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November 16, 2010

November 16, 2010

 

1. Call to Order and Roll Call

5:32 PM

 

Present Commissioners, Susanna Russo, Sally Stephens, Pam Hemphill,  Geneva Page, Philip Gerrie,  Andrea Brooks,  Jack Aldrige DVM, Kat Brown – ACC, John Denny  SFPD

 

2. General Public Comment

 

No public comment.

 

3. Approval of Draft Minutes for October 14, 2010

 

No Commission nor public comment.

 

Minutes approved unanimously.

 

4. Chairperson’s report and opening remarks

 

Comr. Stephens – Welcomes Officer Denny  from the Vicious  and Dangerous Dog unit of the SFPD. Joint Zoo meeting in December will be probably on the 15th.

 

Comr. Gerrie – Will there be another working group meeting with the zoo?

 

Comr. Stephens – There will be but no date is set yet.

 

No public comment

 

5. Unfinished Business

 

A) Discussion/ possible action to table indefinitely  the issue of whether  or not to mandate  a no-kill policy in city shelters.

 

Comr. Brooks – In May we voted to table this item for three months,  if only then to touch base about the issue. We had discussed the item  for apx. 18 months. In May we left it without a Commissioner willing to take on the issue and lead it. I propose that we table the item indefinitely.

 

Comr. Stephens – Tabling it indefinitely means  that it can be brought up again if conditions change. That happened with the cat declaw ban. The ban was tabled several years ago and was brought up last year when the State passed a law that would stop any City from passing such a law unless it took effect before Jan of 2010. Tabling doesn’t mean it can never be brought  back. Conditions can change  or a Commissioner can decide to take it on.

 

Comr. Brooks – Move to table this item indefinitely

 

5 A)Public Comment

 

Nadine May – San Francisco animals are dying and people are looking the other way. Nothing is being done. The coalition is not effective  because several groups within the coalition want to stymie any real discussion. State law states it is against the law to euthanize any healthy animal.  So ACC, and any other shelter  in the State, are breaking the law every time a healthy, treatable animal is euthanized. That State Civil Code is 1834.4. We need legislation in this City to save animals. No point to wait. Urge Commission to vote. Support no-kill legislation. Commission does not need to work on details.  Supervisors and City attorneys can work on that.

 

Justin Pinkerton – Fix San Francisco – Supports statements from previous speaker. Commission has had many speakers on this issue. There are plenty of reasons to vote for legislation.  The coalition was started as an alternative to legislation but  it is not an effective alternative. 

 

Shanti – Many other solutions to make SF a more humane city. One would be birth control.  Another, public  education. Another, enforcing breeding regulation laws. Just because shelters are crowded is not a reason for euthanizing animals.

 

Lana Bajsel  - It would be a disservice for this Commission to table no-kill. Agrees with Justin that the coalition has not moved as fast as was hoped. It has focused on the intake of animals into the shelter environment.  That is a long term project. Coalition is not addressing at-risk animals perishing in City shelters..  There are short and long term solutions.  Encourages Commission to take action to address the crisis of why healthy  adoptable animals are still being killed. And why ACC relies so heavily on rescue groups to get them out alive.

 

Kim Durney – Grateful Dogs Rescue –  This issue has been  discussed by this Commission  for two years. Time to take a moral stand and establish a no-kill policy.  There will never be enough people nor money to do it but other cities managed to do it. City needs to have no-kill as its policy.

 

Cynthia Cox – Fixsanfrancisco.org – Has attended most ACWC meetings in the last two years. Only issue this Commission sent to the Board, in those two years, was a ban on de-clawing of cats. Volunteered with SPCA for 16 years until they dropped their behavior program. Later volunteered at ACC for 15 months.  Left in March because of the heartbreak of adoptable cats being killed.  Wish that I could have taken the 589 cats killed at ACC in 2007/8 , the 541 cats killed at ACC in 2008/9., and the 498 cats killed in 2009/10. Was able to rescue two that would have been killed because they had ringworm.

 

L-Danyielle Yacabucci – feral cat advocate – Would like to see the word “indefinitely” removed  from the proposal. Finds it insulting. Would like to see more effort from ACC  and SPCA to solve the problem. Frustrated that this Commission is dropping the issue. Animals are dying. 

 

Martha Hoffman – Supports comments from previous speakers. 

 

Rosalind Lord – Animal Advocacy Working  Group – Killing animals in shelters should be banned and the ban should go into effect immediately.

 

Karen – ACC volunteer – Asks that Commission continue considering no-kill, in the name of the animals at ACC that won’t make it out alive.

 

Susan Wheeler – Feral cat volunteer – Important SF develop a road map towards no-kill. As important now as it was three years ago. Great suggestions have been made in the many months of discussion  to bring about  no-kill. If we can’t have legislation, let’s do things piece-meal.  The  Animal Coalition is just dealing with issues by themselves. It doesn’t have any guiding principles.  The guiding principles is no-kill.  Statements which support no-kill are, “Shelter animals have a right to live”, “Feral cats have a right to their lives and habitats”, “Animals, rescuers, and the public have a right to expect that  animal protection organizations and animal shelters to do everything in their power to promote, protect, and advocate for the lives of animals”, “ Animal protection groups , rescue groups,  and no-kill shelters have a right to take into custody animals that would otherwise be killed by animal shelters”,  “Taxpayers and community members have a right to have their government  spend tax money on programs and services  who purpose is to save and enhance the lives of all animals”, “Taxpayers  and community members have a right to full and complete disclosure  on how animal shelters operate”. SF still has a lot to do.

 

Kathleen McGarr – Fix San Francisco  & ACC small animal volunteer – You have been chosen to sit in these  seats to be the voice of the community  on behalf of the animals . You heard for almost  two and half years countless members of the community  come and speak to you and voice their desire. Shockingly, if one stops 10 people, randomly, on the streets and ask them if SF is no-kill they will all say that of course we are. We are not. The community doesn’t realize that.  They will know with education. If more people knew the truth, more people would come to these meetings.  You would hear more of the community’s voice. You need to vote on this and not let it fade away.

 

Evan Elias –  feral cat volunteer  SPCA – When starting  to volunteer in 2000, SPCA was a no-kill shelter. SPCA is no longer a no-kill shelter. Unsure why. Economics?  A change in power?  We were no-kill. We know how to do it. Can’t we do it again?  When it is working it works really well.  People would come from all over CA to adopt.  Was a privilege to volunteer  there. Hope  we don’t give up on it.

 

Jennifer Scarlett – SF/SPCA – In 1994 SPCA did embrace  no-kill. With that we embraced  a massive spay/neuter program and education.  SPCA is still committed to the no-kill  policy and movement.  SF County now has the lowest intake, per capita,  in all of CA. That is a great success. We also have the lowest kill rate, per capita,  in CA. Success is not which individual animals  are euthanized or not. It is keeping them from ever entering our shelter system in the first place.  With that we have committed to increase our community  outreach.  We are committed to increasing our spay/neuter, expecting to hit 9 to 10,000 this year. The real success is keeping them out of the shelter in the first place.  We are committed to our pact with ACC, improving our behavior assessment,  and working to make sure every adoptable animal has a chance for a home.

 

Audrey Kimball – Foster for 3 Give Me Shelter  cats  scheduled to be euthanized at ACC for not passing behavior tests. They have lived  peacefully  in my shop since  March.

Has been involved in cat rescue across the country.  To give up on no-kill legislation is morally and ethically wrong.  Should educate  everyone that SF is not a no-kill city. Nine out  of ten shop customers believe SF is a model no-kill city. That is not true. Why can’t SF  figure it out?

 

Heni Martin – feral fix cat team SPCA – Respects SPCA. Also volunteer for Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue. Knows first hand how many  adoptable  cats have come in from ACC.  Something must be wrong if ACC rejects these cats but Lana finds homes for them. The average  San Franciscan would be appalled to learn that SF is not a no-kill city. They would want SF to be a no-kill city.

 

Richard Fong – Have listened to all the meetings about no-kill. Thought that something would have been resolved by now.  Shouldn’t just drop the issue after many speakers, over these past months, have asked for the Commission to act.  Doesn’t want to call ACC if sees a feral cat. Doesn’t want it euthanized.  What ever is done, legislative or not,  should reach all concerned parties.

 

Anne Feingold – Urban Cat Project – To increase adoptions  more animals must be seen by the public.  Just a few animals are selected for adoption by shelter workers.  ACC’s rejects are quite adoptable.  There’s no magic to adopting an animal. They just need to be shown. ACC’s cages should be full of animals and let the public decide . It would go a long way towards no-kill.

 

Marlene Mcdowell – Didn’t know SF was not a no-kill city. Wonders why SF is not a no-kill zone. What are the obstacles?  Economic?  Educated by Audrey Kimball. If the public knew that SF is not a no-kill city we would find solutions.  Don’t table the issue. Involve the  public to come up with solutions.

 

Public comment closed

 

Comr. Aldridge – Believes SF should be a no-kill city. CA should be a no-kill State. What the Commission has been batting around is two separate  issues. First, trying to come up with a concept for legislation to enforce rules that, we think, would achieve no-kill.  Personally disagrees  with mandating  legislation with the items talked about  to achieve that aim. The language, “tabling indefinitely”, sounds like we are tabling the whole concept of becoming a no-kill city. What we are tabling is this endless argument and discussion about fashioning  legislation  to leverage the Board  to vote into law. That has gone nowhere  over the last two years. Stalemates have developed  on this Commission for any support to pass on to the Board something they might take up. Couldn’t there be a way to continue this discussion to make steps towards no-kill and,  at the same time,  table this approach  via legislation?

 

Comr. Hemphill – Have not been to Homeless Animal Coalition (HAC) meetings. Would like to know numbers of spay/neuters.  Improvements can happen behind the scene just  as in public but without progress reports you don’t know what is going on.

 

Kat Brown – ACC – Have been at attendance at HAC meetings. There has been, as a result of these meetings, many collaborations with the SPCA including vaccinations, spay/neuter outreach in underserved communities,  work on behavior training outreach,   outreach to homeless community for spay/neuter,. Could prepare something for the Commission.

 

Comr. Hemphill – Could that info be on the website?

 

Kat Brown – This isn’t just from ACC or SPCA. It is a collaboration of 40 different groups.

 

Comr. Hemphill – Should there be a coalition website to give  progress?

 

Kat Brown – Fix SF has been the chair. Perhaps Justin could speak to that? It was the brainchild of Rebecca Katz from ACC, and Julene Johnson.

 

Justin Pinkerton – The biggest obstacle to a website is money. There’s a lot of talk on the issues but not a lot of conclusions or pre-conclusions.  Don’t know how  much progress a website would  show  so far.  The only concrete item would be the spay/neuter clinics the SPCA has done. Everything else has been discussion.

 

Comr. Hemphill – To be clear, you don’t have a website?

 

Justin Pinkerton – No we don’t.  It costs money.  You have to have  a host and a server.

 

Comr. Hemphill – It’s not very expensive to have a website.

 

Justin Pinkerton – The Coalition has not money and there hasn’t been a proposal to collect money from individuals  to set up a website. It would also need someone to maintain the  website.  An idea for a website was for help with behavior training.  But that info is already out there. We can talk about  a website but it hasn’t really been explored so far.

 

Kat Brown – The Coalition has only met  7 times. To expect  these things to be resolved in 7meetings is quite  optimistic.  We have come up with the five top issues; high volume, low fee, spay/neuter,  behavior resources,  increasing the foster network,  pet-friendly housing,  and increasing humane education.   The coalition has been effective in doing down –to-earth  actions such as the feral fix campaigns with the SPCA. We acknowledge at ACC that the cat and dog housing is not warm and fuzzy. ACC completely relies on the rescue groups to help the animals that don’t do well  in a caged environment.  If no-kill means 93% to 84%, we need to define what no-kill is. What is no-kill?  There is a belief that we were no-kill.

 

Justin Pinkerton – We never officially achieved no-kill status.

 

Kat Brown – What is no-kill?

 

Justin Pinkerton – Haven’t we been talking about it for two years? The minimum is 93% to be considered no-kill. 

 

Kat Brown – For cats and dogs?

 

Justin Pinkerton – I understand it to be all animals in the shelter system.

 

Comr. Brooks – Defining no-kill has been problematic. Everyone in this room knows what we are saying when we use the term. The general public may not understand the term. I don’t know who defines it. Maddie’s Fund in  Animal People July/August magazine  did name SF as a no-kill city. The article names several counties that had live-release rates of over 80%.  Maddie’s is recognized leader in the no-kill movement and they are defining no-kill as 80%. Who is defining it?

 

Justin Pinkerton – The no-kill philosophy  says there is a margin of error of 7% that are not adoptable for medical or behavioral issues.  So 93% should be adoptable.  Maddie’s fund is Richard Avanzino who started the no-kill effort at the SF/SPCA. He wouldn’t discount his achievements while he was here.

 

Comr. Stephens  - Discussion in the last few minutes reflects a problem with legislating no-kill – Is it 80%?  Is it 93%?  We all want adoptable animals to find good homes. Do we try to do this legislatively or develop programs that will accomplish the same thing?  We are talking about tabling here legislatively  mandating no-kill.  Legislating has never been done in a community where all the shelter directors and higher ups opposed the mandate. It is a difficult concept to impose on people.  Especially with tightening budgets of cities. Because of the rancor  over the last two years it was important to get everyone in the same room talking.  It seemed like that was happening in the Coalition.  My fear is, based on comments made tonight,  that the Coalition is not being effective. Am personally interested in pursuing pieces of the no-kill concept.  Such as a ban of pet sales in pets stores. The issue of breeding needs to be addressed.  Licensing. Educating.  Addressing the issue of backyard breeders  would be big. Low cost behavior training is another  area. Getting animals out at adoption fairs is crucial. You don’t need  to have a legislative mandate to do that. Don’t think there was ever a political will for a legislative mandate.  Please talk to your Supervisors and find out.  Pet-friendly rentals is another thing that was brought up. That could be huge.
All the people on this Commission want to work together  to resolve these issues.

 

Comr. Gerrie – Have attended  every single meeting about no-kill and listened carefully  to everything that has been said. I’ve come with an open mind to each meeting.  I’ve seen the issue of legislation  creating divisiveness, accusations, and bad feelings continuously, even tonight. We’ve been accused of not doing our job. I believe I am doing me job. I don’t think legislation is the way to go. Have talked personally with the heads of SPCA and ACC and understand their  positions. This has just created  divisions and I like to see things that will work. Every year numbers saved will vary depending on available resources.  I’ve also had trouble with the definition of the % saved to achieve   no-kill. Who defines it? The country as a whole is still killing 50% of its shelter animals.  We are far above that. We are trying as hard as we can to save animals lives.  Legislation will not help.

 

Comr. Stephens – There is also frustration that any  proposal takes time to implement.  A possible pet store sale ban. Nothing would happen immediately.  Even if a mandate were passed it would take at least 5 years to get it to work. Animals are being euthanized in the  mean time.  The most immediate  way is to increase  fosters and keep animals from going into the shelters.

 

Justin Pinkerton – As to the Coalition, the first meeting we had three times as many participants as attend now.  That speaks  loudly that people  don’t have confidence in the Coalition or don’t think anything is happening.  Everything has been talk so far except for the spay/neuter drive.  Certain organizations don’t want to talk about the reasons animals continue to die in their shelters because they feel they are being attacked.  In order to fix something one needs to talk about it. If we can’t talk nothing will get done.  We did vote on the five top issues when there were 40 groups there. We now have only 10 coming.  Don’t know if the voted-on topics are still valid when most of the people that voted on them are not coming.

 

Comr. Stephens – Agrees with last statement.  Biggest problem is with ACC’s & SPCA’s behavioral assessments.  Which is not being discussed.  Encourage everyone to talk publicly and privately on that issue.

 

Justin Pinkerton – That has been done already but efforts have been squashed by those that feel they are being attacked.  Its hard to have a conversation if the person you are talking with is feeling attacked but results in an animal’s death.

 

Comr. Brooks – The tabling is regarding the legislative mandate.   We can continue to ask for speakers and presentations to be transparent about numbers.

 

Comr. Aldrige – The Commission should hear how the Coalition is doing and what issues it is addressing. We are hoping this Coalition will accomplish what legislation may not.  We should listen to the progress and the lack of progress.

 

Comr. Hemphill – Who pays for the low-cost spay/neuter underway now?

 

Comr. Stephens – The SPCA

 

Comr. Hemphill – If someone wanted to give money for spay/neuter, it would have to go through the SPCA?

 

Jennifer Scarlett –  Currently all SPCA money is going into the spay/neuter project.  The SPCA has always had a sliding scale, free and subsidized spay/neuter.  We have made a commitment to up that by community outreach,  signing up for free spay/neuters,  increase in feral-fix, have vaccinated over 600 dogs this summer,  have signed up over 300 for free spay/neuters. All funded by the SPCA.

 

Comr. Stephens – Have you used only SPCA staff for the free feral fix day?

 

Jennifer Scarlett – We tried one volunteer but have found our staff has very fast hands so they are more efficient. We do have  the feral cat team volunteers  to trap and bring the cats in.

 

Comr. Hemphill – That is crucial.  Do you talk about growing that in some way?

 

Jennifer Scarlett – We are up to 8,000 spay/neuters so far this year. We hope to go higher to 9 possibly 10,000. That is the core – to stop them from coming into the shelter  does stop euthanasia.  That is why we have the lowest euthanasia in CA per capita.  With live –release rates you have to look at intake. Compared to Washoe County we have three times less euthanasia per capita. A life-release  % relies on the intake. Goal is to never have them come in. If they come in we have failed them. We also have free training  programs in our out-reach clinics.  It’s an amazing program. 

 

Kat Brown – ACC received support for a spay/neuter program in GG Park area from Pet Food Express. Brought in a van from the Hayward shelter. Did 9 spay/neuter surgeries on homeless  people’s animals.  That is just a beginning.  There is a CA wide  fund from spay/neuter license plates  fees which will go to the most needy through out CA. Animals are being euthanized in far greater #’s in other CA counties.

 

Comr. Brooks – Motion to table to recommend a mandate that  all city shelters shall not euthanize any animal that is adoptable after behavioral or medical  intervention. Specifically the legislative  mandate aspect. Consulted with City Attorney  about  voting on this item and if any Commissioner  would have to recuse him/her self and was told no.  Motion seconded by Comr. Gerrie

 

Comr. Aldrige –  When applied  for this Commission seat, told Supervisors that would be representing  many constituents. Primarily the SF Medical Veterinary  Association, the public at large and the humane movement in the SPCA Hospital Dept. Will always vote independent of what SPCA may want.   Would not have taken this seat if muzzled by the SPCA.

 

 

Comr. Stephens – A ‘yes’ vote is to table a legislative mandate  indefinitely.

 

Yes vote by Comrs,  Gerrie,  Aldrige, Stephens,  Hemphill, Brooks,  and Page. No vote by Comr. Russo.  Motion passes, 6 to 1.

 

6. New Business

 

A) Discussion and possible action to send a letter to Rec & Park to improve  communication within the dept about vegetation removal in GG Park and its impact on wildlife and feral cats. Recent construction next to the Sharon Arts Building bulldozed a thicket, long time home for several ferals.

 

Comr. Hemphill – SF Examiner’s  Will Reisman reported  on this story but got several items wrong. He reported feral cats #’s have been reduced in the park due to landscape changes and not TNR. He also referred to feral cat breeding stations which do not exist. That might have been a typo. Melissa Griffin picked up the story in her examiner column.

She said Rec & Park had temporarily removed a swath of landscape.  It’s hard to remove landscape temporarily.   She ignores the habitat wildlife issue.  Last part of her column quotes Phil Ginsburg, “I’m hopeful that our furry feline friends are supportive of our renovations to the Children’s Carousel  Plaza and that they are living comfortably in GG Park’s 1,017 acres during this temporary inconvenience.” Animals in the park remain a joke to the general manager.

  Two feral cat feeders and I met this morning, with the project crew, and others, at the Sharon Art  Studio. Results of the meeting: the project could have been designed without removal of the landscaped area.  Rick Thall, from Capital Improvements Division will put SPCA’s Mary Ann Buxton on the  mailing list about future projects.  Conversations about the feral cats were negative. The feral cat feeders were not recognized for their surveillance roll. They find unneutered cats at their feeding stations, trap and neuter them. If all feeders and ferals were removed tomorrow, the park would quickly fill up with more cats. The public still sees the park as a dumping ground for animals. The feeding stations attract un-neutered  cats that can then be part of the TNR program. The park is doing a better job for birds and butterflies but not for dense low  level habitat needed for mammals, such as, skunks, raccoons,  and possums.

 

Martha Hoffman – feral cat advocate – Thanks Comr. Hemphill. Helped start SPCA’s feral cat program.  In 1993 Rec & Park and the ACWC asked the SF/SPCA to start a program to reduce the feral cat population.  That program, TNR, trap, neuter, release, has been extremely successful and has reduced GG Park’s feral population by 95%. Rec & Park agreed to allow fixed ferals to return to the park and live out their lives there. As a long time feral cat feeder, has seen the park’s ongoing insensitivity to wildlife by removing habitat.  Examples of that are cutting out undergrowth to expose the homeless  - Planning to install astro turf and towering lights at the Beach Chalet Soccer field -To build an industrial water recycling plant at the peaceful west end of the park - And now, the construction project at the carousel.  Wildlife has a hard time in SF.

  Contacted Comr. Hemphill three weeks ago. Feral cat feeders were surprised to find the area around the carousel completely fenced off and torn up. Most upsetting was a section of dense habitat next to the Sharon Art Building long used as a safe home for two remaining  ferals and other wildlife.  Originally there were 30 cats at the site. If the feeders had known about the project , would have given feedback, caution, and advise to the designers that the habitat not be destroyed but incorporated into the new landscape.  Ferals could have been gradually relocated outside of the construction area.  Communicated with construction people at the site.  Was given conflicting information. Was told , at first, only a portion of the habitat would be removed.  Later, was told, would be entirely removed but that would happen down the line. Began the gradual relocation when the entire area was removed. Was shocked and stunned by communication breakdown.  Cats were not hurt but ability to move them now is much more difficult. Hopes ACWC will take a stand to encourage Rec & park to respect  wildlife and its habitats. Where animals  are concerned, Rec & Park needs to work in partnership with animal welfare agencies.  There should be the automatic assumption that wildlife and, possibly, monitored feral cats are throughout the park.  This morning  Susan Wheeler, Comr. Hemphill,  and I met with people working at the site who included  DPW designers and engineers, Rick Thall, Rec & Park Capital Division planner. They were sensitive to our concerns and were helpful. Rick Thall said his department could automatically send out notification to animal welfare agencies  when projects are being initially planned.  We can request that ACC, ACWC, and SPCA’s feral cat program coordinator  be notified.

 

Brent Dennis – Asst. Director of Operations GG Park – Will focus on the aspects of the agenda to improve communications with Rec & Park and the lack of respect  for wildlife and feral cats in planning projects. Supports notification to ACC, SPCA, and ACWC. Past overtures and initiatives to the SPCA to help in identifying feeding stations have been ignored or rejected.   In conversations  from 1997, nine feeding stations were proposed which seemed reasonable. Unofficially, gardeners and  custodial staff have reported up to 80 feeding stations in GG Park. That is an enormous expansion without communication back to the dept.  If other organizations took those liberties of expanding activities in the park without the parks knowledge it would be hard to cooperate and to know who to communicate with.  For this Commission to issue a letter to Rec & Park expecting  improved communication, the frustration for us is that there has been very little  if any communication has been requested in the spirit of mutual cooperation with the organizations we have been asked to cooperate with.

   It is hard to get the public forum of the  press to return to return to clear up  misrepresented  or miscommunicated  statements  of a story about Rec & Park but our garden and landscape staff does take significant  efforts to expand and establish appropriate habitats for wildlife.  Every project  initiated in GG Park always results in more greening  than what was there before. Professionals are hired for design capital projects  which, being in the park, always effect the landscape such as drainage, existing vegetation, historic trees , and public safety issues. Introducing feral cats next to playgrounds,  that have sand to play in, raises issues of safety for the children as to fecal matter.  People  come in without the Park’s Dept knowledge  and install and maintain, sometimes in the darkness of night,  feral cat feeding stations in locations  not known to staff . Problems will arise. These activities are introduced stealthily  into the public domain of 1017 acres.  The habitat that was destroyed was a 10’ by 10’ area surrounded by paved areas.  It is debatable  to call that a wildlife habitat.  That area was checked for nesting birds and other wildlife before removal.  To learn that area, which was in the middle of a three year  construction of a larger playground renovation, was a feral cat site is a bit unfair to now throw darts at the dept. and being critical  of our lack of sensitivity since we were not alerted to their presence.  Others at Rec & Park suggested to me that if a letter is to be sent it needs to go to all parties.

  Habitat restoration is important.  Second and third Saturdays of every month, volunteer groups, with cooperation with  our gardeners, go out  and work on projects throughout the park. This particular project includes habitat restoration.  The  park is sensitive to the intense needs of the public for active and passive use of the park along with sustaining healthy wildlife.  The problem is fostered by the lack of two way communication. Public awareness will be improved by the gardeners posting signs saying that this project will improve wildlife habitat.

 

Comr. Russo – Rec & Park has a seat on this Commission but has not sent a representative  for some time. The  lack of a representative  seems to be a factor on a lack of communication.

 

Brent Dennis – There is a seat assigned to Rec & Park and no one has filled it? Or, someone was assigned and never attended?

 

Comr. Hemphill – Bob Palacio  was the person who last came. It has been  about two years since he last came.

 

Brent Dennis – Seems odd that we have  a seat and a voice  yet no one shows up. Will follow up on this. We have an opportunity to have a voice and no one shows up.

 

Comr. Stephens – With discussions with Denny Kern about sending someone, we were told that it is not a high priority and everyone is overworked and short on time. It would be helpful when topics like this come up.

 

Brent Dennis – I will follow up on this. That is a good point from Comr. Russo.

 

Comr. Aldrige – It does come up at every meeting that it would be helpful if Rec & Park were here.

 

Brent Dennis – I have a feeling that I may be that person in my expanded roll. One point more from this morning’s meeting from Rick Thall was that 20 laminated notices were put up 30 days before construction started and the feeders come there almost daily. If the feeders came at night they would not have seen the 20 posted signs. That is standard protocol for any project in the park.

 

Comr. Aldrige – The feral cat feeders work with the SPCA not ACWC. The feral cat volunteers  are working for SF’s feral cats which is for all of us because we, as a City, care about our feral cats.

 

Comr. Hemphill – That vegetation was an island that wildlife needs.  Native plant restoration programs  are not usually that dense. Uncertain how best to communicate. Before Outside  Lands there was an enormous trimming of habitat.

 

Brent Dennis – The year I first started in the park, Mayor Newsom gave the executive order to get the homeless out of the GG Park. Park Patrol and SFPD’s recommendation was to clear overgrown areas so they could see where the homeless were.

 

Comr. Hemphill – That effort has resulted in clearing low-level habitat leaving only trees and grass. Leaving out wildlife. If we don’t get a representative on our Commission, how  do we get in contact with someone at Rec & Park? A regular contact?  Often will write an e-mail but never receive a response.

 

Brent Dennis – Dennis Kern is Director of Operations for all the parks. You can contact him. For an issue just for GG Park that would be me. For this issue, I am responsible for the matrix team of Rick Thall for Capital,  Marcus Santiago for Park Patrol, and Dana Ketchum  for reservations and permits, and Steve Flannery for structural maintenance. I am coordinating them all and will be the point person. If an issue is in another park Dennis Kern may direct  me to handle it.

 

Comr. Hemphill – Have seen a trend towards active recreation in the park versus enjoying the park.

 

Brent Dennis – I agree. Am a landscape architect .  Have been in charge of the Botanical Garden as well as the Conservatory of Flowers for the past 4 years. Have a passion for natural beauty  and sharing that  enjoyment with the public . GG Park is the flagship of the park system. The park is under pressure by lots of stakeholders . that balance is very difficult. I hope to sort out these complicated issues both internally and externally.  Phil Ginsburg’s position was to have someone to sort out these issues and keep the vision of the park’s founder John McLaren.

 

Comr. Gerrie- I spoke with Denny Kern last month who also mentioned the lack of time for someone to come. I had suggested that we really only need a representative when there is an agenda item concerning the park . That is not every meeting.  So it wouldn’t be every month.  I do understand  of the need for two-way communication. I understand that feral cat feeders are not very divulging of where they feed. Many have been reluctant  to inform the SPCA of their feeding stations.

 

Brent Dennis – The park staff has been frustrated when contacting the SPCA or the feral feeders with where are the feeding stations.  Just to know. Not to destroy or remove them. This project has been a great eye-opener of the need for two-way communication.

 

Comr. Russo – To clarify the posting?

 

Brent Dennis – Yes, signs were posted all around the future site before the fence went up. That is why it was puzzling that no one was aware of it. Conversations along the way were also confused as to what was going to be done. It is important to have one point person for consistent  information.

 

Comr. Stephens – If someone comes to you to set up a feral cat feeding station at position X, will they be met with opposition?  Or some openness?  I can understand a reluctance  to divulge  feeding activities.

 

Brent Dennis – I don’t know  what  is already going on as the feeder information is hidden. Would like to work with the feeders. At a disadvantage  not knowing.  If someone came to us we would want to know how that fits into the larger  picture of all the up to 80 feeding stations. Would # 81 be acceptable.? Would you want it next to a sand playground or next to a nesting quail habitat?  There are a lot of factors to consider.  Would like a cooperative way to consider what are we trying to accomplish together.  Rather than a stealth group coming in then crying foul when something disrupts their program. The park is a national treasure and there are a lot of dynamics that make it beautiful.

 

Comr. Stephens – Is there a Rec & Park policy  to encourage feeding ferals?

 

Brent Dennis – There is no policy but there are park codes that one can be cited or infractions brought to one for violations of actions not permitted.  There is no permit  issued such as for an encampment  or setting up a feeding station. You are not supposed to be feeding wildlife.

 

Comr. Stephens – Feral cats are not considered wildlife. They are there because humans put them there.

 

Brent Dennis – That is another  interesting dynamic of the park.

 

Comr. Hemphill – The park is a dumping ground for all kinds of animals. Turtles. Cats. Wildlife feeding is a huge problem. Wish that could be addressed. People bring bags of bread and feed the birds.

 

Brent Dennis – To educate the public to the detrimental aspects of feeding wildlife would be a win-win.

 

Comr. Brooks – Have heard earlier from feral advocates that when communication breaks down there is mistrust and  fear. Trust needs to be built and respect for what the different groups are trying to do. People don’t understand how important feral cats are to some people. Thankful that the feeders for what they do. Hope that Rec & Park will respect  and work with the feeders.

 

Comr. Hemphill – The goal is that cats shouldn’t live in parks. They should have homes. That is the goal.

 

Comr. Stephens – Rec & Park has a tough job. In Glen Canyon there are coyotes that need dense vegetation. The Natural Areas Program comes in to plant native plants and removes the coyote habitat. Rec & park needs to, at the least, consider the impact of the wild animals living there.

 

Brent Dennis – My e-mail is bdennis@sfbg.org. My City cell # is 595-7069.

 

Comr. Stephens – At this morning’s meeting Rec & Park committed to notify ACC and SPCA in general ? Or just the feral cat program? 

 

Brent Dennis – Rick Thall committed notifying them all to capital projects.

 

6 A) Public Comment

 

Martha Hoffman – Did not see the signs. Feeds in the morning not at night. The other feeders also did not see the signs. The feeding program started because the park was inundated with feral cats. We were begged to come in. We have reduced the population down by 95% over the years. The maintenance  yard had  90 cats. Now there are none.  At the carousel  the cats were eating out of the dumpsters. The gardeners asked us to come in. The cats do not use the children’s sand box. The gardeners have  never  complained about that. We are in very close contact with the gardeners.  This information is angering to listen to.

 

Susan Wheeler – Does not feed ferals in GG Park. Does take classes at Sharon Arts Studio in GG Park. Only heard about the project a week before it started.  Construction work makes  handicap  access  impossible.  Rec & Park did also not communicate with Sharon Art’s people.  Had a conversation with Kat Brown in 2004 about why giving out information of where the feral feeding stations are  was a bad idea. Too many people don’t understand what the feral feeding program is about and would do mischief . Have heard comments  from Gloria Bonilla that she hates the cats being  in the park. The feeders would not be feeding if they didn’t feel it was very important work to do.

 

L-Danyielle – Never hear a thank you from Rec & Park for feeding the cats. Only thing SPCA hears from Rec & Park is “Where are the cats?” Cannot tell them. Cats will be dumped there.  The feral cat advocates have  been fighting against Rec & Park since 1993. Mr. Dennis is speaking for the woman at the meeting this morning. Her communication is , “Where are they? Get them out.” Do not hear appreciation for reducing colony size. In one case 90 cats to 0.  Have learned to be very invisible so people don’t dump more cats with the ferals. Goal is no more feral cats. We get the cats fixed and stabilize the colony . Would be nice if Rec & Park communicated with us, they just communicate  at us. Rec & Park always  fences to the ground, trapping wildlife in or out. That became obvious at the Outside Lands concert.  What Mr. Dennis said was wrong. Would be nice to have an honest  and fruitful conversation with them.

 

Lisa Vittori – Would like to make a connection between no-kill,  cat stations,  quail,  native habitat, and homeless people.  Have worked in the parks removing habitat  and understory because of homeless people.  Then feral cats were blamed for lack of protection for quail. One reason cats get dumped is that they think bringing their cat to ACC means they will be killed. Feral cats get blamed for every bird death in the park. Sorry about Gloria. People become careerists  then things change. They don’t care about living things anymore. They have to follow the party line. Anyone that works in Rec & Park and the GGNRA has to follow the party  line. Rec & Park is not talking to all the people they should.

 

Nadine May – Supports  previous speakers about  why they don’t want  to divulge  locations of their colonies. When locations are known, cats may be poisoned. Feral cat care givers are the solution not the problem.  Recently  worked with other feral cat caretakers to trap 11 cats that had been dumped near Stow Lake. Spent many hours to trap them. If they had not been trapped and neutered, would have had an explosion of cats from those 11. Would like Rec & Park to acknowledge that the feral feeders are the solution.

 

Evan Elias – Feral cats are in the parks  because of humans  losing or dumping them. There were all from domestic cats and have become wild. TNR is the best way to handle the feral cats. It is not their fault they are there. To blame them or try to kill them is in anjustice. Have been dealing with Rec & Park for two years. Have found them not to be upfront nor honest in their communications.  The Natural  Areas Program, NAP,  is removing dense underbrush for natives,  removing habitat  for “junk” animals;  opossums, raccoons, skunks, and feral cats. The original park land was sand dunes with little  animal life. We need to preserve the habitat for animals that are here now.

 

Jennifer Scarlett – SPCA - Trap and removal whether  by relocation or  euthanasia will not work. Other cats will come in to take over that territory. Feral feeders are critical to stabilize the population that is there. Will work harder to improve communication with Rec & Park.

 

Richard Fong – Doesn’t understand  the purpose of the proposed letter. Doesn’t know what  is expected from Rec  & Park.

 

Public comment closed

 

Comr. Aldrige – Likes putting words to paper to emphasize verbal communications with Rec & Park representatives to  improve  overall communications and that these issues need attention.

 

Comr. Gerrie – Supports sending the letter. Appreciates  public dialogue that the feral cat feeders are essential to reducing the number of cats in the park. Sensitive to keeping the location of feeding stations kept  to only the SPCA. Also there is a need to have two way communication so Rec & Park knows who to contact.

 

Comr. Stephens – If the feral feeders communicate  formally with Rec & Park that information is Sunshineable .  Then people that hate cats can send a request  to know where the feeding stations are, Rec & Park would have to give them that information.  Does the SPCA have a master list of where the feeding stations are? 

 

Martha Hoffman – No.

 

Comr. Stephens – Would like the letter to be more specific so that people in capital projects would talk to various people all along as the project  proceeds.  Would ask that they contact ACC and SPCA at every stage of the project.  They should assume there are animals wherever they will be working.

 

Comr. Russo – Would like it to say “wildlife and feral cats” when referring to animals

 

Kat Brown – Wondering what ACC could do with this information?

 

Comr. Stephens – You might  know  if there were coyotes in that location.

 

Comr. Brooks - You would be able to contribute knowledge  that you might have.

 

Comr. Stephens – Would also like the letter to include educating staff about the feral cat feeders. Some of the gardeners may not understand the TNR program. Mary Ann could come in and give a talk. That would also foster improved contact to know whom to contact.

 

Officer Denny – Years ago, received a call about someone sicing his dog on feral cats behind the Beach Chalet.  Went out with Sgt. Herndon. Brought the dog’s owner into Vicious and Dangerous Dog Court. His argument was  that the code says it is only unlawful for a dog to bite a domestic animal.  Feral cats were not domestic. The court decided that if one feeds it and gives it a name it is a domestic animal not wildlife. If there is a problem, call me at ACC. Will come out immediately.

 

Comr. Hemphill – Will send the letter with the changes talked about.

 

Comr. Brookes – Small edit. Second paragraph  says “ Would things have been different if someone with that knowledge had contributed to the planning?” Rather say,  “Things would have been different.” Say it as a statement  rather than a question.

 

Comr. Hemphill – Intention was to be involved earlier in the process. Moves to vote on sending the letter as amended.

 

Seconded by Comr. Aldrige. Passed unanimously.

 

Comr. Stephens – Thanks everyone for their work, especially the feral cat feeders.

 

7. General Public Comment

 

Richard Fong – Comment on the water project in GG Park. PUC will have a hearing on 11/18. Another issue on the  agenda at that meeting will by Environmental  Sciences Associates, they will be looking at environmental impact of the Beach Chalet  soccer field. They will be considering spending $408,000 just to do the study.

 

Lisa Vittori – Suggests to broaden involvement of animal groups in the initial discussions on lots of things in the City such as the construction planned for the South East part of the City. Would like us to be thought of right away versus reacting to actions once they have occurred. Other places with feral cats are on PUC, DPW and Port property. They need to be in on the discussions as well.

 

8. & 9. Calendar items and task allotments

 

Comr. Stephens – Next meeting will in January . No meeting in December. Will do the quarterly report then.

 

No Public comment

 

10. Adjournment 8:10 PM

 

Respectfully submitted by Philip Gerrie

Commission Secretary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated: 10/12/2011 2:53:55 PM