Fix budget? Nah. Solve global catastrophe? Yes! 

People in the know here would never be surprised that the effort to launch a utopian, peace-loving, healthy-eating society would start in San Francisco.

But to do it at a time when the country is facing possibly its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? This may not be the moment to consider turning Lincoln Park Golf Course into a food garden.

Yet here we are, poised this week to unveil a report that has answers for not only San Francisco’s ills, but for the globe’s — and in just 143 pages. And if you can forgive the unwieldy title, “San Francisco Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force Report,” we now have confirmation that the Board of Supervisors, which assigned it, is not just a legislative panel, but a boiling cauldron of social engineering.

China, Japan, Germany and all you G-8 members, take notice, because the problems of our globe have been addressed and answered, and likely they will be given priority status in The City’s 15 Victory Gardens. For if San Francisco, as the report says, “is to thrive in the 21st century and remain a world-class city, it must begin planning today for how to maintain itself in a
post-fossil fuel age.”

Al Gore would be so proud.

I am all for San Francisco trying to solve the world’s problems — though, of course, while neglecting its own — but it does take a small sampling of hubris to declare, as the report does repeatedly, that the answers are right here at home, one less car trip and one more compost pile at a time.

You can call it visionary. I would suggest it’s hampered by ideological blindfolds. But it’s definitely well-meaning, an “it’s a small world” ride of a guide. And certainly innovative — I doubt anyone has ever thought of San Francisco as a series of small, self-reliant neighborhood farms.

“For example, the city should rewrite the rules regarding small-scale animal husbandry to allow residents to keep more chickens and rabbits than currently permitted,” the report says, “while also allowing residents to keep a small number of goats and hogs.”

Perhaps that was behind the move to ban the declawing of cats inside city limits — it gives them a fighting chance to defend themselves.

And if you thought San Francisco’s new mandatory composting laws were tough — buddy, you need to step aside from that steaming rubble of, uh, stuff in your backyard, or join it with your neighbor’s pile.

“The city should also reduce the number of miles that the municipal compost has to travel and create a plan for more neighborhood composting as well as vermicomposting [worm systems],” the task force says. “Remodeling the city’s composting system and establishing an aquaculture fishery could become the responsibility of a newly created Bureau of Agriculture.”

I thought we were on the verge of cutting our government agencies because we don’t have money to pay for our bloated bureaucracy. But once again, I was wrong because I didn’t read the small print:

“Participants suggested that the city could help pay for these investments by placing a new tax/fee on sales of fast food items within San Francisco.”

And here you thought we only were going after soda sales.

It should be noted that the task force — which took into account the world’s energy production and declining oil reserves — also is suggesting that residents should be “encouraged” to never drive anywhere, anytime, through the use of “market rate” parking fees in garages and a proposed requirement that no parking be allowed in new housing developments. (It’s referred to as disincentivitizing, which is enough to drive your spell-check mechanism crazy.)

Remember now, we’re not in Kansas anymore. For a family of five considering a move to the big city, that means longer skateboards, tandem bicycles, very long walks and a possible future investment in jet packs (hybrid technology only).

Besides, even if you are one of those old-school types that actually parks a car in your garage (so 1980s), our future planners have news for you. Those sidewalks and streets that we always complain are in such disrepair? You should think nut trees instead of asphalt, and reconsider your personal space.

“Among other actions, the city should encourage residents to plant fruit trees along their sidewalks and facilitate the removal of curbside concrete to plant sidewalk gardens,” the task force says. “Additionally, the city could offer homeowners incentives for tearing down backyard fences and encourage whole-block vegetable cultivation.”

Of course, even the best plans don’t always bear fruit.

“It is possible that events will unfold so badly that unemployment, hunger and crime are prevalent, and the basic structure of society is unable to function,” the report says.

So take a drive while you still can. Things can go hog wild quicker than you think.

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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