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Racial and Social Equity Action Plan

San Francisco Planning’s Racial and Social Equity Action Plan aims to pro-actively advance equity in the Department’s internal and external work such as community planning, community engagement, policy/laws development, hiring, and process improvements. This is guided by the Department’s Racial & Social Equity Vision.

We’re looking for community members interested in participating in future focus groups, and for community organizations to help us design and implement outreach and engagement - see Engagement tab for details.

Planning’s Racial and Social Equity Vision  

We envision inclusive neighborhoods that provide all with the opportunity to lead fulfilling, meaningful, and healthy lives. We envision a city where public life and public spaces reflect the past, present and future of San Franciscans. We envision a city where a person’s race does not determine their lives’ prospects and success.

We envision an inclusive Planning Department and Commissions that represent and engage the communities we serve. We envision a Department that proactively infuses racial and social equity in both internal operations and external Planning work. Together, we are reimagining what the Planning field is and can be – inclusive, diverse and one that centers racial and social equity both as a practice and as an indicator of success.

In order to achieve this broader city vision, we must do our part and address racial and social equity within the Planning Department’s policies and practices.

Adopted in 2019 and revised in 2020 to align with the San Francisco Office of Racial Equity's Citywide Racial Equity Framework, the Department's Action Plan is an essential component of Planning's work supported by Mayor London Breed, the Board of Supervisors, the Office of Racial Equity, the Human Rights Commission, and many other racial equity champions across the City. Phase I of the Plan contains specific goals, objectives, actions and accountability measures to implement and track progress on our internal racial and social equity goals.

Since its 2019 adoption, the unprecedented events of 2020 have forced us to reexamine how we can advance racial and social equity in our role as planners and public servants. This work is now also guided by the Commissions' 2020 Equity Resolutions to focus the Department's work and resources on achieving an equitable city that works for all.

  • On June 11, 2020 the San Francisco Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. 20738 centering the Planning Department's work program and resource allocation on racial and social equity. Read the full document here.
  • On July 15, 2020, the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission adopted Resolution No. 1127 centering Preservation Planning on racial and social equity. Read the full document here.
  • On January 4, 2019, the proposed City's Five-Year Financial Plan is released, a long-term strategy for city investments driven by the guiding principles of accountability and equitable outcomes in the provision of city services and use of city funds.
  • On August 2019, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation creating a San Francisco Office of Racial Equity, which requires all city departments create Racial Equity Action Plans by 2020, see our previous and updated plan below.

Planning's Action Plan will be updated every three years and monitored consistently. The Action Plan is our primary tool to help advance racial and social equity in our work in a comprehensive way, including internal and external processes (hiring, public information, project review, outreach, etc.), policies and programs, staff capacity-building, and process improvements. The Office of Racial Equity is the lead agency citywide advising, conducting citywide racial equity trainings and providing coordination across departments.

The effort consists of the following components:

Phase 1 (2016-early 2019)
  • A Phase 1 Action Plan focused on internal functions such as hiring, promotions, workforce development, staff capacity building, resource allocation, and contracting.
  • An Interim Racial & Social Equity Assessment Tool to help staff incorporate racial and social equity analysis into their day-to-day work.
  • Structural Racism 101 training for all staff and Commissioners
  • (2020-early 2021) An updated Phase 1 Action Plan consistent with the San Francisco Office of Racial Equity Citywide Racial Equity Framework for internal programs and policies.
Phase 2 (2019-2023)
  • A Phase 2 Action Plan focused on Planning’s external functions such as community planning, legislation, public information and historic preservation among others.
  • An implementation plan for both phase 1 and 2
  • More tailored Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tools
  • Implementing and tracking the Plan and reporting on progress annually 
  • Updating the Plan every 3 years  

The Plan’s development is a learning and evolving process. However, implementation of the Plan has already begun by launching our staff training in structural racism and bias, and using an interim Racial and Social Equity Tool for some of our work.

Phase 2 of the Plan focuses on the external functions of the Department. We will conduct a community engagement process to develop goals, objectives, and actions that address community concerns and causes that prevent us from advancing racial and social equity in our work.

Next Steps

Spring - Winter 2021
  • Spring 2021 General Plan Virtual Events Community Workshops
  • Spring 2021 Phase 1 finalized with ORE feedback and Equity Advisory Council convenes
  • Spring - Fall 2021 second round of Phase 2 Community Engagement*
  • Winter 2021 Phase 2 Draft published (tentative)
*This may also include engagement on implementation of phase 1 and phase 2 actions such as budgeting, a racial and social equity impact analysis, and a planning code audit.


Project Timeline

January - December 2016
  • Participation of 15 Department staff (“Core Team”) in year-long, nationwide Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) training
  • Racial and Social Equity Initiative and Action Plan Phase I launch
Winter 2016-17
  • Internal, Departmental staff survey completed by 190 staff
  • Human Rights Commission all-City agencies’ GARE participation and Citywide Racial Equity Working Group (CREW) coordination launch
Spring 2017
  • Racial and Social Equity 101 training for all Department staff development and launch
Spring 2018
  • Racial and Social Equity Action Plan Phase II planning launch
Winter 2018-19
  • Milestone: Racial and Social Equity Action Plan Phase I published
  • January and February 2019 Informational Hearings at the Planning and Historic Preservation Commissions
Spring - Fall 2019
  • Milestone: Initial 101 Racial and Social Equity training for all Department staff and Commissions complete
  • Milestone: San Francisco creates new Office of Racial Equity
Fall - Winter 2020
  • Milestone: Action Plan Phase 1 adopted at the Planning Commission (November 21, 2019) and by the Historic Preservation Commission (December 4, 2019)
  • Action Plan Phase 2 initial round of community engagement started
Summer 2020
  • Milestone: On June 11, 2020 the San Francisco Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. 20738 centering the Planning Department's work program and resource allocation on racial and social equity.
  • Milestone: On July 15, 2020, the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission adopted Resolution No. 1127 centering Preservation Planning on racial and social equity.
Winter 2020
  • Milestone: Action Plan Phase 1 updated for consistency with the San Francisco Office of Racial Equity Citywide Racial Equity Framework.
Winter 2021
  • Internal, Departmental staff survey on Phase 1 priorities completed by 113 staff


Future Opportunities for Community Partners – Participate and Support Outreach and Engagement!

We're continuing our next phase of community engagement on our Racial and Social Equity Action Plan (“Action Plan”) and we would love to engage with you!

There are two parallel projects that we are beginning to collaborate with working groups and the public on: (1) the Equity Impact Analysis Guidelines, and (2) Equity Audit of the Planning Code.

We will post more information here soon.

Update on Prior Engagement

Prior to the pandemic, we’ve held over 30+ one-on-one conversations, three presentations with community groups; one focus group; and three informational Commission hearings. Five informational Commission hearings were also held throughout the pandemic.

To see a summary of feedback to date, see Planning Commission update Memos:

What is Racial and Social Equity?

The Planning Department and other City agencies participating in the Citywide Racial The City of San Francisco defines racial equity, consistent with the San Francisco Office of Racial Equity (ORE), as “a set of social justice practices, rooted in a solid understanding and analysis of historical and present-day oppression, aiming towards a goal of fairness for all. As an outcome, achieving racial equity would mean living in a world where race is no longer a factor in the distribution of opportunity. As a process, we apply racial equity when those most impacted by the structural racial inequities are meaningfully involved in the creation and implementation of the institutional policies and practices that impact their lives.” This definition is adapted by ORE from the Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA).

Why Lead with Race?

The City of San Francisco challenges all forms of oppression, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and many others. However, the Planning Department is leading with an emphasis on race to acknowledge that racial inequities have been baked into government, including the planning field, from the inception of this country; and to confront the reality that racial inequities continue to exist in our community. These racial inequities affect all of us and the ability of members of the community to live well and thrive. We believe that challenging institutional and structural racism is essential to a just and equitable society.

We lead with race and are also working on addressing institutionalized sexism, heterosexism, ableism and other oppressions. According to the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE):

“ It is critical to address all areas of marginalization, and an institutional approach is necessary across the board. As local and regional government deepens its ability to eliminate racial inequity, it will be better equipped to transform systems and institutions impacting other marginalized groups.”

The Department acknowledges and apologizes for the history of land use policies and zoning practices that have contributed to systemic harm, racial segregation, poverty, and environmental injustice toward American Indian, Black and other communities of color. We intend to learn not only from the impacts of our past, but also embrace our ability and responsibility to address issues of historical racial inequities, many of which have been facilitated through government institutions, in the communities we serve.

Why a Racial and Social Equity Action Plan?

San Francisco’s current disparities show that people of color continue to fare worse, many years after the Civil Rights Era, than their white counterparts in every area including: housing, employment, education, criminal justice, and health. For example:

  • Native Americans and blacks have the highest unemployment rate at 15.2% and 17.1% , despite being 0.3% and 5% of the population respectively. In addition, household income for white households is close to three times that of Black families and close to double that of Latinx/o/a, and Native American households;
  • 53% of inmates in the San Francisco County Jail are black while black people only comprise about 5% of the City’s total population; and statues and symbols glorifying the conquest and genocide of Native American people exist alongside high school dropout rates, low life expectancy rates and a high percentage of stress-related illnesses for Native Americans in our city.
  • 50% of black households, 31% of Native American, and 30% of Hispanic/Latinx households are severely overburdened with housing costs. In addition, almost 50% percent of white residents own their homes, while no other communities of color are close to 50%. Asian residents have the next largest home ownership rate at 35.7%, and other communities of color are below 5%, with Native Americans having the lowest rate of any group at 0.2%.

The current racial inequities that pervade our communities start from historical legacies of explicit racial discrimination. Government at all levels have played a significant role in shaping these outcomes. Discriminatory laws, policies, and practices were passed to determine who could vote, who can be a citizen, who can own property, and where one could live. The Civil Rights Movement was passed to make institutional racism illegal. However, despite progress in addressing explicit discrimination, racial inequities continue to be deep and pervasive in San Francisco and across the country. The COVID-19 global pandemic has only magnified these racial disparities in San Francisco as the health, social, and economic, impacts of the disease continue to devastate our American Indian, Black, Latino and other communities of color and frontline workers. Furthermore, the months of civil unrest spurred by the murders of George Floyd and countless other victims of police violence have given greater urgency to Black Lives Matter and the broader movement for racial justice. It is undeniably clear that we need to acknowledge and proactively work to reverse our legacy of planning policies that perpetuate systemic and institutionalized racism. These movements have prompted us to reimagine how we think and plan for the City’s future, the impact of our work programs, and what needs to change to advance racial and social justice. The Department’s Racial and Social Equity Action Plan is the Department’s proactive strategy to comprehensively and intentionally address these issues internally and externally in our work.

Government has a responsibility to work for the public good and the ability to implement policy change at multiple levels and across multiple sectors to drive larger systemic change, and these racial inequities can and must be addressed. Planning’s work deeply impacts the lives of San Francisco residents and has the opportunity and responsibility to help close some of these disparities. By focusing our work through a racial and social equity lens, we can achieve several goals, including but not limited to: a more inclusive community engagement process; better informed policy development; more accessible and relevant programs; and more diverse and equipped staff to meet the needs of San Francisco’s diverse population.