yellowpages.pngSan Francisco could become the first city in the country to require distributors of the Yellow Pages to ask businesses and residents if they would like a copy of the hefty tome before leaving it on the doorstep, under new legislation introduced Tuesday.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced the legislation at Tuesday afternoon’s board meeting in what he says is an effort to reduce waste and neighborhood blight.

“The amount of natural resources used to create, distribute and dispose of the Yellow Page phone books is staggering,” Chiu said.

He said it’s estimated that throughout the United States, up to 5 million trees each year are needed to make the books.

Under the proposed law, distributors of the phone book would have to get the approval of San Francisco residents and businesses by mail, phone, e-mail or in person upon delivery, according to Chiu’s office.

Chiu stressed that the proposed ordinance was not an absolute ban on the Yellow Pages, and that anyone who wants a copy would still be able to get one delivered. The public would also be able to pick up copies at certain businesses and distribution centers.

Chiu’s office estimates that more than 1.5 million copies of the Yellow Pages are distributed throughout San Francisco each year. The city has about 800,000 residents.

In addition to the environmental cost, “It also has a very real cost to San Franciscans,” Chiu said. He said residents and ratepayers pay more than $1 million each year to dispose of or recycle the Yellow Pages.

Chiu is anticipating a legal challenge.

“The industry obviously is trying to protect big money…but we strongly believe that (the proposed law) is constitutional,” Chiu said.

If passed, the law would establish a three-year pilot program beginning Oct. 1. It would be accompanied by a public outreach program by the city on the environmental costs of excessive Yellow Pages distribution.

Violations of the ordinance could result in initial fines of $100, rising to $500 for additional violations.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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