A San Francisco Supervisor has called for an alcohol mitigation fee to fund essential health and criminal justice costs related to the problems associated with alcohol.

John Avalos, the Head of the Budget Committee and District 11 Supervisor of San Francisco, concludes that many cities and counties are forced to deal with the costs resulting from irresponsible behavior that stems from alcohol.

“There are high costs for excessive alcohol consumption,” Avalos said in an e-mail interview. “In major cities like San Francisco, we incur high costs for emergency services, policing, treatment and rehabilitation, etc., all related to alcohol. The fee would help us recover some of these costs.”

The Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog organization, has estimated that California government pays approximately $8 billion dollars annually because of alcohol related harm.

“San Francisco can pass a fee to pick up cigarette butts,” said Michael Scippa, Advocacy Director of the Marin Institute. “It should be able to see value in creating a mitigation fee.

“We pick up bodies every day.”

John Hanley, Head of the Fire Fighters Union and also a member of the Marin Institute, is an advocate for the fee.

“What we are attempting to do in San Francisco is get a fee on alcohol per drink. That will compensate what firefighters, paramedics and the criminal justice system pays.

“It is an extremely heavy cost.”

Avalos said that other local governments might be looking at similar fees, including Los Angeles and Marin.

San Francisco is in the early stages of developing this mitigation fee. Hanley said it would begin through a nexus study (development impact study).

Avalos said of the study, “Once we have the nexus study created we will draft legislation establishing the fee to gain cost recovery.  The process will most likely take months. There also may be a legal challenge to the legislation.”

This proposition is for a fee program, not a tax.

AB-1019, Alcohol-Related Services Act, is a similar proposition authored by Assemblyman Jim Beall (D-San Jose) at the state level.

Avalos said of his expectations of this mitigation fee,  “I’m hoping we can have the fee started sometime in early 2010 during the current fiscal year.  I expect there to be mixed reception from the public but mostly in favor.”

Louis Dettorre can be reached at ldettorre@publicceo.com