Welcome to San Francisco
Whether you're new to San Francisco, or your family has been here for generations — we're glad you're here.
San Francisco is a city for everyone. 5th generation Americans, 1st generation immigrants, study abroad students, temporary residents, and people of all races, genders, sexualities, religions, and political parties all belong here.
To help make living in San Francisco a little easier, GrowSF has compiled a few useful links and tips in our welcome kit. Share this website with your friends and coworkers, and if you have any suggestions about what we should add, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things every San Franciscan should know
→ How to register to vote in San Francisco.
→ Find your Supervisor (AKA city council person) with the GrowSF Find My Supervisor tool.
→ Is your sidewalk dirty? Call 311, install the 311 app (iPhone, or Android), or go to sf311.org
→ See someone who needs help, but isn’t in danger? Call the non-emergency police line at 415-553-0123
→ Schedule a trash pickup for large items like sofas, mattresses, and TVs.
→ Have an earthquake emergency kit (don't forget water!)
What is GrowSF?
We’re a nonprofit run by regular people who love San Francisco.
Together, we will create great public schools, safe streets, clean and reliable public transit, thriving small businesses, and more housing.
If you love San Francisco, sign up for our newsletter below. We won't spam you (we send the newsletter every week) and you can opt out at any time. We'll tell you about things going on in the city, how to get involved, and remind you to vote.
When more caring, motivated residents get involved in San Francisco, we can build a better city for the long term.
How San Francisco Works
San Francisco’s mayor has significant power to lead city government. The mayor can approve or veto laws passed by the Board of Supervisors, and can appoint new members of the Board of Supervisors if a seat opens up. But the mayor does not control public schools, which are run by an elected Board of Education.
San Francisco’s current mayor is London Breed. The former head of the Board of Supervisors, she became acting mayor after the unexpected death of Mayor Ed Lee in December 2017. She then won a special election to complete Ed Lee’s term, won re-election to a full term, and will be up for re-election again in November 2023, which will be her last term in office due to term limits.
Board of Supervisors
San Francisco is a City and a County, so instead of having a city council it has a Board of Supervisors. Other counties, like San Mateo County, have a Board of Supervisors for the county, and then each individual city elects its own city council (e.g. Burlingame City Council, San Bruno City Council, etc).
San Francisco is split into 11 districts, and each district elects its own Supervisor every four years. Even numbered districts are elected in 2022, 2026, 2030, etc. Odd numbered districts are elected in 2024, 2028, 2032, etc.
Supervisors pass laws and handle the needs of constituents like adding stop signs or ensuring graffiti is cleaned up. To find out who your Supervisor is, use the GrowSF Find My Supervisor tool.
Board of Education
San Francisco’s Board of Education has seven members, elected at large to four-year terms. The Board sets policy for all San Francisco public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and it appoints the superintendent of schools.
The Board has been subject to controversy in recent years. Unlike other similar school districts, it failed to reopen all schools for seventeen months (following pandemic-related school closures). It also ran serious budget deficits, controversially attempted to rename schools in a process called historically inaccurate, and stripped merit-based admissions requirements from San Francisco’s most academically rigorous public high school, Lowell High.
Citing those issues, parents launched petitions to recall three members of the school board in 2022. The recall petitions of all three won in a landslide, with members Faauuga Moliga, Gabriela López, and Alison Collins recalled with 68.87%, 72.06%, and 76.28% of the vote, respectively. Mayor Breed appointed three interim Board members (Ann Hsu, Lainie Motamedi, and Lisa Weissman-Ward), who restored merit-based admissions at Lowell and committed to refocus the Board’s attention on improving student outcomes.
The interim members are up for election in November 2022. One of the recalled members, Gabriela López, is running for her old seat in the same election.
As in other cities, San Francisco’s District Attorney is responsible for prosecuting crimes. The office became a political flashpoint in 2019, when a public defender named Chesa Boudin was narrowly elected District Attorney. Boudin promised to reform criminal justice in San Francisco, and announced that his office would not prosecute “quality of life” crimes like prostitution, blocking sidewalks, and public urination. He revoked use of cash bail, reduced prosecutions of shoplifters, and pursued mostly misdemeanor prosecutions of drug dealers (citing concerns that many were undocumented immigrants and that felony prosecution could lead to their deportation). He fired a number of career prosecutors, and hired former criminal defense attorneys to fill prosecutor roles. And he frequently and publicly criticized the San Francisco Police Department.
During Boudin’s tenure, crime in San Francisco became a national discussion. Videos captured bands of thieves storming stores and clearing out goods; others captured people shoplifting by filling bags with goods in plain sight. Open-air drug sales were widely recorded and shared. The San Francisco Standard, a newspaper, reported that Boudin “did not secure a single conviction” for fentanyl dealing in cases filed during 2021, a year when over 500 people died of fentanyl overdoses. And a wave of hate crimes against Asian Americans was also widely publicized. Boudin’s critics blamed his policies for exacerbating crime and placed a recall on the ballot. In June 2022, Boudin was recalled by a margin of 55%-45%.
Mayor Breed appointed a career prosecutor and recall proponent, Brooke Jenkins, as the interim replacement for Boudin. Jenkins has reversed some of Boudin’s reforms, and is up for election in November 2022. Boudin is not running again.