SF Politics 101 > SF Executive Branch
SF Politics 101 > SF Executive Branch
The SF Executive Branch
There are three parts of San Francisco’s Executive Branch: the Office of the Mayor; the Boards, Commissions, and Departments; and Arts & Culture. For the purposes of this guide, we will only include the Office of Mayor, and the Boards, Commissions, and Departments. (For further information on the Arts & Culture section of the Executive Branch, please see Article V of the San Francisco Charter.)
The Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer and the official representative of the City and County of San Francisco, and shall serve in a full-time capacity. The Mayor is not permitted to devote time or attention to any other occupation or business activity while in office.
What powers and responsibilities does the mayor have?
As the Mayor of San Francisco, they shall have responsibility for a wide variety of City and County functions. We’ve listed five of the many major responsibilities below.
- General administration and oversight of all departments and governmental units in the Executive Branch of the City and County.
- Submission of ordinances and resolutions by the Executive Branch for consideration by the Board of Supervisors.
- Presentation before the Board of Supervisors of a policies and priorities statement setting forth the Mayor’s policies and budget priorities for the City and County for the ensuing fiscal year.
- Appearance, in person, at one regularly-scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors each month to engage in formal policy discussions with members of the Board.
- Introduction before the Board of Supervisors of the annual proposed budget or multi-year budget which shall be initiated and prepared by the Mayor. The Mayor shall seek comments and recommendations on the proposed budget from the various commissions, officers, and departments.
The Mayor also holds many powers. We’ve listed three major examples below.
- Speak and be heard with respect to any matter at any meeting of the Board of Supervisors or any of its committees, and shall have a seat but no vote on all boards and commissions appointed by the Mayor.
- Designate a member of the Board of Supervisors to act as Mayor in the Mayor’s absence from the state or during a period of temporary disability.
- In the case of an emergency threatening the lives, property or welfare of the City and County or its citizens, the Mayor may direct the personnel and resources of any department, command the aid of other persons, and do whatever else the Mayor may deem necessary to meet the emergency.1
The Mayor of San Francisco has the power to appoint or reappoint a City Administrator, with confirmation from the Board of Supervisors. The appointee has a strict list of items they have to meet including at least ten years’ governmental management or finance experience with at least five years at the City, County, or City and County level. The City Administrator serves a five-year term, and may be removed by the Mayor subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors.
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What does the City Administrator oversee?
- Managing the administrative services within the Executive Branch, as assigned by the Mayor or by ordinance.
- Administering policies and procedures regarding bonded or other long-term indebtedness, procurement, contracts, and building and occupancy permits, and for assuring that all contracts and permits are issued and carried out in a fair and impartial manner.
- Coordinating all capital improvement and construction projects except projects solely under the Airport, Port, Public Utilities, and Public Transportation Commissions.
- Preparing and recommending bond measures for consideration by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors.
- Administering, budgeting, and control of publicity and advertising expenditures.
What powers are given to the City Administrator?
- With the concurrence of the Mayor, appoint and remove the directors of the Departments of Administrative Services, Solid Waste, Public Guardian/Administrator, and Public Works, and such other department heads which are placed under their direction.
- Award contracts without interference from the Mayor or Board of Supervisors.
- Coordinate the issuance of bonds and notes for capital improvements, equipment, and cash flow borrowings, except for projects solely under the Airport, Port, Public Utilities, and Public Transportation Commissions.2
The Mayor shall appoint or reappoint a City Controller for a ten-year term, subject to confirmation by the Board of Supervisors. (Unlike the City Administrator, the City Controller may only be removed by the Mayor for cause, with the concurrence of the Board of Supervisors by a two-thirds vote.)
What responsibilities does the City Controller have?
- The duty to timely account, disburse, or other disposition of monies of the City and County in accordance with sound financial practices applicable to municipalities and counties.
- The authority to audit the accounts and operations of all boards, commissions, officers, and departments to evaluate their effectiveness and efficiency.
- Access to, and authority to examine all documents, records, books, and other property of any board, commission, officer, or department.
How does the City Controller oversee City funds?
- Determine if the revenues of the General Fund, or any other City fund, appear to be insufficient for the projected expenses of the remaining fiscal year, if so, the Controller shall reduce or reserve a portion of the fund until they determine that the anticipated revenue for the remainder of the fiscal year is sufficient.
- Exercise general supervision over the accounts of all officers, commissions, boards, and employees of the City and County charged in any manner with the receipt, collection or disbursement of City and County funds or other funds, in their capacity as City and County officials or employees.
- Establish accounting records, procedures, and internal controls with respect to all financial transactions of the City and County.
- Prepare an annual report of the financial condition of the City and County within 150 days of the end of each fiscal year
- Prepare an impartial financial analysis of each City and County ballot measure.3
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In addition to the office of the Mayor, the Executive Branch of the City and County shall be composed of departments, appointive boards, commissions, and other units of government.
Can members of local boards or commissions also serve elsewhere?
Any member of a board, commission, or other body established by our Charter, other than a citizen advisory committee, shall immediately forfeit his or her seat on the board, commission, or body upon filing a declaration of candidacy for any state elective office, any elective office referenced in Section 13.101, or the Bay Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors.4
For the purposes of this guide, we’ve included Commissions and Departments you will likely come across as an everyday resident of San Francisco. For the full list of San Francisco Commissions, Boards, and Departments, please see Article IV of the San Francisco City Charter.
Most Important Commissions to Know
The Planning Commission
- Meeting: Generally every Thursday at 1:00 pm
How are Planning Commissioners chosen?
Four of the members of the Planning Commission shall be nominated by the Mayor and three of the members shall be nominated by the President of the Board of Supervisors. Each nomination made by the President of the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor is subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors, with a public hearing and vote within 60 days.
What does the Planning Commission do?
Members of the Planning Commission advise the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and City departments on San Francisco’s long-range goals, policies, and programs on issues related to land use, transportation, and current planning. Additionally, the Commission has specific responsibility for the stewardship and maintenance of San Francisco’s General Plan.5
Public Utilities Commission
- Meeting: Second and fourth Tuesday of each month, unless otherwise noted
How are Public Utilities Commissioners chosen?
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission consists of five members, nominated by the Mayor and approved by the Board of Supervisors.
What does the Public Utilities Commission do?
It is responsible for providing operational oversight in areas such as rates and charges for services, approval of contracts, and organizational policy.6
- Meeting: Second Tuesday of each month, and again on the fourth Tuesday during the months of February, March, April, May, September, and October
*There is only one regular monthly meeting during the months of January, June, July, August, November, and December.
How are Port Commissioners chosen?
The Port of San Francisco is governed by a five-member Board of Commissioners, each of whom is appointed by the Mayor and subject to confirmation by the City’s Board of Supervisors. Each commissioner is appointed to a four-year term.
What does the Port Commission do?
The Port Commission is responsible for the seven and one-half miles of San Francisco Waterfront adjacent to San Francisco Bay, which the Port develops, markets, leases, administers, manages, and maintains. Its jurisdiction stretches along the waterfront from Hyde Street Pier on the north to India Basin on the south.7
- Meeting: First and third Tuesday of every month
How are Airport Commissioners chosen?
The Airport Commission consists of five members appointed by the Mayor to four-year terms. Originally part of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Airport Commission was established by the City Charter in 1970.
What does the Airport Commission do?
In accordance with the City Charter, the Airport Commission is primarily a policy-making body, establishing the policies by which the airport operates. (The Commission is prohibited by the charter from involving itself in the day-to-day operation of the airport, which is the responsibility of the Airport Director.8)
Small Business Commission
- Meeting: Second and fourth Monday of every month
How are Small Business Commissioners chosen?
The Small Business Commission consists of seven members, four of whom are appointed by the Mayor, and three by the Board of Supervisors. Seats 1-5 must go to an “owner, operator, or officer of a San Francisco small business.” Seat 6 must be a “current or former owner, operator, or officer of a San Francisco small business.” Seat 7 must be an “officer or representative of a neighborhood economic organization or an expert in small business finance.”
What does the Small Business Commission do?
The Small Business Commission (SBC) oversees the Office of Small Business (OSB), which is the City’s central point of information and referral for entrepreneurs and small businesses located in the City & County of San Francisco. By championing “business-friendly” policies, marketing the contributions of the small business sector, and developing appropriate assistance programs, the SBC and OSB work to support and enhance an environment where small businesses can succeed and flourish. In addition, the SBC reviews pertinent small business legislation and policy matters and makes recommendations to the sponsor of the legislation, including the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, or other City Agencies.9
Departments to Know
- Leadership: William Scott (Chief of Police), Michael Redmond (Assistant Chief, Operations), Robert Moser (Assistant Chief, Chief of Staff)
- Mission: “We, the members of the San Francisco Police Department, are committed to excellence in law enforcement and are dedicated to the people, traditions, and diversity of our City. In order to protect life and property, prevent crime and reduce the fear of crime, we will provide service with understanding, response with compassion, performance with integrity, and law enforcement with vision.”10
- Leadership: Jeanine Nicholson (Fire Chief)
- Mission: “The mission of the Fire Department is to protect the lives and property of the people of San Francisco from fires, natural disasters, and hazardous materials incidents; to save lives by providing emergency medical services; to prevent fires through prevention and education programs; and to provide a work environment that values health, wellness and cultural diversity and is free of harassment and discrimination.”11
Department of Public Works
- Leadership: Carla Short (Director)
- Mission: “We enhance the quality of life in San Francisco as responsible stewards of the public’s physical assets by providing outstanding service in partnership with the community. We design, build, manage, maintain, green, protect and improve the City’s public spaces (infrastructure, public right of way and facilities) with skill, pride, innovation, and responsiveness.”12
Office of Economic and Workforce Development
- Leadership: Kate Sofis (Director)
- Mission: “The Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s (OEWD) mission is simple – we support the ongoing economic vitality of San Francisco. OEWD provides citywide leadership for workforce development, business attraction and retention, neighborhood commercial revitalization, and international business and development planning.”13
Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing
- Leadership: Leadership: Shireen McSpadden (Director)
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) launched on July 1, 2016. The department combines key homeless-serving programs and contracts from the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Human Services Agency (HSA), the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), and the Department of Children Youth and Their Families (DCYF). This consolidated department has a singular focus on preventing and ending homelessness for people in San Francisco.14
1 “San Francisco Charter,” Article III, Section 3.100.
2 “San Francisco Charter,” Article III, Section 3.104.
3 “San Francisco Charter,” Article III, Section 3.105.
4 “San Francisco Charter.” Article IV, Section 4.101.1.
5 “San Francisco Charter,” Article IV, Section 4.105.
6 “San Francisco Charter,” Article IV, Section 4.112.
7 “San Francisco Charter,” Article IV, Section 4.114.
8 “San Francisco Charter,” Article IV, Section 4.115.
9 “San Francisco Charter,” Article IV, Section 4.134.
10 “San Francisco Police Department.”
11 “Fire Department.”
12 ”San Francisco Public Works.” San Francisco Public Works Strategic Plan 2015-2019.
13 “Office of Economic and Workforce Development.” The Office of Economic Workforce Development Activates the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund in Response to Fire on West Portal. 24 Jan. 2018.
14 “Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.”