A sidewalk delivery robot moves down Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2017. The emergence of technologies such as delivery robots and dockless scooters has prompted city officials to take regulatory action and create an Office of Emerging Technology. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor Breed signs legislation creating Office of Emerging Technology

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Thursday signed legislation to create the nation’s first Office of Emerging Technology.

The new office will create a framework for all city departments to work with the city’s fast growing tech sector to ensure that the public’s safety, privacy, and security won’t be compromised.

“You would think we would have an Office of Emerging Technology, or some level of technology something by now, especially as you look at the tech industry in San Francisco. We see that it is the number one growing industry in our city. And what we find is that we are reacting to what they do, rather than being proactive about creating the kinds of policies that would allow for these technologies not only to thrive in San Francisco, but actually be meaningful for the residents in San Francisco,” Breed said.

“It’s not just about regulation, it’s about safety, it’s about access, it’s about developing a system that works,” Breed said. “We will have a process in place, a process by which others who create can come to us and work with us and we can figure out where it fits in the larger context of our city’s bureaucracy.”

The new city office is set to serve as a central point of contact for tech companies. Before any new device is tested, piloted or launched in the city, the emerging technology office would have to coordinate a review with the relevant city departments and issue a notice to proceed if the device is determined to be for the common good.

“It’s amazing that given how rapid innovation has occurred in the last decade, or two decades, especially in San Francisco, that we haven’t created this office,” Norman Yee, president of the Board of Supervisors, said. Yee initially introduced legislation to create the office back in October.

“This office will be the vehicle for this city to be actually a partner in innovation,” Yee said. “It’s about new things coming down the pipe, how it’s going to benefit San Francisco and how we can regulate it.”

Back in 2018, a handful of scooter companies deployed hundreds of dockless scooters throughout the city, drawing the ire of many residents because they were often left on sidewalks, obstructing walkways. That led supervisors to pass legislation requiring all companies operating powered scooters in the city to seek permits.

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