Frequently Asked Questions?
Where can I obtain a copy of the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance?
You can get a copy of the Sunshine Ordinance from the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force by calling 415 554 7724 or from the City"s website at http://www.sfgov.org/site/sunshine_index.asp?id=4673.
Can you give me some information about the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force?
The Task Force meets regularly once a month. The role of the Task Force is to ensure that the requirements of the Sunshine Ordinance are met.
What is the Sunshine Ordinance?
The Sunshine Ordinance is an ordinance to insure easier access to public records and to strengthen the open meeting laws. The Sunshine Ordinance also outlines a procedure for citizens to follow if they do not receive public records they have requested. (The Sunshine Ordinance was adopted by the voters of the City/County of San Francisco in November 1999 and went into effect in January 2000. The City/County of San Francisco already had a Sunshine Ordinance; however, the new one strengthens the previous one.)
What are the open meeting requirements?
Meetings that are open to the public are posted in a public posting area, at or near the place of the meeting, 72 hours in advance of the meeting. All open meetings are subject to the requirement that the public is entitled to comment on each item on the agenda.
Does the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance apply to all departments, agencies, boards and commissions?
The San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance applies to all agencies and boards and commissions created by the City Charter or by Ordinance or Resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors. The Sunshine Ordinance does not apply to the San Francisco Health Authority, the San Francisco Housing Authority, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, the San Francisco Transportation Authority, the Community College District and the San Francisco School District. These agencies are only subject to the California Public Records Act and the State open meeting law (which is called the Brown Act).
Can I make an oral public records request?
Yes. However, to avoid confusion and to make certain that you obtain the records you want, it is best to put your request in writing.
When does the City have to respond to my public records request?
The City has ten days to respond to a public records request. If you request records that are voluminous, in off-site storage or several different offices have the records, the time to respond to the request can be extended by 14 days. Citizens may also make an "Immediate Disclosure Request." Departments must respond to Immediate Disclosure requests within 24 hours after receipt of the request. However, departments can, in appropriate cases, extend the time to respond by 14 days.
I made a public records request and did not receive the records. What can I do?
You should first follow up with the department; it is possible that your request was misplaced. If the department still has not responded, you should contact the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force at (415) 554-7724 or you may file a petition with the San Francisco City Attorney"s Office. The City Attorney"s Office can be reached at (415) 554 4700.
Can the City charge me for copies of documents? Can the City charge me any other fees?
Departments may charge ten cents per page for copying most documents. A policy body may charge a duplication fee of one cent per page for a copy of a public record prepared for consideration at a public meeting. Additional fees may apply (such as postage) or other services such as a request for certified copies. Departments may not charge for locating, or collecting records or redacting records that may be partially exempt from disclosure.
Are some documents exempt from disclosure?
Under the California Public Records Act and the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, some records are exempt from disclosure. Examples of records that do not have to be disclosed are:
- Personnel records
- Medical records
- Home telephone numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Documents that are subject to the attorney client privilege
- Trade secrets
- Documents protected from disclosure by the State Constitutional Right to Privacy
- Certain law enforcement records
- Records protected from disclosure by state and federal laws
How do you file a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force
You may submit a complaint on-line, fill out a Complaint Form or send your own letter filing a formal complaint. The complaint is filed with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., Room 244, San Francisco CA 94102-4689 (Fax # 415 554 7854). Once your complaint is received, the Complaint Committee of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force takes the complaint under consideration to determine if the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force has jurisdiction. The complainant is then notified if the Task Force has jurisdiction, and if so, the complaint is scheduled for a hearing with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. For further information, contact the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force Administrator at (415) 554 7724.
Can I be notified in advance about board or commission meetings?
Yes. Any person may request to receive a copy of the agenda distributed to board or commission members. The request must be in writing and is valid for one year. There may be a small fee for copying and postage. 72 hours prior to the meeting of the board of commission, the meeting agenda is also available at the San Francisco Public Library, Government Information Center (5th Floor), and on the City"s website at http://sfgov.org.
Can I audiotape a public meeting?
Yes, provided the meeting is not disrupted.
Can I get a copy of the audiotape or videotape of a board or commission meeting?
Yes. You may be charged the cost of the audio or video tape. A member of the public may listen to an audiotape or watch a videotape (if the meeting is video recorded) at no cost.
How can I get a copy of the minutes for a board or commission meeting?
You may obtain copies of minutes from the clerk of the board or commission or after the minutes have been approved, they are posted on the City"swebsite at http://sfgov.org.
Which non-profits have to comply with the Sunshine Ordinance?
Non-profits that receive $250,000 or more in City funds must comply with what is called the Non-Profit Public Access Ordinance. The requirements of this ordinance are more limited than the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance. Copies of the Non-Profit Public Access Ordinance can be obtained by calling the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force at (415) 554-7724 or on the City"s website at /sunshine/sec121.htm. Some provisions of the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance may also apply to certain nonprofits. If you need more information call the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force at (415) 554 7724.