The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office is the legal counsel for the elected officials and approximately 100 departments, boards, commissions and offices that comprise the City and County of San Francisco’s government. The City Attorney is elected and answers to the people of San Francisco.
Our office has more than 20 legal teams with broad legal expertise that provide top-notch legal representation for a diverse client group.
AIRPORT – Based at San Francisco International Airport, this team serves as in-house legal counsel for the international gateway commonly known by its three-letter airport code, SFO. Team deputies specialize in aviation law; real estate, especially leases and permits; labor; land use; environmental regulation; design and construction; public finance; contracts; claims; and general government practice.
CHILDREN & FAMILY SERVICES – Represents and advises the Family and Children Services Division of the Human Services Agency in juvenile court dependency proceedings. This team works with protective services workers in court to protect the interests of San Francisco children who are abused or neglected by their parents or guardians. These dependency cases are before the court until the children can either safely be returned home to their parents or they are adopted, receive a legal guardian or leave the foster care system as adults.
CLAIMS – Handles approximately 3,500 claims a year from people seeking monetary compensation from the City. This team provides both the City’s first line of defense to protect taxpayer dollars and its mechanism to settle claims at the earliest opportunity for the proper amount when the City is responsible. Claims investigators are on call 24/7 to respond to incidents that involve significant personal injury or property damage.
CODE ENFORCEMENT – Investigates and civilly prosecutes property owners and businesses that have violated building, housing, planning, health or other city and state codes, or who are otherwise misusing their property to endanger public health and safety. This includes lawsuits to combat unpermitted construction, substandard housing, blight, prostitution, illegal short-term rentals, affordable housing cheats and other public nuisances that threaten the character and integrity of city neighborhoods. This team is also known as the Neighborhood and Residential Safety Team.
COMPLEX & AFFIRMATIVE LITIGATION – Handles complex affirmative and defensive trials and appeals in both state and federal court. The team’s work generally involves novel legal issues, constitutional concerns or statewide or nationwide public policy reforms. It also handles cases with large amounts of litigants, witnesses or evidence. In addition to representing the City, the Complex Team uses the powers vested in our office by California’s Unfair Competition Law to bring affirmative litigation on behalf of the People of the State of California to remedy unlawful, fraudulent and unfair business practices throughout the state. San Francisco is one of only a few city attorney’s offices in the state with that authority. This team also participates in the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project, a partnership between the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and Yale Law School that pairs law students with lawyers across the office who are working on complex affirmative litigation matters.
CONSTRUCTION & PUBLIC CONTRACTING – Represents the City’s Purchaser, Public Works, Recreation and Parks, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and other City departments in procuring, goods, and services for public work construction projects and technology contracts. Advises departments and other City Attorney teams on solicitations, bid protests and contract awards. Drafts and negotiates contracts. Handles construction contract disputes and related litigation.
ETHICS & ELECTIONS – Provides legal advice to the Board of Supervisors, Ethics Commission, Department of Elections, Elections Commission, Elections Task Force, and Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. Drafts legislation regarding campaign finance, elections, lobbying and conflicts of interest. Advises all city departments on conflict of interest and ethics laws, and advises City Attorney staff on the rules of professional responsibility. Drafts titles and summaries for initiative measures, prepares draft ballot digests and advises the Ballot Simplification Committee.
ENERGY & TELECOMMUNICATIONS – Provides legal support to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Technology and other departments on energy and telecommunications matters. The team also regularly represents the City in regulatory proceedings at state and federal agencies, with a focus on public power and protecting energy and telecommunications consumers. Defends the City’s laws regulating where and how communications companies may install boxes, antennas and other equipment they use to provide service.
GOVERNMENT – Handles advice and legislative work for the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, as well as for other elected officials, the Police Department, Fire Department and other City departments. This team handles the defense of City laws when they face legal challenges and includes the legislative unit, which oversees the drafting of all City legislation.
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES – Serves as general counsel to the Department of Public Health, including Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Laguna Honda Hospital; the Human Services Agency, including the Department of Aging and Adult Services, Adult Protective Services, Public Guardian/Public Administrator; the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing; the Medical Examiner; and the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. Practice areas include contracts, privacy/regulatory compliance/licensing, drafting legislation, environmental health, medical probate, court ordered mental health treatment (Laura’s Law), and civil detention orders related to communicable diseases.
LABOR – Represents the City in federal and state court employment lawsuits, writ proceedings, and petitions to compel arbitration, as well as in administrative proceedings and arbitrations under collective bargaining agreements. Advises City departments on labor and employment matters involving the city’s over 30,000 employees and in bargaining with unions representing City employees.
LAND USE – Handles advice and litigation concerning planning and zoning laws, environmental review, historic preservation, development agreements, conditional use authorizations, building permits, subdivisions, use of sidewalks and streets, affordable housing, eminent domain, development impact fees and exactions, and other matters involving land use and development. Drafts all legislation for the Planning Department and requests for land use legislation from the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor.
LITIGATION – Handles the defense of most litigation brought against the City (with the exception of matters covered by other specific teams, such as labor, land use, workers compensation or suits challenging the validity of City laws and policies). Also known as the Trial Team, this group handles cases like: personal injury involving city vehicles or the transit system; property damage resulting from defective city resources such as sewer or water systems; malpractice claims involving staff at hospitals; claims involving real estate or other contracts; and claims of civil rights violations against public safety officers. The team handles a substantial volume of cases and practices in state and federal trial court and courts of appeal.
PORT – Based at Pier 1, this team serves as general counsel to the Port of San Francisco, which manages the Port’s 7.5 miles of waterfront property. Practice areas include real estate, land use, environment, construction, insurance, finance, public trust, maritime and municipal law.
PUBLIC INTEGRITY & INVESTIGATIONS – Handles investigative work to uncover unethical and unlawful activity by City and private actors, identify and interview witnesses, and build strong cases. The team’s work is divided into four general areas: trial preparation, code enforcement investigations, special investigations and City employee investigations, which could involve government ethics, contracting fraud or employee misconduct.
PUBLIC UTILITIES – Serves as general counsel to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which consists of a water services utility (the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System), sewer services utility and an energy utility. Practice areas include water rights, drinking water and water pollution control regulatory programs, water reclamation and conservation, capital improvement projects, rates financing, and environmental law. Works closely with the Energy and Telecommunications Team on energy matters involving the Hetch Hetchy Power System.
REAL ESTATE & FINANCE – Handles a range of real estate and other business transactions for City departments, including public/private development partnerships and the development and preservation of affordable housing. Also advises on all public finance bond transactions for San Francisco’s Port, Public Utilities Commission, Municipal Transportation Agency, Mayor’s Office of Housing and the City’s General Fund.
RETIREMENT – Serves as general counsel to the Retirement Board, the board of the Retiree Health Care Trust Fund and the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System, also known as SFERS. The team provides advice on a range of matters, including pension benefits and the retirement system’s investment portfolio. The team also represents the retirement system in administrative hearings and in appeals before the Superior Court.
TAX – Advises the Assessor-Recorder and Treasurer-Tax Collector. This team drafts tax legislation, represents the City in administrative proceedings involving tax matters and works on the litigation involving tax issues.
TRANSPORTATION – Serves as general counsel to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, or SFMTA, which plans, designs, builds, operates, regulates and maintains one of the most diverse transportation networks in the world, including bike lanes, taxis and the bus and rail service known as Muni. Practice areas include: transportation plans; transactional matters, including federal, state, and local contracting; U.S. Department of Transportation and state grant requirements; real estate matters; drafting and analyzing federal, state and local legislation; Americans with Disabilities Act compliance; and other areas such as finance, construction and regulatory compliance. The Transportation Team also deals with emerging transportation methods, like jitney services and autonomous vehicles, and advises other city officials and departments on transportation-related issues.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION – Represents all city departments in workers’ compensation matters. This team engages in extensive discovery, negotiation, litigation, trial and appellate work. This team also provides advice to the Department of Human Resources, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other departments on developing workers’ compensation issues and recent legislative changes in the law.