A map of San Francisco shows central and southern neighborhoods marked in red. In the early 20th century, San Francisco’s central and southeastern neighborhoods were redlined, meaning designated as high risk, leaving their residents less likely to obtain government-backed mortgage loans than residents of other areas. A recent study suggests their residents now face higher risks from pollution.

State Report Links Redlining and Pollution Threats

San Francisco neighborhoods the federal government targeted with racist lending practices face the greatest health threats from pollution, a recent state study found. The California Environmental Protection Agency analyzed the latest pollution data in historically redlined neighborhoods, where people of color were denied mortgage loans under federal policies, in the report finalized in August.

Volunteer Tiffany Williams displays an open box filled with electrical air monitoring equipment.

Air-Pollution Tracking Project Launches in SF Bayview

Environmental activists are about to launch an air-monitoring project to track pollution linked to high rates of asthma and other health conditions in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. The results could play an important role in demonstrating the environmental harm residents suffer.

Workers at the initial sort deck inside Recology’s sorting facility at Pier 96 in San Francisco pluck items that cannot be recycled or pose a threat to equipment from a conveyor belt.

Reduce First, Then Recycle: Sorting Out SF’s Waste

In recent years, the mills and foundries that receive recyclables from Recology have stopped accepting bales of material with more than 1% impurities, so the sorting facility at Pier 96 must work to a very high standard. Through a recent tour of the sorting center, “Civic” reported on what happens when things that cannot be recycled end up there, and what should be done about material that is difficult to recycle, like plastic bags.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a key source for water in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

SF Water Use Efficient, but State Restrictions Would be Challenging, Official Says

San Francisco’s residential water use is among the lowest among large cities in California, said Steven Ritchie, assistant general manager for water for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Ritchie joined “Civic” to explain how the city sources and uses its water, and why it is fighting state restrictions on the use of Tuolumne River water.

Cities’ Uses of Herbicide Differ, Like Conflicting Research on Health Impacts

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the maker of a weedkiller alleging that it causes cancer. Research is mixed on that, as the results of various studies are split on whether glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, is linked to cancer or other health concerns. In the Bay Area, where many of those lawsuits originated, cities have handled the question of whether to keep using glyphosate in public spaces somewhat differently.

The science on the key ingredient in the top-selling U.S. weedkiller, Bayer's Roundup, is still in fierce dispute as the company settles thousands of lawsuits claiming health impacts for billions of dollars.

Scientists Split Over Herbicide Risk, Leaving Public in Lurch

Identifying clear guidelines for the level of exposure to glyphosate that could cause cancer or other illness is a contentious business. Monsanto owner Bayer denies glyphosate, the active ingredient in weedkiller Roundup, is a carcinogen. The European Union and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back that view. That’s despite a finding from the World Health Organization in 2015 that glyphosate probably is a human carcinogen.

San Francisco city workers use blowtorches to remove grass and weeds from a median on Broadway at Polk Street on Feb. 3, 2020. City workers rely much less on herbicides than they did just five years ago, as health concerns mount.

As Cancer Concerns Lead Cities to Ban Herbicide, S.F. Scales Back Use of Roundup

When San Franciscans hike up Twin Peaks or stroll through Glen Canyon Park, they could be exposing themselves to an herbicide that some studies have linked to cancer. But thanks to growing concerns about public health and liability, their risks are substantially lower than they were five years ago, when the city used 20 times as much of the chemical.

That chemical is glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weedkiller, Roundup. Monsanto owner Bayer agreed in June to a settlement of more than $10 billion with plaintiffs in thousands of pending lawsuits over claims Roundup caused cancer.

As legal victories against the company pile up, Bay Area cities have faced a tough choice — keep using a chemical that evidence increasingly shows is dangerous and exposes them to the legal liability it entails or switch to other, often less effective methods. San Francisco has limited its risk through a strategy known as integrated pest management and its move to scale back dramatically on glyphosate since 2015.