San Francisco identified at least 115 commissions operating with little oversight

San Francisco created 115 commissions that contributed to piles of red tape and a bloated bureaucracy over the years, according to a San Francisco Civil Grand Jury report released Thursday.

The 87-page report comes at a time when San Francisco voters have expressed frustration with how the city handles homelessness, housing affordability, corruption and government waste.

People drop off their ballots at a drop box in front of San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Additionally, no one at City Hall was able to provide a complete list of commissions and no one was tracking their performance.

“We found that there is no centralized list of commissions, and no department or agency responsible for overseeing their effectiveness,” according to the report. “This lack of a single, authoritative list of orders was the first of many findings by the jury and showed us that the entire commission system suffers from a lack of transparency and structure. We believe this lack of clarity and structure has contributed to a lower level of trust in the commission system.

Grand jury members recommended eliminating 15 city commissions, including those that oversee food safety, sanitation and housing, saying they were repetitions and that other boards were doing the same work.

The process for removing a commission varies depending on how it was created. Some require voter approval, while others can be more easily dismantled.

The report also highlights that 15% of committee positions are empty and a fifth of all committee meetings in 2023 have been canceled.

“These vacant seats often prevent committees from reaching quorum – that is, a minimum required number of participants – leading to canceled or postponed meetings, delaying activities as vital as approving contracts.” , notes the report.

San Francisco, the fourth most populous city in California, has 808,437 residents and 115 commissions. Los Angeles, a city of more than 4 million inhabitants, has only 48 commissions. San Diego, with a population of 1.4 million, has 49 commissions. San Jose, with a population of about 1 million, has 27.

“Because San Francisco is both a city and a county, we have compared our commissions to relevant city and county commissions for peer cities and made adjustments where necessary,” the report states. “After accounting for this and adjusting for population, we determined that San Francisco had approximately twice as many commissions as its California peers.”

Commissions also clog up the system and represent a financial burden. Members receive stipends and health benefits.


The city must also pay for the resources needed to prepare for commission meetings or respond to requests from commissioners.

“It’s kind of an interlocking system that contributes to a lot of the red tape and bureaucracy in the city,” said jury member Niall Murphy.

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