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SF supervisors approve funding for Mayor Breed's panda pet project

SF Supervisors to vote on funding for mayor's panda pet project
SF Supervisors to vote on funding for mayor's panda pet project 03:23

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors took a critical vote Tuesday on how to pay for Mayor London Breed's plan to bring pandas to the San Francisco Zoo.

The board voted in favor of the proposal, vote 9-2 for the plan. Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Hillary Ronen voted against the proposal. A committee voted in favor of the plan last week.

"You know, pandas have an opportunity to draw large crowds and a consistency of a support and will be an attraction here in San Francisco," Mayor London Breed said earlier Tuesday as she drummed up backing.

The mayor's push for panda diplomacy needed the support of the board of supervisors. Specifically, they needed to give her permission to start raising the private funding required to get the San Francisco Zoo panda ready at an expected cost of $25 million. But there was some opposition on hand.

"We're here at San Francisco City Hall to deliver over 7,000 signatures to the supervisors urging them to cancel plans to bring pandas to San Francisco zoo,": said Fleur Dawes with the organization In Defense of Animals.

She was joined by Justin Barker with SF Zoo Watch. For starters, they argued the zoo has not proven itself fit for the expansion.

"The zoo has proved time and time again that they can't properly do a minimum job of taking care of their animals," Barker said.

"Our goal is to work with the Zoological Society to see whatever problems they might have," Breed countered regarding those concerns.

Breed says plans are already taking shape to make sure the pandas are well cared for, and zoo management issued a statement saying "concerns about our zoo's conditions are unfounded, as we undergo regular inspections by various regulatory bodies."

"So, many zoos are actually finding that it's more expensive to care for pandas than the money they bring in," was another concern raised by Dawes.

"We've been in touch with the folks at the San Diego Zoo," Breed said of the planning.

"All I said was, 'Kids over pandas, every day of the week,'" said Supervisor Ahsha Safai ahead of the vote.

Safai, also candidate for mayor, has been critical of Breed's funding priorities, but still plans to vote in support of the pandas.

"We gotta be able to do both," Safai said. "We can still bring something special to San Francisco, but my resolution today said to prioritize raising the money for children and youth services as well."

As to the question of priorities and critics, the Mayor offered the following.

"Before the pandemic, we didn't have to work for it," Breed said of the city's tourist industry. "We didn't have to work for tourists. We didn't have to work for business. I mean, people were lining up about the door. And so I can't wait until an election to make a decision on what needs to be done to move San Francisco forward. I'm doing it right now as we speak." 

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