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Bay Area Defense Conservation Action Team
Bay Conservation & Development Commission
Blue Cross of California
Blue Pearl Press
Brown, Vence & Associates
Building Owners and Managers Association- San Francisco
California Native Plant Society
California Academy of Science
California Energy Markets
California Food Policy Advocates
California Public Utilities Commission
California State Automobile Association
Center for Marine Conservation
Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture
Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice
Chamber of Commerce
Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.
Chinatown Public Health Center, Health Center 4
Chinese Progressive Association
City of San Francisco Agriculture, Weights and Measurements Department
City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors
City of San Francisco City Attorney’s Office
City of San Francisco City Planning Department
City of San Francisco Commission on San Francisco’s Environment
City of San Francisco Controller’s Office
City of San Francisco Department of Building Inspection
City of San Francisco Department of Parking & Traffic
City of San Francisco Department of Public Health
City of San Francisco Department of Public Health, AIDS Office
City of San Francisco Department of Public Health, EMF (Electro-magnetic field) Program
City of San Francisco Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Health Management
City of San Francisco Department of Public Health, Hazardous Waste Program
City of San Francisco Department of Public Health, Tobacco Free Project
City of San Francisco Department of Public Health, Water Quality Control Program
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works, Bureau of Architecture
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works, Bureau of Construction Management
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works, Bureau of Environmental Regulation and Management
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works, Bureau of Street Environmental Services
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works, Sewer Odor Hotline
City of San Francisco Department of Public Works, Water Pollution Control
City of San Francisco Department of Social Services
City of San Francisco District Attorney’s Office
(City of) San Francisco General Hospital
City of San Francisco Hetch Hetchy Water & Power
City of San Francisco Hetch Hetchy Water & Power, Bureau of Energy Conservation
City of San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Community Development
City of San Francisco Municipal Railway
City of San Francisco Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
City of San Francisco Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, City Employees Commute Assistance Program
(City of) San Francisco Public Library, Wallace Stegner Environmental Center
City of San Francisco Purchasing Department
City of San Francisco Redevelopment Agency
City of San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department
City of San Francisco Solid Waste Management Program
City of San Francisco Solid Waste Management Program, Recycling Program
City of San Francisco Solid Waste Management Program, Hazardous Waste Management Program
(City of) San Francisco Unified School District
(City of) San Francisco Water Department
Clean City Coalition
Coalition for Better Wastewater Solutions
Coalition for Urban Concerns
Communities for a Better Environment
Community and Environment
Community Environmental Relations
Compass Management & Leasing
Consumer Action’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Project
Embarcadero Farmer’s Market
Energy Investment, Inc.
Engineers Local 39
Environmental Building Inspections
Environmental Health Network
Environmental Law Community Law Clinic
Failure Analysis, Inc.
Franklin Environmental Products
Fresh Start Farms
Friends of Islais Creek
Friends of McLaren Park
Friends of Recreation & Parks
Friends of the New de Young
Friends of the Urban Forest
Global Action Plan
Golden Gate Audubon Society
Golden Gate Law School Legal Clinic
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Golden Gate University
Gottfried Technologies, Inc.
Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center
Hastings Environmental Law Journal
Indoor Air Quality Inspections
Institute for Conservation & Health
Institute for Health and Healing: California Pacific Medical Center
Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies
Integrated Waste Management Consulting
International Society of Culture and Ecology
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
Land Bank, Inc.
Landmark Exchange Management
League of Conservation Voters
League of Women Voters
Materials for Acquisition and Gifts in Kind (M.A.G.I.K.)
Materials for the Future Foundation
Marathon US Realties, Inc./Building Owner’s and Managers’ Association
Marin Advocates for Transit
Marin Farmers Market
Market Street Development Association
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Mission Neighborhood Health Center
National Electrical Contractors Association
Natural Resources Defense Council
Norcal Waste Systems
O’Rorke Public Relations and Advertising
Office of Senator Marks
Okamoto Saijo Architecture
Pacific Gas & Electric Company
Parkside Elementary School
Peninou French Laundry & Cleaners
Peninsula Electric Vehicle Association
People Organized to Demand Environmental Rights
Planet Drum Foundation
Port of San Francisco, Environment and Safety Section
Presidio Pacific Center
RIDES/Bay Area Commuters
San Francisco Apartment Association
San Francisco Automotive Service Council
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
San Francisco Community Recyclers
San Francisco Conservation Corps
San Francisco County Transportation Authority
San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners
San Francisco League of Conservation Voters
San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR)
San Francisco Public Market Collaborative
San Francisco State University, Department of Epidemiology
San Francisco Tomorrow
Sanitary Fill Company
Save Energy Company
Simon, Martin-Vegue, Winkelstein, Moris Architects
South Bayshore Development Corporation
South of Market Employment Center
South of Market Neighborhood Emergency Response Team
Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice
Students for Environmental Action
Sunset Scavenger Company
The Gap, Inc.
Ti Couz Restaurant
Trust for Public Land/Inner Sunset Parks Group
University of California at San Francisco, Office of Environmental Health and Safety
University of San Francisco, Department of Environmental Science
Urban Resource Systems
US Coast Guard, Marine Safety Office
US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service
US Environmental Protection Agency - Region IX
Waste Resource Technologies
West Bay Filipino Multi-Services
West Bay Resources
Weyerhauser Paper Company