Mayor Lee's Op-Eds 2013
Mayor Lee's Op-Eds 2012
Mayor Lee's Op-Eds 2011
Good Samaritans are all around the City
March 6, 2015
When a large apartment building in the heart of the Mission erupted in flames one evening in late January, the results were catastrophic. The fire left one resident dead, one severely burned, several businesses displaced and more than 50 people without a home.
Several fires have affected our city in the last few months and our residents and affected businesses have experienced a tremendous loss. But just as our city comes together after major emergencies like earthquakes, we have come together to help those affected to recover and rebuild.
Immediate first response came from our brave women and men at the Fire Department, the Human Services Agency and the Department of Emergency Management. Our partners such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army provided basic necessities for those in need. Our city's small businesses, such as Tartine Bakery and the Bi-Rite Market, donated food and clothing.
And our city's residents stepped up in a big way by creating GoFundMe and HandUp campaigns in partnership with the Mission Economic Development Agency and Project Homeless Connect to raise much needed funding from our generous residents.
Today, many of those who lost their homes have found temporary shelter with family or friends. Others have turned to The City for help. And we, in turn, have enlisted the help of some our city's most generous providers of housing like the John Stewart Co., 2B Living, Parkmerced and others.
Many of our affected families have lived in their homes for years, even decades, in rent-controlled apartments, so when they are forced to relocate due to a fire or some other disaster, they are often unable to afford today's rents. This is where property owners have stepped in to provide reduced-rate housing until families can get back on their feet and return to their homes.
Affordable housing is essential in helping San Franciscans recover after natural or man-made disasters, but we need more landlords to open their doors to our families and residents affected by fires and other emergencies. To make it easier for property owners to help displaced families, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the Residential Rent Legislation for Good Samaritan Temporary Occupancy legislation, and I signed it, back in 2011. This legislation allows landlords to temporarily rent to families displaced from their homes due to a fire or other emergency at the rate that the family was already paying.
Establishing a robust network of good Samaritan property owners, now, means that when the next disaster hits, we can provide immediate support to affected families and help ease their hardship in their time of need.
Parkmerced is a great example of what we can accomplish together. Parkmerced has set aside units for displaced families for years giving them temporary homes where they can recover and rebuild. They've shown the way. Now I call on property owners across The City to follow suit: Please step up and lend a hand. If you are a landlord in San Francisco, call 311 or go to sfgov.org to learn more.
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Jobs program gives teens head start
May 14, 2014
Last summer, Terek, an 18-year-old San Francisco native, was hired for his first job through San Francisco Summer Jobs+. Growing up in Bayview-Hunters Point, Terek wasn’t sure where to start looking for a summer job after his junior year of high school, but through this initiative, he found the perfect fit at the Exploratorium working with inspiring artists who helped him explore his passion to become an artist. Terek is a great example of how youth learn and advance through an SF Summer Jobs+ experience.
SF Summer Jobs+, now in its third year, is a successful partnership between the Department of Children Youth and their Families, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the School District, United Way of the Bay Area, and non-profit and business partners.
Last year, more than 6,800 San Francisco youth found a job, received training and had experiences like Terek. Almost 100 employers including companies like Starbucks, Old Navy, and Zynga, over 60 non-profits such as Glide Memorial, the Boys and Girls Club and the Third Street Youth Center and 55 City agencies came together to provide our City’s youth with exciting opportunities that offered valuable work experience in office work, the arts, computer science, retail, engineering, landscaping and in dozens of other fields.
Nationally, the unemployment rate for youth ages 16-24 is 12.8%, more than double the U.S. unemployment rate; and for youth ages 16-19, the rate is even higher at 17.7%. As youth in our City face these employment challenges, now is the time to double down on our youth employment efforts.
The Summer Jobs+ program continues to open doors and provides our youth discipline, training, skills and work exposure while helping them experience the connection between education and their future careers. The program specifically focuses on our most vulnerable youth including those in foster care, in the justice system, youth from low-income communities and those who do not have the right-to-work documents.
This year we are expanding SF Summer Jobs+ so that a young person in San Francisco can find a job all year round. My goal this year is to place 7,000 youth in paid internships and jobs throughout the year. With this new goal, I am calling on employers, large and small, to participate in Summer Jobs+ and create opportunities to mentor future industry leaders, and to consider giving youth like Terek a chance to succeed in the workplace and in the classroom.
Be our partner and support the Summer Jobs+ Program. Together, we will make this the best summer yet for our young people!
For more information, visit sfsummerjobs.org or www.matchbridge.org or call 311 or 211.
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Getting ready for tomorrow’s emergency today
April 17, 2014
Friday marks the 108th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco. As we commemorate this date in history, we are reminded of how San Francisco came together as a community, as one city, to recover, rebuild and re-imagine our beautiful city that was ravaged by fire.
To make sure a devastating fire like this never happened again, San Francisco leaders built an Emergency Firefighting Water System in 1913, on top of the domestic water supply system, which has faithfully protected our city to this day. In fact, San Francisco remains one of the few cities in the world with such a unique backup supply.
Last month, the five-alarm Mission Bay fire demonstrated the life-saving importance of this high-pressure water system. First responders relied on this supply to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby homes and businesses.
The City has invested millions through the 2010 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response bond to strengthen this water system by adding underground storage tanks and upgrading existing pipes, pump stations and facilities. We are more resilient than ever, but more work is needed. This June, we are asking voters to approve Proposition A, an investment that will further expand the coverage of this vital system for more city neighborhoods.
And as we build and prepare for the future, we have a wealth of lessons learned from the past. Knowing what to do before, during and after a disaster will help us take care of ourselves, our families and our neighborhoods, and will help us get San Francisco back on its feet faster.
Our city has many resources to help residents and businesses prepare. SF72.org is San Francisco’s new hub for emergency preparedness, with useful information about what to do during an emergency. We have resources to help connect neighborhoods and communities, and simple guides to help everyone get prepared. SF72.org also features a section with official updates, crowd-sourced reports and a crisis map to navigate city resources during an emergency. In short, SF72.org helps San Francisco become a more resilient city, and I encourage you and your families to visit the website to get ready today.
I have no doubt the community preparedness we are doing now, coupled with the investment we are making to upgrade our Emergency Firefighting Water System and improve the seismic reliability of our city buildings, will be a key to our response and recovery when another major emergency occurs. The 108th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fire reminds us that we can bounce back from anything if we work together. I encourage everyone to commemorate this year by getting prepared and by supporting the ongoing efforts to protect the place we all call home.
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We must work to make city affordable for everyone
February 20, 2014
In the past three years, we have cut the unemployment rate by half and have netted more than 42,000 new jobs. San Francisco continues to experience a broad-based economic recovery that is the envy of the nation and the world. And this robust economic growth has generated hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue to fund vital city services.
We will never forget the double-digit unemployment, hopelessness and deep cuts to vital services we experienced during the Great Recession. But we must also work to ensure that all of our city residents have the opportunity to share and prosper in our economic recovery. And we must do more to ensure that San Francisco remains a place where people of every background can afford to live and work.
Too many of our fellow residents still feel left behind, unemployed or underemployed. And the rising cost of living and the financial squeeze on our city’s working families and middle class are the fundamental challenges of our time.
That is why I am committed to an affordability agenda for San Francisco, which starts with increasing the minimum wage. Working families cannot support themselves on the current minimum wage of $10.74 per hour. We must work together with small business, organized labor and others to bring a significant increase in the minimum wage to the ballot in 2014.
A true affordability agenda for our city must also include having a great public-transportation system, one that’s safe, affordable and reliable for everyone. More than ever, our aging fleet, our deteriorating roads and our growing population demand that we make greater investments in our transportation infrastructure for the future. In 2014, we must work together to pass a $500 million transportation bond and vehicle license fee increase to fund our transportation priorities. And with a comprehensive funding strategy in place, I have called for a repeal of Sunday parking meters to give drivers and families a rest from feeding the meters for just one day a week, once again.
And very importantly, nothing contributes more to the cost of living in our city than the cost of housing. In my State of the City address, I outlined a seven-point plan to build and rehabilitate 30,000 new homes by 2020, with a goal to ensure that at least one-third of those will be permanently affordable to low- and moderate-income families, and a majority within the reach of middle-class families.
We must also change state and local laws to prevent speculative Ellis Act evictions, stabilize our rent-controlled housing stock and revitalize our public housing.
And we must do more with the public and private sector to subsidize and incentivize housing options for the middle class, through downpayment assistance programs and new middle-income homeownership opportunities.
Neighborhoods outside of our city’s center such as the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, Candlestick, Parkmerced and the old Schlage Lock site in Visitacion Valley are areas where we can develop and build more housing units affordable to the middle class.
We have come a great distance these past few years by working together, but there are still too many in our city we must lift up and too many we must still help to ensure that this will always be their city, too. This Lunar New Year, we start the Year of the Horse, which is the most energetic animal in the Chinese zodiac. There’s no better time to recommit ourselves to an aggressive affordability agenda for San Francisco that invests in building new affordable and middle-income housing, transportation, education and our economy for the future.
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Celebrating 10 years after the Winter of Love
February 12, 2014
Ten years ago today, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom took a courageous stand in San Francisco against marriage discrimination, asserting that the California Constitution’s equal protection clause gave him authority to grant same-sex marriages. The City stood witness to history when the first marriage occurred between the wonderful Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, and what followed was one of the most important civil-rights movements of our generation. And it started right here.
Loving couples who were previously denied their rights were allowed to marry in City Hall and all told during 2004’s Winter of Love, more than 4,000 couples were married.
It was a proud moment for San Francisco, and some of my most meaningful moments in public service.
Our city will always be grateful for the incredible efforts of those who worked for years on the path toward marriage equality and bringing the marriage-equality case before our nation’s highest court, including current Lt. Gov. Newsom, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart, attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies, Chad Griffin and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Kate Kendall from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Phyllis Lyon and her late partner, Del Martin, who for decades inspired so many through their love for each other and by their commitment to marriage equality.
I would like to express my appreciation and respect to the people who suffered through an era when they were denied their equal rights. These countless couples and families can finally move on and leave behind an era of inequality and truly celebrate.
We took a historic step in San Francisco toward guaranteeing marriage equality for every Californian and protecting millions of California families, choosing hope and love over ignorance and discrimination. From that day in 2004 through the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June, the movement continues.
Today, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, but the struggle for marriage equality and civil rights for every American in every state must continue. It’s our job to continue on. And we will continue the fight until everyone is treated equally.
We will do this by continuing to change hearts and minds to make sure gay and lesbian couples can wed and enjoy the same legal rights as all families do.
San Francisco will always be at the forefront of fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender dignity and equality. We will walk together on this long journey to fulfill the promise of equal protection under the law for every American enshrined in our Constitution.
I hope you will join the couples and families at City Hall today at 5 p.m. to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Winter of Love.
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San Franciscans deserve a reliable, safe and affordable world-class transportation system for the 21st century
January 09, 2014
Last year when I gave my State of the City address, I called for the creation of a Transportation Task Force to develop a coordinated set of priorities and actionable recommendations for funding The City’s transportation infrastructure between now and 2030. Eleven months later, the task force released its findings and strongly recommended investments in capital needs and transportation infrastructure for our long-underfunded transit system to make it more reliable, safe and affordable.
The SF2030 Transportation Task Force called for a $10.1 billion investment in transportation infrastructure over the next 15 years, and also recommended to generate $3 billion in new revenue for our public-transit system by 2030 because for too long we have systematically underinvested in our rails, our roads and our public-transit vehicles.
The good news is that while the task force’s findings are startling, they represent the first steps necessary to advocate for and coordinate improvements to the transportation network.
The most pressing issue is that The City’s infrastructure is inadequate to meet current demand, and decline in transportation services will become even more severe without new investments as demands on the transportation system grows. What does investment in core infrastructure mean to San Franciscans?
It means improved walking and cycling safety for residents and visitors on our roads and sidewalks. In addition to enforcement and education campaigns, we need infrastructure funding for more safety and accessibility projects that can reduce collisions, injuries and fatalities for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, as well as improve workplace safety for transit operators.
In terms of our streets, our pavement condition needs improvement. The good news is our pavement condition score improved over the past year, but we must do better and keep up the momentum. We need reliable and consistent funds to fix our streets, because if we don’t fix it today, we are going to pay up to triple the costs later.
San Francisco needs and deserves a world-class transportation system to meet the demands of today and tomorrow. Muni’s fleet is aging and deteriorating as a result of under-investment in routine maintenance. Because Muni deferred vehicle maintenance over the years in order to meet the needs of daily transit service, some of our vehicles have not received midlife rehabilitations or replacement, resulting in unreliability and frequent and expensive emergency repairs. We need a funding source for midlife rehabilitation of Muni vehicles.
Our Muni system is heavily loaded with 700,000 boardings per day. Regional transit provides an additional 370,000 riders with daily trips in and out of The City. It is obvious that without new investment, transit crowding will get worse in the future, degrading more routes and lines at the busiest times of day. To sum up, we need a funding source for more Muni vehicles.
The message is loud and clear. We need to find sustainable sources of funding for our transportation network. These findings and recommendations are shaping the decision and plans we must pursue with members of the Board of Supervisors, transit experts, transportation agencies and the community to make sure our transportation is safe, reliable and affordable for everyone.
To view the SF2030 Transportation Task Force Report, go to: www.sf-planning.org.
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Time to pass Laura's Law in San Francisco - Ed Lee and Mark Farrell
July 6, 2014
Millions of individuals across our country are slipping through the cracks of our mental health system and many are right here in San Francisco.
In our city, there are hundreds of individuals who are suffering from severe mental illnesses. Too many are falling through the cracks of our mental health services system. The proof is right before our eyes on our streets every day. We have too many people dealing with serious mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, often self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
We need to do more. We need to change how we help those who are clearly suffering, and who cannot help themselves. We owe it to those individuals, their families and city residents to provide the best care possible.
Here in the city of St. Francis, we need more effective tools to help those in our community who are suffering. Laura's Law, a state law that requires local adoption, helps those with a clinically identified severe mental illness, and gets them into our high-quality, compassionate, community-based mental health treatment services.
According to numerous research studies, approximately half of those with severe mental illness are unable to recognize their own diagnosis. This same research finds a clear link between lack of insight regarding one's own mental illness and the ability to seek treatment - which results in poorer clinical outcomes, illness relapse, hospitalization, incarceration and, at times, violence.
Laura's Law is not a panacea for mental health treatment, but rather a strong tool in our toolbox. Laura's Law gives our city the ability to get people into treatment before they are in crisis.
Laura's Law is the compassionate option family members need to ensure their loved ones do not fail to get the treatment they need and deserve. As it is now, families have no option when a loved one decides to no longer seek treatment.
Amanda Wilcox, the mother of Laura Wilcox, a college student who was killed by a psychiatric patient in 2001 and for whom the law is named, believes there is a way to engage people with mental illness who desperately need mental health services while at the same time respecting their civil rights. We couldn't agree more.
Laura's Law is a less restrictive, less expensive alternative to involuntary hospitalization, and similar laws enacted and implemented across the country have produced dramatically positive results. Laura's Law helps local jurisdictions realize significant cost-savings through the reduction of hospitalizations and incarcerations. These cost-savings will help our city use financial resources more efficiently, allowing us to invest more in existing mental health programs and our social safety net that have proven to produce the best outcomes.
These are hard-to-reach individuals who oftentimes do not steadily access treatment until they are compelled to do so through the criminal justice system. Laws in other states similar to Laura's Law have shown drastic reductions in arrests and incarcerations, which in turn help alleviate the burden of our city's first-responders, emergency services and County Jail.
In order to make a difference at the local level, we must continue to challenge ourselves to do better. With Tuesday's vote at the Board of Supervisors, we have the opportunity to change the status quo, and choose to help some of the most vulnerable in our community. Those with mental illness, their family members and our community deserve it.
The time to implement Laura's Law is now.
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Net neutrality protection stressed by S.F., Seattle mayors - Ed Lee and Ed Murray
June 19, 2014
A free and open Internet has become an integral part of our society. Every day, millions of Americans log on to their computers, smartphones and tablets and engage in an online world that connects communities, empowers citizens and facilitates progress.
As mayors of diverse American cities, we have seen the awesome power of this tool firsthand. Our residents - different creeds, colors and socioeconomic backgrounds - rely on the Internet for communication, business, entertainment, civic engagement and even public safety.
In doing so, they are able to pull up their hometown newspaper or neighborhood blog with the same speed and quality as the busiest of commercial websites. They can receive the latest local alerts as easily as an e-mail blast sent to thousands of users. A local small-business Web page downloads just as rapidly as that of a nationwide chain.
A free Web also serves as the entrepreneurial laboratory for hundreds of new startups that are driving a new piston in America's economic engine - one creating new jobs and sharpening the country's competitive edge.
Net neutrality makes all of this possible.
But now Internet freedom and transparency is in danger from a new kind of discrimination - where big gets priority over little; where the establishment dominates and the newcomer doesn't stand a chance.
We need to stop this - now.
Since the seeds of it were planted at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency decades ago, the Internet has thrived because of its openness and equality of access. It has spurred great innovation, while providing a level playing field for its users. It allows everyone the same chance to interact, to participate, to compete.
Today, however, we are at a critical juncture, as the Federal Communications Commission works to craft new rules as to how the Internet will be regulated. We stand for transparency and believe that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment or mode of communication. We feel that innovation relies on a free and open Internet, one that does not allow for individual arrangements for priority treatment, also known as paid prioritization.
And so this weekend - during the U.S. Conference of Mayors 82nd Annual Meeting in Dallas - we will present our colleagues with a resolution calling on the FCC to fulfill its existing congressional mandate and to issue rules that preserve free and open communications channels for all.
We hope our fellow mayors will join us in this effort to preserve net neutrality. Doing so is critical to our nation's prosperity and the future success of American cities.
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Give City College more time to meet accreditation requirements - Ed Lee and Brice W. Harris
March 26, 2014
We stand with the students at City College of San Francisco. Our offices have worked together since July of last year when the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges threatened its loss of accreditation.
Since then, City College has made tremendous progress. This includes long-range planning for course offerings based on student needs; closer tracking of student learning outcomes; better accounting of fees; improved use of technology; agreements with collective bargaining groups; new fiscal controls; better use of bond funds for facilities improvements; and stabilizing enrollment with cost-effective marketing. The college has also improved management of its eight centers, numerous neighborhood sites, and its main Ocean Avenue campus.
City College has developed a clear and transparent "road map" that shows the 352 specific steps the college will take to fully comply with the eligibility requirements and accreditation standards, and documents the progress toward each. Well more than half of the items have been done, including many of the most significant tasks, and most of the others are nearing completion.
Despite this herculean effort to improve itself, the college needs more time to finish the job and overcome years of administrative neglect. The commitment to reform and the accomplishments already made show that the college is on the right track. City College has earned the right to finish the job by setting itself back on course and meeting the standards that ensure quality for the more than 77,000 students who rely on this institution every year.
The ongoing concerns about accreditation over these past 19 months have caused a great deal of uncertainty and distress, as more people come to understand the disastrous consequences of City College losing its accreditation and its ability to serve this community's educational needs.
Many have claimed that averting this damage should be reason enough to slow this process down. We agree that the threat of the loss of accreditation in July of this year has contributed to a drop in morale and confidence in the future. These have taken a real toll on City College. But we believe City College has an even more compelling case that should be reviewed carefully by everyone involved.
Through its hard work and demonstrable commitment to change, City College has earned the right to continue down the road to recovery and make meaningful plans for its future without the looming threat of closure. Providing additional time to colleges that are on sanction but improving is not unprecedented, and if any college deserves this accommodation it is City College.
Let this changed City College show what it can do.
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San Franciscans should safeguard our neighborhoods with smart investments now
The memories of the 5-alarm Mission Bay fire in March, which was one of the City's largest fires in years, are still fresh in our mind as we prepare the City for disasters and emergencies that can strike at any time. This large scale fire took the work of more than 150 firefighters to contain and extinguish, and prevent the blaze from spreading to nearby homes and businesses.
This Mission Bay fire serves as a timely example why we need to continue to invest our City’s Emergency Firefighting Water System. San Francisco’s first responders couldn’t prevent the fire from spreading and threatening more lives and properties without it.
San Francisco is lucky to have our unique backup firefighting water system, built in 1913, which has protected neighborhoods across the City. However, this hundred-year-old system needs some upgrades. The City has invested millions through the voters-approved 2010 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response bond to strengthen this water system by adding underground storage tanks and upgrading existing pipes, pump stations and facilities, but more work is needed to ensure its reliability.
This June, we are asking to voters to keep San Francisco on a critical path toward resiliency. The 2014 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response bond is an investment to continue the important efforts we made four years ago and to further expand the coverage of this vital system to make sure the earthquake safety upgrades to neighborhood firehouses and police stations are in place across San Francisco. That’s why voters will see Proposition A this June on the ballot; it is an investment that will further expand the coverage of this vital system for more city neighborhoods.
The upgrade projects will create more than 3,500 jobs and will make these vital safety improvements with no property tax increases. Proposition A has a built-in, independent oversight component to assure the money is properly spent, and has the unanimous backing of the Board of Supervisors.
In just a few months, we will mark the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and the next Big One is not a matter of if but when.
The work to stay prepared is ongoing and critical to saving precious lives and our City’s housing stock. We must ensure San Francisco can recover quickly when the next earthquake or major fire strikes, and the earthquake safety bond will safeguard San Francisco’s future with smart investments now.
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Let’s Get Textiles out of the Landfill and Put to Good Use
As Mayor of San Francisco, I am very proud that our City diverts 80 percent of our waste from the landfill, one of the highest diversion rates in North America. This is good for our environment, helps us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and puts us well on our way to reach our goal of zero waste in 2020. San Franciscans should be proud of how much we have recycled and composted, yet we still need to take responsibility for the remaining items going to the landfill. One of our targets this year is textiles.
Why textiles? Do you know that San Franciscans are sending 4,500 pounds of textiles to landfill each hour? Textiles are one of the top five materials we send to our landfill.
We launched the Zero Waste Textile Initiative to tackle this problem. In a first-of-its-kind partnership in the nation, San Francisco has teamed up with local retailers, large and small, along with our nonprofit partners and schools to expand and unify San Francisco’s textile reuse and recycling market.
Clothes, shoes, and other items that are in good condition hold a great deal of value for our local textile reuse market. I encourage our residents to donate these items to nonprofit organizations such as S.F. Goodwill and the Salvation Army. This will keep usable textiles local and will provide jobs for our residents.
However, not all textiles can be reused locally. Until recently, San Franciscans could only put items like worn-out athletic shoes in the black garbage bin. Not anymore. Thanks to our Zero Waste Textile Initiative, items like worn-out athletic shoes, well-worn linens, and clothing can be given a second life. Just drop them off at one of the many “SF Save Fashion” textile collection boxes in San Francisco.
Currently, there are over 100 locations across the city at local businesses, community organizations, office buildings and schools, where residents can drop-off their unwanted textiles. Instead of tossing them in the black garbage bin to waste away in the landfill, these items will be reused or recycled into new products like insulation material, flooring, or cushioning in stuffed toys, insoles, and bags. The initiative prevents textiles from ending up in the landfill and it conserves resources and creates jobs. It is good for our environment and our economy.
I hope you will work with me to make this initiative a success. You can learn more about the Initiative and find a drop-off location near you at sf environment.org/textiles.
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