1993 Finalist
City of San Francisco, California
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In 1990, City Attorney Louise H. Renne established the Code Enforcement Task Force as a six-month pilot project focused on 13 properties in the Ingleside District of San Francisco. The task force evolved out of expressed frustration of neighborhood groups whose complaints regarding criminal and illegal activity in their communities had not been solved by the city's traditional system of code enforcement. Early successes led to the institutionalization of the Code Enforcement Task Force, as well as to the initiation of a sister initiative, The Receivership Program.

The Code Enforcement Task Force is composed of inspectors from the city's housing, building, fire, public health, planning, police, and city attorney's departments. It meets monthly in the city-attorney's office to compare complaints received by the separate agencies and to plan joint inspections of properties where violations of multiple codes are suspected. The team then uses property maintenance standards and civil enforcement mechanisms under California law to abate code violations and drug nuisances. The associated Receivership Program secures the forced rehabilitation of property in cases where an owner has consistently failed to repair.

A neighborhood outreach and education program featuring "code enforcement walks" also developed from the task force. The "walks" are led by the city attorney's ofice and draw together inspectors from the city's various code enforcement agencies and representatives from neighborhoods. During the "walks," neighborhood representatives point out specific buildings that are disrupting the lives of residents because of their sub-standard condition or the suspected illegal activities of their occupants. In turn, the inspectors advise the neighborhood how to identify code violations and what information neighbors must gather to enable the city to take action.

The task force was originated with the intent of using civil enforcement powers to keep housing from being used for drug trafficking. The task force's effectiveness in closing crack houses has won the respect and participation of the police department, a relationship that the program cites as a success indicator. Within the last year, the police department and the task force have coordinated their enforcement efforts to target properties and monitor neighborhood changes. In addition, the police department's new crime prevention program in one high crime neighborhood contains a task force and Receivership Program component. Police support for the task force is a significant achievement and is now critical to the task force's continuing success.