The Board of Supervisors finds and declares that:
A. Every San Franciscan has an equal right to a healthy and safe environment. This requires that our air, water, land, and food be of a sufficiently high standard that individuals and communities can live healthy, fulfilling, and dignified lives. The duty to enhance, protect and preserve San Francisco’s environment rests on the shoulders of government, residents, citizen groups and businesses alike.
B. Historically, environmentally harmful activities have only been stopped after they have manifested extreme environmental degradation or exposed people to harm. In the case of PCBs, DDT, lead, and asbestos, for instance, regulatory action took place only after disaster had struck. The delay between first knowledge of harm and appropriate action to deal with it can be measured in human lives cut short.
C. San Francisco is a leader in making choices based on the least environmentally harmful alternatives, thereby challenging traditional assumptions about risk management. Numerous City ordinances including: the Integrated Pest Management Ordinance, the Resource Efficient Building Ordinance, the Healthy Air Ordinance, the Resource Conservation Ordinance, and the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Ordinance apply a precautionary approach to specific City purchases and activities. Internationally, this model is called the Precautionary Principle.
D. As the City consolidates existing environmental laws into a single Environment Code, and builds a framework for future legislation, the Precautionary Principle approach will serve as a policy framework to develop and implement laws for a healthier and more just San Francisco. In this way, the City will create and maintain a healthy, viable Bay Area environmental for current and future generations, and will become a model of sustainability.
E. Science and technology are creating new solutions to prevent or mitigate environmental problems. However, science is also creating new compounds and chemicals that are already finding their way into mother’s milk and causing other new problems. New legislation may be required to address these situations, and the Precautionary Principle is intended as a tool to help promote environmentally healthy alternatives while weeding out the negative and often unintended consequences of new technologies.
F. A central element of the precautionary approach is the careful assessment of available alternatives using the best available science. An alternatives assessment examines a broad range of options in order to present the public with the consequences of each approach. The process takes short-term versus long-term effects or costs into consideration, and evaluates and compares the adverse or potentially adverse effects of each option, giving preference to those options with fewer potential hazards. This process allows fundamental questions to be asked: “Is this potentially hazardous activity necessary?” “What less hazardous options are available?” and “How little damage is possible?”
G. The alternatives assessment is also a public process because, locally or internationally, the public bears the ecological and health consequences of environmental decisions. A government’s course of action is necessarily enriched by broadly based public participation when a full range of alternatives is considered based on input from diverse individuals and groups. The public should be able to determine the range of specific alternatives to be examined. For each alternative the public should consider both immediate and long-term consequences, as well as possible impacts to the local economy.
H. This form of open decision-making is in line with San Francisco’s historic Sunshine Act, which allows citizens to have full view of the legislative process. One of the goals of the Precautionary Principle is to include citizens as equal partners in decisions affecting their health and environment.
I. San Francisco looks forward to the time when the City’s power is generated from renewable sources, when all our waste is recycled, when our vehicles produce only potable water as emissions, when the Bay is free from toxins, and the oceans are free from pollutants. The Precautionary Principle provides a means to help us attain these goals as we evaluate future laws and policies in such areas as transportation, construction, land use, planning, water, energy, health care, recreation, purchasing, and public expenditure.
J. Transforming our society to realize these goals and achieving a society living respectfully with the bounds of nature will take a behavioral as well as technological revolution. The Precautionary approach to decision-making will help San Francisco speed this process of change by moving beyond finding cures for environmental ills to preventing the ills before they can do harm.
(Added by Ord. 171-03, File No. 030422, App. 7/3/2003)