Agency’s hierarchy clarified

Supervisors pass proposal outlining chain of command for S.F. homeland security

Following six months of sharp criticism of The City’s emergency planning department, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation that clarifies the department’s chain of command and establishes qualifications for the top three emergency heads.

The legislation is the latest move by city officials to rectify deficiencies revealed in a city audit of the Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security, including the lack of a comprehensive emergency plan in the event of a major disaster and a lack of experience of OESHS director Annemarie Conroy, who was appointed to her post by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Following the audit, Newsom appointed Laura Phillips as director of The City’s Emergency Communications Department, which oversees OESHS.

The legislation, drafted by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, solidifies Phillips as the leader of The City’s emergency preparedness functions, changes Conroy’s title to deputy director and establishes a deputy director position to oversee emergency communications. It also sets job qualifications for these three posts, ensuring they have past emergency-related job experience.

The unanimous approval of the legislation, however, came with an objection from Phillips, who requested an amendment of the legislation to maintain Conroy’s title as director. In a letter to the board, Phillips said Conroy’s “high level of responsibility and visibility” deserves the title of director. Phillips said such entities as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the California Office of Emergency Services “expect to meet with directors, not with deputies.”

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said, “What this body has seen and discovered I think really requires that we have a real, bright, clear chain of command.”

He added, “If they think it is necessary to send somebody with the director level to state OESHS views, Ms. Phillips may attend those meetings.”

Wade Crowfoot, board liaison for Newsom, said, “Much of this is already in practice so we support this legislation. However, we do share the ECD director’s opinion on this particular provision.”

The legislation was unanimously approved without any amendments.

IN OTHER ACTION

PROPOSAL TO INSTALL GUNSHOT DETECTORS: Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi requested a hearing on whether San Francisco should set up a gunshot detection system, which would install audio sensors on rooftops that can locate where a gun was fired.

APPROVAL OF LEASE TO RENOVATE OLD MINT: A 66-year lease with the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society to operate and renovate the historic Old Mint building at 88 Fifth St. was approved.

WRONGFUL DEATH SETTLEMENT APPROVED: A $1.8 million settlement was approved in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against The City three years ago after a tow truck jumped a guardrail on Alemany Boulevard, killing three family members in a sport utility vehicle. Caltrans was also part of the lawsuit and had settled for $5.5 million.

ORDINANCE REQUIRING REVIEW OF POLICE DISTRICT BOUNDARIES APPROVED: Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s legislation requiring a review of district police station boundaries at least every 10 years and to determine whether the boundaries should be altered to better serve high crime areas received final approval.

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