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Police, firefighters offered incentive to live in San Francisco

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San Francisco police and firefighters are offered an incentive to live in San Francisco. - EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Examiner file photo
  • San Francisco police and firefighters are offered an incentive to live in San Francisco.

Almost 50 percent of The City’s government workers actually live in San Francisco, and generally they are the ones paid the least, according to the Department of Human Resources.

When it comes to higher-paid workers such as police and firefighters, most of them live beyond the county line, in places such as Sonoma, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties, among others.

Just 25 percent of San Francisco’s police officers live in The City, and 33 percent of the firefighters do. In 2007, The City included in the labor agreement with the Police Officers Association a pilot program known as the Police in the Community Loan, in which $20,000 is available for officers who buy a home in San Francisco. Since 2008, just 14 officers applied and were granted the funding. The loan is forgiven if the officer remains with the department in good standing for five years.

“On the whole, it’s a good program. It certainly has been underutilized,” Department of Human Resources Director Micki Callahan said during last week’s Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee hearing on the program.

Supervisor Mark Farrell, who requested the hearing, is examining whether to make the program more appealing for officers and also to expand it to include other government employees who respond to emergencies such as deputy sheriffs and building inspectors.

Farrell, who called the percentages of residency “startling,” said increasing the loan amount could make sense.

“It’s a balancing act with our limited funds here in San Francisco for sure,” he said. Farrell also said financial institutions in town might be willing to offer lower-interest loans to The City’s first responders.

He said having more police and other public safety employees “live in our neighborhoods makes it a safer city.” And he said having more of them living in town will “make sure our city gets back on track as quickly as possible” when the next big earthquake occurs.

Gary Delagnes, head of the police union, said various factors have led to the low residency percentage.

“A lot of the officers that we are now recruiting aren’t from San Francisco, so they never lived here,” he said.

Delagnes said the program doesn’t offer enough assistance to change behavior.

“As generous as $20,000 is, when you are talking about a $600,000 house, it ain’t doing it,” he said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

 

Distance emergency

Most of San Francisco’s first responders do not live in The City.

Labor group Percentage residing in San Francisco
Police 24.74
Fire 33.00
Deputy sheriffs 24.06
Building inspectors 44.00

Source: Department of Human Resources