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Public Records Request Policy and Procedures

The San Francisco Fire Department ("Department") is committed to providing members of the public their full right of access to Department public records under the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance and the California Public Records Act. The goal of these procedures is to ensure that members of the public receive prompt, accurate and thorough responses to their requests for public records maintained by the Department.

Department Records that are Subject to Disclosure
How to Request Public Records from the Fire Department
How to Request Public Records from the Fire Commission
Form and Content of Request
Time Allowed for Department to Respond to a Request
Immediate Disclosure Requests
Department's Response to a Records Request
Fees
How to Inspect or Collect Requested Records
Abandoned Requests
Complaint Process
Questions

1. Department Records that are Subject to Disclosure:

Every record made or received by the Department is presumed to be a public record that members of the public may inspect or obtain a copy upon request. Some records in the possession of the Department are exempt from public disclosure under federal, state and/or local law. Examples of records the Department is prohibited from disclosing or may decline to disclose include: personnel, medical or similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; confidential communications between the Department and lawyers for the City protected by the attorney-client privilege; and proprietary financial information submitted to the Department in response to a request for proposal prior to award of a contract. If a responsive record contains both exempt and non-exempt information, the Department will redact the exempt material and make the remainder of the record available to the requesting party.

The Department is not required to respond to interrogatories or to create a document in response to a public records request. In addition, the Department is not required to respond to prospective requests.

2. How to Request Public Records from the Fire Department:

The Department has a Public Records Officer whose duties include receiving and responding to requests for public records. Members of the public should direct their records requests to the Department's Public Records Officer. Members of the public should not direct a request to personnel other than the Department's Public Records Officer, as that may delay the Department's response to the request while the request is forwarded to the Public Records Officer.

Requests for Fire Department records should be submitted as follows:

By U.S. Mail:
San Francisco Fire Department
Public Records Officer
698 Second Street, Room 224
San Francisco, CA 94107

By Fax: (415) 558-3407

By E-mail: FirePublicRecords@sfgov.org

By Phone: (415) 558-3384

 

If a member of the public submits a request for Fire Department records to the Fire Commission, the Commission Secretary will promptly forward the request to the Fire Department Public Records Officer in writing, and will send a courtesy copy of that correspondence to the requesting party. The request will be deemed received the date it is received by the Fire Department Public Records Officer.

3. How to Request Public Records from the Fire Commission:

Requests for public records in the possession of the Fire Commission should be submitted to the Fire Commission Secretary as follows:

By U.S. Mail:
San Francisco Fire Commission
698 Second Street, Room 220
San Francisco, CA, 94107

By Fax: (415) 558-3413

By E-mail: fire.commission@sfgov.org

By Phone: (415) 558-3451

If a member of the public submits a request for Fire Commission records to the Fire Department, the Department will promptly forward the request to the Fire Commission Secretary in writing, and will send a courtesy copy of that correspondence to the requesting party. The request will be deemed received the date it is received by the Fire Commission Secretary.

4. Form and Content of Request:

Requests for records may be oral or in writing. The request must include a reasonable description of an identifiable record or records. To expedite processing of the request, members of the public should be as specific as possible in making the request. Requests should also include a telephone number, address and/or other contact information the Department can use to contact the requesting party, for example to clarify the request or to advise when the responsive records are available.

Although not legally required, a written request will help the Department understand the request and respond to it in a timely and efficient manner. Members of the public are encouraged to use the Department's Public Records Request form included at the end of this policy and procedure.

Members of the public are not required to provide a reason for their request for records. If necessary, however, Department members may ask questions about the request to better understand what information the requester desires and assist the requester to form a focused and effective request.

The Public Records Officer can assist a requesting party to identify the existence, form, and nature of public records or information maintained by the Department.

5. Time Allowed for Department to Respond to a Request:

The Fire Department responds to all requests for public records as promptly as reasonably possible, and provides responsive records, if any, as soon as possible after they are available. Upon request, the Department will provide responsive records to a requesting party on an incremental or "rolling" basis.

Generally, the Department has 10 calendar days to respond to a request to inspect or receive copies of records. In certain circumstances, the Department may extend its time to respond by an additional 14 calendar days. Those circumstances include where the Department must (a) search for, collect and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records included in a single request; (b) search for and collect the requested records from a remote storage facility or location separate from Department Headquarters ; (c) consult with another agency or City department that has a substantial interest in the response to the request; and/or (d) the need to compile data or to construct a computer report to extract data. If the Department extends the time to respond, the Department will notify the requesting party in writing within the initial 10-day response period of the reason(s) for the extension and the estimated date for the response.

6. Immediate Disclosure Requests:

For simple, routine or otherwise easily fulfilled requests, members of the public may also request "immediate disclosure" of public records. Immediate Disclosure Requests must be in writing and include the words "Immediate Disclosure Request" (1) across the top of the request, and (2) on either the envelope, subject line, or cover sheet in or with which the request is transmitted. Members of the public cannot make an oral Immediate Disclosure Request.

Generally, the Department must respond to an Immediate Disclosure Request by the close of business the next business day after the request is received. The Department may extend the time to respond to an Immediate Disclosure request by an additional 14 calendar days for the same reasons, and following the same procedure, described above.

7. Department's Response to a Records Request:

The Department will provide a written response that will notify the requesting party (1) whether the Department has located any responsive records, (2) whether any exemptions to disclosure apply and if so the legal and factual grounds for the exemptions, and (3) whether any responsive records are available for inspection or pick-up. The Department's notice to the requesting party will generally include the number of responsive records available for inspection or pick-up, if any, as well as any applicable copying and postage fees. The Department will also inform the requester if it knows that another City department has additional responsive records.

Unless the requesting party has requested a response through some other method, the Department responds to the request by letter sent U.S. Mail (if a mailing address is provided). If the requesting party has requested an alternative method of response, the Department will honor that request to the extent possible.

8. Fees:

Reviewing Documents: There is no charge to review records.

Copies: For documents copied to the order of the requester, the Department charges 10 cents per page copied, and 20 cents per page for 2-sided copies. For routinely produced documents, such as an agenda, the Department charges one cent per page for copies.

Copies other than Paper Records: Where a requesting party seeks a copy of a record in other than a paper format, the Department will charge the party for the cost of the medium on which the information is duplicated. The Department currently charges $3.00 to duplicate a videotape, $2.00 to duplicate an audiotape, and 50 cents to copy a CD-R or computer diskette. Fees for duplications are subject to change.

Postage: The Department charges the cost of postage when the requesting party asks the Department to send copies of the responsive records through U.S. mail.

Method of payment: Fees can be paid in cash or by check or money order made payable to "San Francisco Fire Department."

9. How to Inspect or Collect Requested Records:

Members of the public may inspect any responsive records without charge and/or may obtain copies of the records after paying any applicable fees.

Inspecting Records: If the requesting party wants to inspect responsive records, he/she should contact the Department's Public Records Officer. The Department will make the records available for review at a location designated by the Department, typically Fire Department Headquarters at 698 Second Street, San Francisco.

If records include both exempt and non-exempt information, the Department will only provide copies of the records, and will not make the records available for inspection.

Copies of Records: A requesting party may obtain copies of any responsive documents. Two-sided copies will be made when practicable. There are several options to obtain copies:

  1. A requesting party may pick up copies of any responsive documents at Fire Department Headquarters, 698 Second Street, San Francisco, Room 224, Monday through Friday, from 8 A.M. until 5 P.M. The requesting party must pay the applicable fee before he/she can collect the records.

  2. A requesting party may have the Department produce any responsive records through U.S. Mail. If the requesting party elects this option, the Department will send the records after receiving payment for the copies and postage.

  3. If the responsive documents are less than 10 pages, the Department can fax copies to the requesting party without payment of any fee. If there are 10 or more pages of responsive documents, the Department will not produce documents via fax.

  4. If responsive records are in an electronic form, the requesting party may ask that the Department provide the records by email. Records sent by email must be in an electronic format that preserves the integrity of the records and cannot contain any exempt information. There is no limit on the number of pages that may be sent electronically, but the total size of the transmission must be less than 1.0 MB. The Department does not charge a fee to send copies of electronic records

Unless the requesting party has requested delivery of any responsive records through some other method, the Department will hold those records for pick-up at Department Headquarters.

10. Abandoned Requests:

The Department will hold any responsive records for 30 calendar days after the date of its written response to the requesting party. A requesting party who is unable to inspect the records or collect copies within that 30-day period may contact the Department's Public Records Officer to make arrangements to inspect or collect the copies at a later date. After the 30-day period, however, if the requesting party has not made such arrangements with the Department, the Department will return the records to their appropriate files or storage. After that time, the requesting party will need to submit a new request to obtain the records.

11. Complaint Process:

If a requesting party believes that the Department has improperly withheld a public record, he/she may petition the City's Supervisor of Records for review of the Department's response by submitting the following: (1) a request for review by the Supervisor of Records, (2) a copy of the original request, and (3) a copy of the Department's response. The requesting party should submit the petition to:

Office of the City Attorney
Attention: Supervisor of Records
City Hall, Room 234
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel. No. (415) 554-4700
Fax. No. (415) 554-4745
TDD/TTY No. (415) 554-6779

The Supervisor of Records will review the matter. If the Supervisor of Records determines that the Department has improperly withheld any records, the Supervisor of Records will direct the Department to provide those records.

A requesting party who believes that the Department has improperly withheld a record or otherwise failed to fulfill its obligations under the City's Sunshine Ordinance may also file a complaint with the City's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, by submitting the complaint to:

Sunshine Ordinance Task Force
Attention: Sunshine Ordinance Task Force Administrator
City Hall, Room 244
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102-4683
Tel. No. (415) 554-7724
Fax. No. (415) 554-7854
TDD/TTY No. (415) 554-5227

The Task Force will review the matter and hold a hearing, if it deems one is necessary. If the Task Force determines that the Department has improperly withheld a record, the Task Force will order the Department to release the record.

12. Questions:

Any member of the public with questions about the Department's public records request policy or procedures may contact the Public Records Officer.

Information about the Sunshine Ordinance and the City's public records request process is generally available at the following City websites:

City Attorney's Office, Access to Public Records in San Francisco

San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force

January 1, 2007

 

Last updated: 4/4/2011 10:28:29 AM