S.F. zooming in on scrap metal trade

San Francisco’s ongoing quest to quash metal thieves — who sometimes resort to waterborne pirate tactics to seize their booty — took a step forward at a recent Board of Supervisors committee hearing on proposed legislation to regulate scrap buyers.

The legislation would terminate The City’s handful of metal purchaser permits by next June and require those businesses to get annual permits if they want to keep operating. It also would keep permit revocations in effect if and when violations enter an appeals process.

The permits would cost $1,358 per year for dealers with a junkyard and $768 for those without one, and the legislation would eliminate the approximately $800 permit for junk gatherers.

Legislation sponsor Supervisor Malia Cohen said metal thieves impact more than just theft victims, with some climbing dangerous utility towers and disabling traffic lights. She said the law is about removing the “incentive to engage in this dangerous behavior.”

But Mark Madden, an attorney representing national chain Sims Metal Management, said dealers should not take all the blame. He suggested police do as much as they can to arrest metal thieves so dealers are not solely responsible for scrutinizing sellers.

“We are just as worried, concerned, anxious and otherwise about metal theft,” Madden said, adding that the company would like the permits to last five years since that’s the length of its lease with the Port of San Francisco at Pier 70, where investors are mulling over a complete revamp of the mostly shuttered site.

While licensed commercial contractors often sell unused materials for scrap prices to junk dealers, individuals also can make up to $4 per pound on copper and other materials. Earlier this year, San Francisco police circulated fliers to The City’s four major junk buyers informing them not to purchase a specific gauge of copper wire used only by PG&E.

The proposed legislation is expected to receive a hearing by the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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