S.F. appears to be skirting intentions of vehicle reduction ordinance 

click to enlarge A 2010 law required The City to cut its fleet by 5 percent a year, but it is only now being enforced. - CINDY CHEW/2010 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Cindy Chew/2010 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • A 2010 law required The City to cut its fleet by 5 percent a year, but it is only now being enforced.

A law was created two years ago to reduce the number of government vehicles, yet The City has exempted two-thirds of its entire fleet from the requirement and next fiscal year plans to purchase 91 new cars, vans or pickup trucks for more than $3 million.

Questions are being raised about whether The City remains too vehicle dependent and is failing to follow the November 2010 Healthy Air and Clean Transportation Ordinance, commonly referred to as HACTO, that required an annual 5 percent citywide fleet reduction from July 2011 to July 2015; it is only now being enforced.

New preliminary data show that the ordinance applies to 1,950 vehicles across 30 departments. But with waivers granted or pending, the reduction baseline drops to 648 vehicles, meaning 130 instead of 390 must be removed.

A report due out today by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose, who is currently reviewing Mayor Ed Lee's two-year budget for the Board of Supervisors, is expected to reveal more details about the fleet in the context of the 2010 law. Rose has already recommended at least a $500,000 reduction in the budgeted vehicle purchases.

Supervisor John Avalos said he is considering amendments to the law.

"We're not actually following the letter of the law, which is really about trying to reduce our carbon footprint more than anything," Avalos said Monday during the board's Budget and Finance Committee hearing.

City departments have been making waiver requests with the Department of the Environment to exclude large portions of their fleets from being counted toward the baseline for reduction.

Severin Campbell of the Budget and Legislative Analyst's Office said Monday that there are two main concerns with this trend: that "the Department of the Environment has currently excluded two-thirds of The City's vehicle fleet" and that departments are using the 12-year replacement rule to purchase new vehicles even though "half of the vehicles that we looked at ... had less than 50,000 miles and they had very low annual mileage."

Campbell added, "I would certainly say the implementation of the ordinance needs another look."

Lee's budget director, Kate Howard, noted that The City has begun thinning out the fleet. She added that under the law, while factoring in the reduction baseline change to 648, The City was required to reduce the fleet by 55 vehicles, and it will have eliminated 99 heading into next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

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