Monday, December 22, 2014

UPDATE - Amendments to the San Francisco Lobbyist Ordinance

BOMA San Francisco Members:

UPDATE - December 22, 2014

The Ethics Commission staff has prepared answers to the top ten questions regarding the City’s registration and reporting requirements for permit consultants, which take effect January 1, 2015. These answers are intended to provide guidance pending the adoption of formal regulations. Please note that this guidance may be subject to change in the future. Interested parties will be notified of any such changes, which will also be posted on the Ethics Commission’s website. To ensure that you will be notified of any changes to this guidance, please contact Pat Peterson at (415) 252-3100 or

You are also encouraged to check the Commission’s website regularly until formal regulations are adopted.

Original Post - July 17, 2014

Please be aware that recent amendments to the City’s Lobbyist Ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors will take effect on July 26, 2014.  Some of the key changes to the Lobbyist Ordinance are summarized below. Please note that this summary is for general informational purposes only, and that you should refer to the new law (available here) or contact the Ethics Commission for more complete guidance if you feel that you may qualify as a lobbyist.

Lobbyist Qualification Threshold

The new rules change the lobbyist qualification threshold, which is now based entirely on the number of compensated lobbying contacts an individual has with a City officer. More specifically, an individual must register and report as a lobbyist if he or she makes:

  • one or more compensated lobbying contacts in a calendar month with a City officer on behalf of a client, or 
  • five or more compensated lobbying contacts in a calendar month with City officers on behalf of the individual’s employer (unless the individual owns 20 percent or more of the employing entity). 

Covered City Officials

The new rules expand the list of those City officials with whom compensated lobbying contacts will trigger lobbyist registration and reporting. These new officials include members of the following boards and commissions: 

  • First Five Commission 
  • Health Authority Board 
  • Housing Authority Commission 
  • Law Library Board of Trustees 
  • Local Agency Formation Commission 
  • Parking Authority
  • Relocation Appeals Board 
  • Workforce Investment San Francisco Board 
  • Successor Agency to the former Redevelopment Agency of the City and County of San Francisco 
  • Oversight Board of the Successor Agency 
  • Successor Agency Commission 
Also included is any person appointed as a department head by any City board or commission.

Exemptions From Lobbyist Registration

Under the new rules, lobbyist registration and reporting requirements are not triggered by communications by an officer or employee of a 501(c)(3) non-profit nonprofit organization (or any organization it fiscally sponsors), when the officer or employee is communicating on behalf of that organization. Also exempt are such communications by officers and employees of 501(c)(4) non-profit organizations that file either an IRS Form 990-N or an IRS Form 990-EZ.

The new rules also narrow the current exemption for communications in connection with bidding on a City contract, negotiating the terms of a City contract, or administering a City contract. The exemption for communications by a “party or prospective party” to a contract no longer applies to a City contractor’s outside consultants or independent contractors.

Developer Disclosures

The new rules require developers of major City real estate projects to file reports with the Ethics Commission disclosing donations of $5,000 or more to nonprofit entities that have lobbied the City regarding the developers’ projects. The filing requirement applies to real estate development projects costing over $1,000,000 and is triggered by the certification of an environmental impact review or the adoption of a final environmental determination under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Permit Consultants (aka Permit Expediters)
To bring greater transparency to the City’s permitting process, the new rules create registration and reporting requirements for “permit expediters.” These new requirements are similar to, but not exactly the same as, those for lobbyists and will take effect on January 1, 2015.

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Ethics Commission staff is in the process of drafting implementing regulations as well as updating its Lobbyist Manual and its online training, and will provide more detailed guidance regarding the recent amendments in the near future. In the meantime, you may contact the Ethics Commission if you have any questions at (415) 252-3100 or

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