San Francisco, California

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San Francisco, California
Seal of San Francisco.png
General information
Edwin Lee.jpg
Mayor:Edwin M. Lee
Last mayoral election:2011
Next mayoral election:2015
City council seats:11
2012-13 FY Budget:$7.5 billion
City website
Composition data
Population in 2013:837,442
Gender:49.3% Female
Race:White 48.5%
African American 6.1%
Hispanic or Latino 15.1%
Asian 33.3%
Native American 0.5%
Pacific Islander 0.4%
Two or More 4.7%
Median household income:$73,802
High school graduation rate:85.9%
College graduation rate:52.0%
Related San Francisco offices
California's 9th congressional districtCalifornia's 13th congressional districtCalifornia LegislatureCalifornia state executive offices
San Francisco is a consolidated city-county in California. As of 2013, its population was 837,442.[1]

City government

The city of San Francisco utilizes a "strong mayor" and city council system. In this form of municipal government, the city council serves as the city's primary legislative body and the mayor serves as the city's chief executive.[2]


The mayor serves as the city's chief executive, and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors and committee members and overseeing the city's day-to-day operations. The mayor also possesses veto powers, and presides over city council meetings.[2] Edwin M. Lee is the current Mayor of San Francisco.[3]

City council

The San Francisco City Council - more commonly known as the Board of Supervisors - is the city's primary legislative body. It is responsible for adopting the city budget, approving mayoral appointees, levying taxes and making or amending city laws, policies and ordinances.[4]


The city council consists of eleven members, each of which are elected by one of the city's eleven districts.[4]

A full list of city council members can be found here.

Commissions, boards and committees

A series of advisory boards and commissions that are made up of non-elected citizens, whom city council members have appointed and approved, advises the San Francisco City Council. The roles of these boards and commissions are to review, debate and comment upon city policies and legislation and to make recommendations to the city council.[5]

For a full list of San Francisco's commissions, boards and committees, see here.



See also: San Francisco, California municipal elections, 2014.

The city of San Francisco, California will hold elections for the Board of Supervisors on November 4, 2014. San Francisco utilizes ranked-choice voting for municipal offices, eliminating the need for runoff elections.[6] The filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this election was June 10, 2014.[7] Five seats are up for election.


San Francisco's adopted operating budget for fiscal year 2012-13 was $7.5 billion.[8]


Office of the Mayor
Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: (415) 554-6141
Fax: (415) 554-6160

See here to contact individual council members.

Ballot Measures

See also: San Francisco ballot measures

San Francisco is a city-county equivalent. A list of ballot measures in San Francisco is available here.

Initiative process

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

Population as of the July, 2011 census update: 812,826.[1] San Francisco is a charter city.

San Francisco has its own initiative process for ordinances determined by the city charter. The state process (see above for details) is applicable wherever the city is silent. The signature requirements are 5% of the votes cast for all candidates for mayor in the last preceding general municipal election for mayor. Circulators must comply with the relevant code regarding identification. The pre-approval process includes registration and publication of the intention to circulate in a newspaper. Otherwise the process is governed by the California Election Code.

The San Francisco City Charter


See also: California government sector lobbying

In 2013, San Francisco spent a total of $500,000 on federal lobbying. The issues for which the city filed, as well as the numbers of reports, can be seen below.[9]

Federal Lobbying Issues, 2013
Reports Issue
8 Utilities
7 Transportation
4 Marine, Boats & Fisheries
4 Energy & Nuclear Power
3 Fed Budget & Appropriations
3 Economics & Econ Development
3 Housing
3 Homeland Security
2 Radio & TV Broadcasting
2 Natural Resources
2 Urban Development
1 Science & Technology
1 Defense
1 Health Issues
1 Immigration

Public pensions

See also: California public pensions

In the past decade the city's pension costs have increased by 66,733 percent.[10] The city's 26,000 public employee's pensions may bankrupt the city according to a study the a grande jury.[11] Currently, the pension is 97 percent funded and has a 7.5 percent growth rate, but the increasing cost of health care as gone from $17 million in 2001 to $140 million in 2009.[11] Shirley Hansen, an author of the report, said that health care costs will reach $1 billion within five years, and be 1/3 of the general budget.[11][12]

According to a 2010 report published at Northwestern University, San Francisco is one of the ten municipalities with the largest amount of unfunded pension liabilities. Nationwide there is $574 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for local pension plans, and this is in addition to the $3 trillion in debt facing state-sponsored pension plans.[13] The report states that the pension plans could be out of money as early at 2025.[13]

(number of plans)
Liabilities, Stated Basis, June ’09 ($B) Liabilities (ABO), Treasury Rate Net Pension Assets ($B) Unfunded Liability ($B) Unfunded Liability / Revenue Unfunded Liability per Household ($)
San Francisco (1) 16.3 22.6 13.3 9.3 266% 34,940
Los Angeles (3) 34.6 49.3 23.2 26.1 378% 18,193

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd on May 24, 2011 proposed a November ballot measure that would cap pension benefits, raise retirement ages and require greater contributions from workers. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has proposed similar changes.[14]

Retiree health care

California Common Sense released a study of the retiree health care finances of the 20 California cities with the largest budgets. With a $4 billion liability, San Francisco had the distinction of having the largest unfunded retiree health care debt on the list and zero dollars put away to pay for it.[15]

Transparency and open government

In 2009, former Mayor Gavin Newsom implemented two open government initiatives and Twitter 311, along with other web / phone apps that allowed citizens to interact with their government.[16] proactively discloses over 150 local government data sets to the public, while Twitter 311 allows people to report problems directly to the government.

In October of 2010, Newsom proposed that his Open Government Directive be passed as legislation, to ensure that the transparency practices continue. The legislation was supported by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee, but will need the Board's approval to be put into place.[17][18]

In November 2010, a new Open Data law was approved by the Board of Supervisors. It requires all departments and agencies to make "reasonable efforts" to publish any data possible. The law built on previous executive orders from Mayor Newsom.[19]

Website evaluation

See also: Evaluation of California city websites
Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts Y
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Lobbying P
Public Records Y
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Local Taxes Y
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School district websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

In 2011 San Francisco earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score. San Francisco has also launched a data transparency portal to help citizens interpret the raw data.[20]

The good

  • Budget
    • Proposed and adopted budgets, as well as budget development information, is available.[21]
    • Budgets are archived to 1996.
  • Audit
    • Audits are posted and archived to 1998.[22]
    • Annual Salary Ordinances are posted and retirement and pension plan information is included in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.[23][24]
  • Meetings
    • Board of Supervisors meeting schedule, agendas, minutes, and video archives are available.[25][26]
    • Agendas and minutes are archived for more than three years.[27]
  • Elected officials
    • Contact information for the Mayor and Board of Supervisors is available.[28][29]
  • Administration
    • Contact information is available for the City Administrator and City Departments.[30][31]
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning maps and zoning information are available.[32]
    • Permit information is available.[33]
  • Management and audit reports for various City departments are posted.[34] Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports with Independent Auditor's Reports are also posted.[35]
  • Contracts
    • Vendor contract information is available.[36]
  • Lobbying
    • Information on lobbyists registered with the city is available through the San Francisco Ethic Commission.[37] The information discloses activity expenses, political contributions, contacts of public officials, and payments promised by clients.[38]0
    • Individual filings, including payments received, are available for lobbyists on behalf of the city.[39]
  • Public records
    • A Request Information form[40] is available on the city website along with Sunshine Ordinance information.[41]
  • Tax information is available through the Controller's Office and the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector.[21][42]

The bad

  • Lobbying
    • Membership in taxpayer funded lobbying associations is not disclosed.

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 U.S. Census, "State and County Quick Facts," accessed on September 8, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 City of San Francisco, "Government," accessed on September 3, 2014
  3. City of San Francisco, "Office of the Mayor," accessed on September 2, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 City of San Francisco, "City Council," accessed on September 3, 2014
  5. City of San Francisco, "Boards," accessed on August 26, 2014
  6. City and County of San Francisco, "Future Elections," accessed March 10, 2014
  7. City and County of San Francisco, "Calendar for the November 4, 2014 Consolidated General Election," accessed April 2, 2014
  8. City of San Francisco, "Annual Appropriations Ordinance," accessed on September 8, 2014
  9. Open Secrets, "City of San Francisco, CA," accessed on September 8, 2014
  10. San Francisco Weekly, "Let It Bleed," October 20, 2010
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Cal Watchdog, "San Fran Is Pension Ground Zero," September 28, 2010
  12. San Francisco Chronicle, "Civil grand jury warns of 'pension tsunami,'" June 24, 2010
  13. 13.0 13.1 MacIver Institute, "City of Milwaukee Pension a Ticking Time Bomb According to Northwestern Study," Oct. 12, 2010
  14. Bloomberg News, "California cities carry out pension changes while Brown still negotiating," June 9, 2011
  15. The Examiner, "Retiree health costs weigh on San Francisco," August 8, 2012
  16. Mashable, "San Francisco Government and Technology: How We’re Innovating," November 2009
  17. Gov Fresh, "A vote for open data in San Francisco," November 8, 2010
  18. Information Week, "San Francisco Mayor Proposes Data Transparency Law," October 28, 2010
  19. Fast Company, "San Francisco Passes First Open Data Law," November 9, 2010
  20. San Francisco Examiner, "New Web tool breaks down San Francisco government data," September 18, 2011
  21. 21.0 21.1 City of San Francisco, "Finance and Budget," accessed on September 8, 2014
  22. City of San Francisco, "Audits," accessed on September 8, 2014
  23. City of San Francisco, "Annual Salary Ordinance
  24. City of San Francisco, "FY 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report," accessed on September 8, 2014
  25. City of San Francisco, "Board of Supervisors Meeting Information," accessed on September 8, 2014
  26. City of San Francisco, "Board of Supervisors Meeting Information," accessed on September 8, 2014
  27. City of San Francisco, "Meeting Archives," accessed on September 8, 2014
  28. City of San Francisco, "Board of Supervisors
  29. City of San Francisco, "Mayor's Office," accessed on September 8, 2014
  30. City of San Francisco, "City Agencies," accessed on September 8, 2014
  31. City of San Francisco, "Office of the City Administrator," accessed on September 8, 2014
  32. City of San Francisco, "Planning," accessed on September 8, 2014
  33. City of San Francisco, "Permits," accessed on September 8, 2014
  34. City of San Francisco, "Budget Analyst
  35. City of San Francisco, "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report," accessed on September 8, 2014
  36. City of San Francisco, "Purchasing," accessed on September 8, 2014
  37. City of San Francisco, "Ethics Commission," accessed on September 8, 2014
  38. City of San Francisco, "Lobbying," accessed on September 8, 2014
  39. City of San Francisco, "Lobbyists on behalf of the city," accessed on September 8, 2014
  40. City of San Francisco, "Public Records Request," accessed on September 8, 2014
  41. City of San Francisco, "Sunshine Ordinance," accessed on September 8, 2014
  42. City of San Francisco, "Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector," accessed on September 8, 2014