The Wild West days of unapproved or unwanted technology infiltrating public spaces in San Francisco without permission from the city may be nearing their end.
City officials are hoping to establish an Office of Emerging Technology within the Department of Public Works to help manage the kind of tech companies seeking to disrupt public spaces, the San Francisco Chronicle first reported last week, such as with the deluge of scooters that have cropped up in cities nationwide without first securing proper permitting.
Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee introduced legislation for establishing the office last week. Yee said in a tweet at the time that the initiative was meant to “support innovation, but also ensure that new technologies ultimately result in a net common good.” According to the Chronicle, the office will be responsible for permitting companies with technologies not yet covered by city regulations.
“We have been in conversations with city agencies, tech, labor, and community groups to help develop this office. We look forward to continuing this collaborative approach to emerging tech,” Yee said of the proposal.
City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who with Yee introduced the legislation last week, said in a statement that the foremost priority to come out of those meetings with various groups was “a centralized ‘front door’ to pilot technologies and evaluate their impacts.”
The Chronicle reported that the office would launch with a $250,000 budget and would handle the one-year permitting process for emerging tech.
As much as the office would be a benefit to residents of San Francisco who have grown tired of watching emerging technologies litter public spaces or interrupt pedestrian walkways—as was the case last year when scooters startups bombarded the city’s streets—it also stands to benefit startups by helping identify potential regulatory hurdles or permitting issues.
Jennifer Stojkovic, executive director of technology trade group sf.citi, commended the initiative, adding in a statement that sf.citi looks forward “to continuing to work in partnership with President Yee and the City to develop responsive and swift policies and regulations that support both innovation and our city’s residents.”
NPR-member station KQED reported that residents will have a 30-day window to provide feedback on the new office proposal before it is heard and voted on twice by the Board of Supervisors. We’ve reached out to the city for more information and will update this post if we hear back.
Added comment from Jennifer Stojkovich and City Administrator Naomi Kelly.