Mayor Breed's panda plan at SF Zoo approved by Board of Supervisors

San Francisco is one step closer to welcoming pandas to its zoo. The Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to green-light the mayor's plan to seek private funds to pay for a new panda enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo. But, critics say the zoo is already proving it's not up to the task.

The zoo is already home to more than 2,000 animals, and now the city's mayor is pushing for a plan to bring giant pandas from China to live here. Bringing the pandas will mean building a new enclosure with a $25 million price tag.

Mayor London Breed is pushing for a plan to get that money from private investors, but to do that means passing a legislative work-around to allow private funds to be used for a public project.

"The panda diplomacy that we're hoping will create an opportunity for the pandas to come to the San Francisco Zoo sometime next year, said Mayor Breed. "So, it's really making sure that no public dollars are going into making this happen."

At Tuesday's San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, city lawmakers voted 9-2 to approve the plan, allowing the mayor to tap private funds.

Before the vote, a coalition made up of In Defense of Animals and San Francisco Zoo Watch went door to door in City Hall, urging supervisors to block the plan. In Defense of Animals says the zoo already has a questionable record on safety. "A baby gorilla was crushed to death by a hydraulic door, a penguin was decapitated," said Fleur Dawes from In Defense of Animals. "It's not even safe for the keepers there. One keeper was chased around the exhibit by a grizzly bear."

San Francisco Zoo Watch says San Francisco Zoo is already struggling financially, and while the pandas may be a draw for a few years, in the long term it will hurt the zoo's bottom line. "There's a true animal welfare issue at the zoo," said Justin Baker from San Francisco Zoo Watch. "Animals are suffering at the San Francisco Zoo at the hands of mismanagement."

Zoo visitors said they're not worried about zoo finances, but would still love the chance to see the pandas up close. "I think that it's up to the zoo and the city to decide," said May Liang. "We are just patrons, we will come visit if they do have it, and we will still come to visit if they don't have it."

Mayor Breed says she will first have to sign the legislation, but then can work on getting together a committee of stakeholders to raise the money needed for the panda enclosure.


Breed introduces legislation to secure funds for panda habitat

San Francisco has to clear some hurdles to secure two giant pandas headed to the city.