Text of the San Francisco Precautionary
Chapter 1 Precautionary Principle Policy Statement
Sec. 100. FINDINGS.
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, earth, 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 DDT, lead, and asbestos, for
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
Air Ordinance, the Resource Conservation Ordinance, and the
Preferable Purchasing Ordinance apply a precautionary approach to
City purchases and activities. Internationally, this model is called
D. As the City consolidates existing environmental laws into a single
Environment Code, and builds a framework for new legislation, the City
sees the Precautionary Principle approach as its policy framework to
develop laws for a healthier and more just San Francisco. By doing so,
the City will
create and maintain a healthy, viable Bay Area environment for current
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
milk and causing other new problems. New legislation may be
to address these situations, and the Precautionary Principle is
as a tool to help promote environmentally healthy alternatives while
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 different effects of different options
considering short-term versus long-term effects or costs, and
evaluating and comparing the adverse or potentially adverse effects of
each option, noting 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 alternatives examined and suggest specific reasonable
alternatives, as well as their short- and long-term benefits and
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
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
vehicles produce only potable water as emissions, when the Bay is free
toxins, and the oceans are free from pollutants. The Precautionary
provides a means to help us attain these goals as we evaluate future
and policies in such areas as transportation, construction, land use,
water, energy, health care, recreation, purchasing, and public
J. Transforming our society to realize these goals and achieving a
society living respectfully within the bounds of nature will take a
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.
Sec. 101. THE SAN FRANCISCO PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE.
The following shall constitute the City and County of San Francisco's
Precautionary Principle policy. All officers, boards, commissions, and
departments of the City and County shall implement the Precautionary
Principle in conducting the City and County's affairs:
The Precautionary Principle requires a thorough exploration and a
careful analysis of a wide range of alternatives. Using the best
available science, the Precautionary Principle requires the selection
of the alternative
that presents the least potential threat to human health and the City's
natural systems. Public participation and an open and transparent
making process are critical to finding and selecting alternatives.
Where threats of serious or irreversible damage to people or nature
exist, lack of full scientific certainty about cause and effect shall
not be viewed as sufficient reason for the City to postpone measures to
prevent the degradation of the environment or protect the health of its
citizens. Any gaps in scientific data uncovered by the examination of
alternatives will provide a guidepost for future research, but will not
prevent protective action being taken by the City. As new scientific
data become available, the City will review its decisions and make
adjustments when warranted.
Where there are reasonable grounds for concern, the precautionary
approach to decision-making is meant to help reduce harm by triggering
a process to select the least potential threat. The essential elements
of the Precautionary Principle approach to decision-making include:
1. Anticipatory Action: There is a duty to take
anticipatory action to prevent harm. government, business, and
community groups, as
well as the general public, share this responsibility.
Sec.102. THREE YEAR REVIEW
2. Right to Know: The community has a right to know complete and
accurate information on potential human health and environmental
impacts associated with the selection of products, services, operations
or plans. The burden to supply this information lies with the
proponent, not with the general public.
3. Alternatives Assessment: An obligation exists to examine a full
range of alternatives and select the alternative with the least
impact on human health and the environment including the alternative of
4. Full Cost Accounting: When evaluating potential alternatives, there
is a duty to consider all the costs, including raw materials,
manufacturing, transportation, use, cleanup, eventual disposal, and
health costs even if such costs are not reflected in the initial price.
Short- and long-term time thresholds should be considered when making
5. Participatory Decision Process: Decisions applying the Precautionary
Principle must be transparent, participatory, and informed by the best
No later than three years from the effective date of this ordinance,
and after a public hearing, the Commission on the Environment shall
submit a report to the Board of Supervisors on the effectiveness of the
Precautionary Principle policy.
Sec. 103. LIST OF ALL ENVIRONMENTAL ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS
The Director of the Department of the Environment shall produce and
maintain a list of all City and County of San Francisco ordinances and
resolutions which affect or relate to the environment and shall post
this list on the Department of the Environment's website.
Sec. 104. CITY UNDERTAKING LIMITED TO PROMOTION OF GENERAL WELFARE
The Board of Supervisors encourages all City employees and officials to
take the precautionary principle into consideration and evaluate
alternatives when taking actions that could impact health and the
environment, especially where those actions could pose threats of
serious harm or irreversible damage. This ordinance does not impose
specific duties upon any City employee or official to take specific
actions. In adopting and undertaking the enforcement of this ordinance,
the City and County of San Francisco is assuming an undertaking only to
promote the general welfare. It is not assuming, nor is it imposing on
its officers and employees, an obligation for breach of which it is
liable in money damages to any person who claims that such breach
proximately caused injury nor may this ordinance provide any basis for
any other judicial relief including, but not limited to a writ of
mandamus or an injunction.
Paper - The Precautionary Principle and the City and County of San
Francisco" (March, 2003).