SF Politics 101 > SF Legislative Process

The SF Legislative PROCESS

Chess Game

Let’s Get Legislating! | What types of legislation exist? | Write the Legislation | Introduce the Legislation | Schedule Legislation on a Committee Agenda | Obtain a Recommendation from the Committee | Obtain a Majority Vote of the Board | Obtain the Approval of the Mayor | Legislation Flowchart [Chart]


All local legislative processes have their own quirks, with San Francisco being no exception. This guide is meant to serve you in navigating San Francisco’s complex, and in most cases, drawn-out legislative process. We hope this guide proves useful in better understanding legislation that could affect you and your company, and even helps create solutions to counteract or support future legislation.


Let’s Get Legislating!

On its face, the legislative process can be simplified into six steps.

  • Step 1: Write the legislation.
  • Step 2: Have the legislation introduced.
  • Step 3: Have the legislation calendered on a committee agenda.
  • Step 4: Obtain a recommendation from the committee.
  • Step 5: Obtain a majority vote of the Board.
  • Step 6: Obtain the approval of the Mayor.

As you are probably well aware, the process is not always as straightforward as it appears. Let’s take a deeper dive into the intricacies and lesser-known rules that often make the process resemble a year-long game of Chutes and Ladders.


What types of legislation exist?

  • Ordinances: Municipal regulations or laws.
  • Resolutions: Formal expressions of intent, opinion, or will.
  • Motions: Proposals for action that are the sole authority of the Board.

2019 Examples:

Ordinance 190568 – Amending the Administrative Code - Acquisition of Surveillance Technology.
Resolution 190615 – Urging the Renaming of the Central Subway Chinatown Station to “Chinatown Rose Pak Station”.
Motion 190453 – Mayoral Appointment, Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors - Steve Heminger

Legal Books

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Write the Legislation

When dealing with municipal regulations and laws, the writing needs to be as clear and concise as possible. To ensure that ordinances are “approved as to form,” Supervisors, the Mayor, a department head, or a commission must request the City Attorney to prepare their proposal.1

On the other hand, resolutions (unless they are bond related) are prepared by the office of the sponsoring Supervisor or staff within a City department. More complex resolutions may be prepared by the City Attorney based on a draft submitted by a Supervisor or department. Resolutions may even be written by members of the public. Occasionally, citizens will submit drafts of proposed resolutions to individual Supervisors, who then may take up and sponsor the legislation for introduction.

In the rare instance of a motion, the office of the sponsoring Supervisor or staff within a City department generally prepares this proposal.2


Introduce the Legislation

The author of the legislation brings their proposal to the Clerk of the Board for introduction. From there, the President of the Board refers the piece of legislation to the corresponding Board committee, commission, or City department for public hearing.

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