Panel: City IDs are in the cards

Those living in San Francisco — regardless of their immigration status — could soon be able to obtain a city identification card that could open the door to city services, be used to open bank accounts and be honored by local police.

By next fall, those who can supply the required documentation to prove their identity and residency in San Francisco would be able to obtain a city ID card from the county clerk at City Hall. A $15 fee would be levied for an adult, $5 if the applicant is a minor, senior or low-income adult, under legislation introduced by Supervisor Tom Ammiano.

The legislation was embraced Wednesday by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said it was “very well-conceived.”

The city ID-card program will come at a cost to taxpayers, but the benefits, advocates say, outweigh the price tag. It’s unclear how much the program will end up costing The City. A “high estimate” has the program costing as much as $1.1 million in the first year, according to Budget Analyst Harvey Rose.

That figure factors in one-time startup costs and a number of variables, including how many people apply for the ID cards. Rose also said those numbers are based on statistics collected from one of the nation’s first-ever municipal ID programs launched in July in New Haven, Conn. Ammiano said the first year costs will be much lower than $1 million and will diminish in subsequent years.

The cards are meant to ensure illegal immigrants, and anyone else without an adequate form of ID, will not be kept from city services, such as having a library card. Advocates of the cards say they will also prompt more people to report crimes and reduce robberies of undocumented immigrants who are known to keep large amounts of money on their person or at home. Without a valid ID, a bank account cannot be opened.

Since July, New Haven has issued 4,000 such cards, and “crime has gone down in areas where there were barriers” to obtaining an ID, Ammiano said.

The budget committee is expected on Nov. 7 to refer the legislation to the full Board of Supervisors, where it will likely be adopted on Nov. 16. The legislation would go into effect nine months later.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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