San Francisco CUPA "The Agency that Knows How"
San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in the USA, it has been called the "City that knows how" or "Bagdad by the Bay" but never Frisco. I have been a lifelong resident of the Bay Area and San Francisco has always just been known as "The City" to me, just look at the jerseys of the Golden State Warriors. The Citys colorful history extends from the rough and tumble days of the Barbary Coast with its Shanghaied Sailors and the gold rush era to the 1906 earthquake and fire that would remake the city. Todays San Francisco is far different from the rugged port city run by longshoreman or the Haight Asbury hippies and the flower power movement of the 60s. Todays San Francisco is one of the most desirable yet expensive places to live in the world, boasting a very diverse community with all of the associated urban issues. This presents an enormous challenge for regulatory and public health professionals that must adapt to a rapidly changing world. The City is unique in many ways and this includes being the only CUPA that is both the City and County. The City & County of San Francisco (CCSF) is the CUPA for San Francisco. The Department of Public Health (DPH)-Environmental Health Branch (EHB) is the lead agency within the CCSF for implementing CUPA requirements. Within the EHB, the Hazardous Materials and Waste Program (HMWP) implements the CUPA requirements and is one of seventeen programs administered by EHB. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with the HMWP Program Manager, Paula Stewart, at the 2018 annual CUPA Training Conference and got a firsthand account of how life is in the big city.
EHBs mission is to, "Improve Environments, Protect Health and Promote Equity." In that effort, the Citys CUPA regulates approximately 2500 facilities with 11 inspectors, two program leads, one public health technician, 2 administrative support staff and a manager. Inspectors are assigned to specific districts and handle all Unified program elements as well as two non CUPA programs, Medical Waste and Chlorofluorocarbon Recovery and Recycling. Over the years the types of industry in the city have changed, many of the longtime heavy industry types, like ironworks, plating shops, woodworking and manufacturing have left the city. These industries have been replaced by a wave of biotechnology, research facilities, hi-tech industries, educational institutions, urgent care facilities, microbreweries/brewpubs, gourmet food and beverage facilities and cryo spas where liquid nitrogen and dry ice may be commonly stored for made to order ice-cream, specialty beverages and spa treatments. Occupying 49 square miles and with nowhere to go but up, high-rise buildings have become a large part of this CUPAs inventory. They have 468 buildings over 400 feet tall packed into the area with 100 more under construction or planned, no urban sprawl here. The unique makeup of the city, with mixed residential and industry everywhere complicates the CUPAs mandate to protect the public health and safety. That is one reason that DPH regulates all facilities with an aggregate total of 55 gallons of hazardous materials, counting all containers one gallon or larger.
As a manager that started her career in 1992 as a district inspector Paula has seen both pre CUPA and post CUPA programs and appreciates the organization, tools and support she receives as a CUPA. She mentioned such highlights as:
The availability of training which has gotten increasingly better with the centerpiece being the annual CUPA Conference augmented by Technical Advisory Groups and CUPA Forum Board sponsored trainings such as UST Inspector Training, Tiered Permitting, McCoys Hazardous Waste Generator, Train the Trainer and the recently completed cannabis training for inspectors. Sharing these training opportunities is cost effective, beneficial to new and seasoned inspectors, and provides opportunities for staff of all experience levels to share experiences and network.
The enforcement tools that are now available like the Administrative Enforcement Orders help streamline enforcement which helps as a deterrent to other businesses, validates the inspectors efforts and facilitates fair and equitable administration of CUPA program requirements.
The regional, program specific Technical Advisory Groups and CUPA Forum Board meetings are a great way of sharing information and problem solving as well as learning about what neighboring agencies are doing, emerging trends and new legislation.
CERS presents a new challenge, one that will take some time and some changes to overcome but it will ultimately help both regulators and industry. The introduction of field inspection tablets to eliminate paper and improve data input will ultimately improve the CUPAs implementation of CERS.
San Francisco has always been known for it's innovation and the CUPA program is no exception, here are a couple of examples of their trendsetting ways:
The Green Business program requires participants to comply with a checklist of specific items that take them well above the compliance baseline. This helps give residents some peace of mind knowing that the business is both conscientious and uses more environmentally friendly products which are typically less hazardous. The benefit for the business is a designation as "Clean & Green" with associated outreach which can help in an environmentally aware city where industry and residential communities are located in close proximity. The benefit for the CUPA is a subset of facilities setting the standard by going beyond compliance and making the inspectors job easier and more rewarding.
In 2016, the CUPA established a Registration and Compliance Assistance unit. This unit field screens industry sectors to identify businesses likely to be regulated by the CUPA and helps new businesses and public agencies comply with the complex regulations in the CUPA programs. They help businesses set up a CERS account, explain the specific program requirements and operate similar to a consultant in assisting businesses and public agencies to achieve compliance. Compliance is always the ultimate goal and that is why outreach and compliance assistance is a program priority in fact it is a directive from the mayors office. This unit has helped improve business compliance and helped to get City Departments and sister agencies into compliance. Public agencies should always set the standard for compliance but getting them there can take some effort and this compliance team has made a difference.
The scent of marijuana has long been wafting through music venues like the legendary Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland or the city streets like, well just pick one. As Californias newest industry, cannabis cultivation, processing and associated industries are estimated to generate 5 to 7 billion dollars for the state economy. In 2015 The City established an Office of Cannabis, allowing only indoor grows, currently there are forty growers registered with the office. They also have 56 processing facilities that extract the essential oils from cannabis. These facilities use a variety of solvents from butane, carbon dioxide, alcohol and ice water, each with their own inherent hazards. Various EHB programs including the CUPA work closely with the Office of Cannabis, Fire and Planning to permit and inspect these sites. CUPAs are still trying to find their role in this emerging industry and learning what works, new trends, success stories and mistakes helps to make us all better, so please share as you learn.
Like every employer the City is always trying to attract the best and brightest people for their CUPA program. San Francisco has started an intern program that allows them to bring in trainees from local colleges to work on a specific project. As part of this program the agency must provide training to the intern that would qualify them to work in the CUPA program. The intern receives training in all six CUPA program elements including ICC and APSA certifications in exchange for the work they do on a project. This is a two year program that is mutually beneficial allowing the intern to see if they would like the job and enabling the agency to learn about a potential permanent employee.
San Francisco is something different to everybody from a tourist mecca, a sanctuary city or a regional cultural hub, all of this make it a challenging place to implement a regulatory program like the Unified program. In the end we all do the same job but have different challenges and whether you are in Siskiyou county or San Diego county the regulations are the same. The City is a great place to live, work, play and visit and EHBs vision is to "Make San Francisco the Healthiest Place on Earth". They are definitely well on their way in part due to the work of their CUPA staff.