Skip to code content (skip section selection)
(a) Title. This Chapter 91 shall be known as the "Language Access Ordinance."
(1) The Board of Supervisors finds that San Francisco provides an array of services that can be made accessible to persons who are not proficient in the English language. The City of San Francisco is committed to improving the accessibility of these services and providing equal access to them.
(2) The Board finds that despite a long history of commitment to language access as embodied in federal, state and local law, beginning with the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, there is a still a significant gap in the provision of governmental services to limited-English language speakers.
(3) In 1973, the California State Legislature adopted the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act, which required state and local agencies to provide language services to non-English speaking people who comprise 5% or more of the total state population and to hire a sufficient number of bilingual staff.
(4) In 1999, the California State Auditor concluded that 80% of state agencies were not in compliance with the Dymally-Alatorre Act, and many of the audited agencies were not aware of their responsibility to translate materials for non-English speakers.
(5) In 2001, in response to these findings, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted the Equal Access to Services Ordinance, which required major departments to provide language translation services to limited-English proficiency individuals who comprise 5% or more of the total city population.
(6) The Board enacted a number of significant changes to the Ordinance in 2009 and renamed it the Language Access Ordinance. Since the Language Access Ordinance was amended in 2009, City Departments have made significant progress in providing improved access to services. The Board finds, however, that significant gaps remain in language access consistency, quality, budgeting and implementation across Departments.
(7) The Board finds that gaps in language access can seriously affect San Francisco's ability to serve all of its residents. The United States Census Bureau's 2008-2012 American Community Survey reveals that 36% of San Franciscans are foreign-born and 45.2% over the age of five speak a language other than English at home. More than 112 languages are spoken in the San Francisco Bay Area, with at least 28 different languages spoken in the City alone. Three languages currently have at least 10,000 or more Limited English Persons: Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog. Among the 21% of the total City population who self-identify as limited-English speakers, 57% are Chinese speakers, 23.7% are Spanish speakers, 6% are Tagalog speakers, 5% are Russian speakers, and 3.8% are Vietnamese speakers.
(Added by Ord. 126-01, File No. 010409, App. 6/15/2001; amended by Ord. 202-09, File No. 090461, App. 8/28/2009; Ord. 27-15 , File No. 141149, App. 3/12/2015, Eff. 4/11/2015)