The SF Board of Supervisors on Tuesday signed off on Mayor London Breed's plan to raise $25 million to bring some pandas over from China to reside temporarily at the San Francisco Zoo.

It was looking as though Mayor Breed might be facing some pushback from supervisors when a board committee tabled the panda fundraising plan last month. But the supervisors on the Government Audit and Oversight Committee may have just been playing politics, and Breed's proposal to seek so-called "behested payments" from deep-pocketed donors moved forward to the full board this week.

The committee voted unanimously last week to grant an ethics waiver for the panda project, which will require raising $25 million to cover the cost of constructing a new panda enclosure and feeding the pandas the approximately 80 pounds of bamboo per day that a single panda can consume. This came after some initial objections raised by Supervisor Ahsha Safai at that first meeting, when he called the panda proposal a "distraction" from the city's more pressing issues.

On her diplomatic trip to China in April, Mayor Breed signed a conditional lease with the China Wildlife Conservation Association to rent the giant pandas at a later date for the SF Zoo. The zoo has not had a panda exhibit since a brief visit by two Chinese pandas in 1984.

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

Breed has been vocal in her efforts to drum up more tourism in the city after the lull we've experienced since the pandemic.

"Before the pandemic, we didn't have to work for it," Breed said Tuesday, per KPIX. "We didn't have to work for tourists. We didn't have to work for business. I mean, people were lining up [at] 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."

A coalition of two animal welfare groups, In Defense of Animals and San Francisco Zoo Watch, came to Tuesday's board meeting to express their protest of the panda plan. They raised concerns about, among other things, animal safety at the zoo, which has come under fire after a Chronicle report last month about allegedly lax safety protocols there.

"A baby gorilla was crushed to death by a hydraulic door, a penguin was decapitated," said Fleur Dawes from In Defense of Animals, per KTVU. "It's not even safe for the keepers there. One keeper was chased around the exhibit by a grizzly bear."

Breed issued a statement in response to the protest saying "concerns about our zoo's conditions are unfounded, as we undergo regular inspections by various regulatory bodies."

Despite the protest, supervisors voted 9-2 in favor of the panda fundraising plan. Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Hillary Ronen voted "no" on the pandas.

As the SF Standard reports, the list of potential donors presented by the mayor's office includes companies like Apple, Salesforce, OpenAI, DoorDash, Lyft, United Airlines, Ripple, Sutter Health, Visa, PG&E, and Kaiser Permanente. Also on the list are local wealthy folk like Gordon Getty, Florence Fang,

Peskin's primary objection and reason for voting no, he said, was the fact that PG&E was on the potential donor list, given the company's recent history.

Previously: SF Zoo to Receive Panda Loan From China

Top image: Male giant panda Xiao Qi Ji eats an ice cake for his third birthday at the Smithsonian National Zoo on August 21, 2023 in Washington, DC. This is the last year that the National Zoo is celebrating the birthdays for the three giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Xiao Qi Ji as they are scheduled to return to China later in 2023, with no replacements expected to be exchanged. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)