The City Attorney
Biography of Dennis Herrera
The first Latino ever elected as San Francisco City Attorney, Dennis Herrera leads an office that has spearheaded cases of national importance on civil rights, affordable healthcare and environmental protection while remaining a tough and effective advocate for San Francisco’s neighborhoods, working families and underprivileged.
Originally from New York, Herrera earned his bachelor’s degree from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and his juris doctor from the George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C.
After moving to San Francisco in 1988, Herrera became actively engaged with neighborhood issues and local politics, joining community organizations and local Democratic clubs, and working on several campaigns. In 1990, he was appointed to the Waterfront Plan Advisory Board and later served on the Finance Committee for the California Democratic Party. Herrera was also heavily involved in the 1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign.
When President Clinton took office in 1993, he appointed Herrera to the U.S. Maritime Administration. He returned home to San Francisco in 1996, after accepting a partnership with a maritime law firm.
Herrera quickly resumed his involvement in local government when then-Mayor Willie Brown appointed Herrera to the San Francisco Transportation Commission, and later to the San Francisco Police Commission. He was voted the President of the Police Commission after just one year of service.
In 2001, Herrera ran for City Attorney on a pledge to ensure the integrity of public institutions, to expand neighborhood protection efforts, and to enhance local government’s accountability to its residents and taxpayers. He was elected in a December 2001 runoff election and proceeded to win five more terms as City Attorney. Herrera has continued to follow through on his campaign commitments, while also pursuing public interest litigation cases that have helped earn the office a reputation as one of the most “talented city law departments in the nation.”
In his role as San Francisco’s advocate, Herrera filed the first ever government lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of state marriage laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, and his office was centrally involved in the nearly decade-long battle that successfully won marriage equality in California.
Herrera also filed numerous successful federal lawsuits against President Donald Trump and his administration over federal funding for sanctuary cities, discrimination in healthcare against women and LGBTQ patients, and attempts to deny basic benefits to lawful immigrants.
He has been a champion for workers, ratepayers and the environment. In 2017 Herrera sued the five largest investor-owned fossil fuel companies over sea level rise caused by their products, seeking billions of dollars to protect waterfront infrastructure. Bayside sea level rise from global warming places at risk at least $10 billion of public property in San Francisco and as much as $39 billion of private property.
In 2018 he defeated a years-long attempt to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the crown jewel of the SFPUC system, which provides emissions-free hydroelectric power and clean drinking water to 2.8 million Bay Area residents
On major consumer protection cases, Herrera and his team have brought marketplace scofflaws to justice, winning millions in restitution for victims and taxpayers, protecting honest competitors who play by the rules, and securing injunctions to end unlawful practices. He won two landmark rulings in 2020 against Uber and Lyft for failing to properly classify their drivers as employees, and in 2021 secured a settlement from refuse collector Recology to provide $100 million in direct benefits to ratepayers through refunds and lower rates after uncovering that customers had been overcharged.
Herrera has consistently taken an activist approach to his City Attorney’s role: not only serving city government clients, but using the power of law to make a difference in the lives of the people his office serves.
Herrera and his wife, Anne, live in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch neighborhood, with their son, Declan.
Major Profiles of Herrera and His Office
- New York Times: “Ban on Gay Marriage Led Lawyers to Shift Role” by Adam Liptak, March 18, 2013
- San Francisco Magazine: “The Marrying Kind: The other man—and the untold story—behind San Francisco’s audacious fight to legalize gay marriage” by Susan Kostal, June 1, 2008
- San Francisco Chronicle: “Representing S.F.: Straight family-man Herrera an improbable gay rights defender” by Suzanne Herel, December 22, 2004
- Los Angeles Times: “Activism Defines S.F. City Attorney’s Office” by Lee Romney, March 23, 2004
Authored by Dennis Herrera
- “Why I sued the California water board” by Dennis Herrera, originally published in the the San Francisco Chronicle (May 28, 2021)
- “So you want to leave California for Texas? Think again” by Dennis Herrera, originally published in the the San Francisco Chronicle (Feb. 28, 2021)
- “In Trump Leadership Void, Pacific Coast Cities Tackle Climate Change” by Dennis Herrera, originally published in The Pacific Council Magazine (Nov. 18, 2020)
- “Now is the time for SF energy independence” by London N. Breed and Dennis Herrera, originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, (Oct. 11, 2019)
- “Protect the bay — and a neighborhood” by Dennis Herrera, originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle (May 10, 2006)
- “Save the Dam” by Dennis Herrera, originally published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (Aug. 17, 2005)
- “Bailout Makes the Case for Public Power” by Dennis Herrera, originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle (Dec. 19, 2003)
Find all Op-Eds and Speeches by Dennis J. Herrera here.