non-citizens can now serve on city boards
Sarah Souza, the Yes on C co-chair, at a Chinatown event for the 2020 Census with her boss Sup. Aaron Peskin. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken September, 2020.

San Francisco has become the first major city in the country to allow non-citizens to serve on commissions and advisory boards

The historic win comes as 54 percent of the voters approved Proposition C. The measure allows any person, regardless of their citizenship, to be appointed to city advisory boards and commissions, such as the art, police and health commissions that form policy, craft budgets and hold hearings.

Yes on C co-chair Sarah Souza, who is an aide for recently re-elected District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, heard the news of a projected win at District 7 Supervisor-elect Myrna Melgar’s election party Tuesday night. 

“I am so happy,” Souza said. “Our vision is to continue the work and provide accessible training on how to get appointed commissions, and to build a pipeline of leaders and really incentivize San Franciscans to get involved in their local government, which is so critical in transforming our democracy.”

Weeks before the result was announced, the measure’s supporters began gathering names of people who were potentially interested in serving on a city body in the future; Souza said about 500 people visited their site to learn more. Souza has her eyes on the Immigrant Rights Commission or Human Rights Commission. 

Although Proposition C invites the possibility for more civic engagement from non-citizens, it is not a guarantee that they will be appointed. Current rules regarding Board of Supervisors approval for commissioners and board members still apply. 

Getting appointed is not always an easy battle: Just recently, several of Mayor London Breed’s nominees have been turned down for both the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors and the Police Commission.    

Still, Souza and advocates for Proposition C have viewed it as a pathway for more diverse political representation. In 2009, about 46 percent of all city appointees identified as people of color; in 2015 that peaked at 57 percent; then in 2019, it dropped down to 50 percent. People of color, however, make up about 62 percent of San Francisco’s population.

“We can/must make progress again,” the Proposition C campaign site stated

Read our earlier coverage on Proposition C. 

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. I didn’t vote for it. But one good potential result of it passing is people appointed under Prop. C won’t be using their position to build political patronage for seeking a elective office. Instead, they’ll be seeking to leverage their appointment into a highly paid City political patronage job

  2. I agree – WHY? Citizenship – like other memberships – has its privileges (like voting, representing the citizenry, to name a few). They may be my neighbor, but the hell if I want an illegal alien ‘representing’ me.

    1. Hey, genius — 

      It may come as a surprise to you, but there are plenty of legal immigrants who do not naturalize. And many of these people — mechanical engineers, educators, physicists, entertainers, etc. — might well be qualified to serve on essentially volunteer boards. These people — who pay taxes, incidentally — would seem to be qualified to serve on, say, the MTA Board, the Human Rights Commission, the Police Commission, the Planning Commission, or any board that isn’t an elected office.

      I’m also not entirely certain why one would take such great umbrage at an undocumented person volunteering to help run the city.

      With all due respect, your neighbors appear to have a pretty crappy neighbor.


      1. Point taken/received given ‘legal immigrants who do not naturalize’ (which the article really doesn’t address, directly) but I hear you. Umbrage taken with your angry, condescending tone.

    1. This probably has to do with the fact that census categories treat Hispanic separate from racial categories, so some of that 48-52% is Hispanic Whites aka Latinos.

  3. WHY?
    Born & raised in SF to a working class family. My mother immigrated here legally 75 years ago . She learned English on her own within 3 years of arriving and became a U.S citizen. What’s the reason for this idea?

    1. They’re your neighbors, they fucking live here and they pay taxes. This should make their path to citizenship smoother.