Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

“Top Ten” Frequently Asked Questions Regarding New Permit Consultant Rules Effective January 1, 2015

Ethics Commission staff has prepared answers to the “top ten” questions regarding the City’s registration and reporting requirements for permit consultants, which take effect January 1, 2015.   These answers are intended to provide guidance pending the adoption of formal regulations. Please note that this guidance may be subject to change in the future.  Interested parties will be notified of any such changes, which will also be posted on the Ethics Commission’s website.  To ensure that you will be notified of any changes to this guidance, please contact Pat Petersen at (415) 252-3100 or patricia.petersen@sfgov.org.  You are also encouraged to check the Commission’s website regularly until formal regulations are adopted. 

1.  What is a “major project” for purposes of the $1,000,000 registration threshold?

A “major project” is a real estate development project located in San Francisco which has total actual or estimated construction costs exceeding $1,000,000.  In this regard, the term “real estate development project” includes any project involving construction of one or more new structures or an addition to one or more existing structures, change of use within one or more existing structures, or substantial rehabilitation of one or more existing structures, where, in any such instance, the structure includes any occupiable floor area.  Estimated construction costs are to be calculated in the same manner used to determine building permit fees under the Building Code.

2.  Do I need to register as a permit consultant if I am an employee of the contractor responsible for all construction activity associated with the requested permit?

No.  Others who do not have to register include employees of: (1) a licensed architect or engineer of record for construction activity allowed or contemplated by the permit and (2) an organization with tax exempt status under 26 United States Code Section 501(c)(3) communicating on behalf of that organization regarding the development of a project for that organization.

3.  When reporting contacts, how detailed should I make my descriptions of permits sought or obtained?

At a minimum, you must describe the type of permit sought or obtained (e.g., conditional use, electrical, plumbing, limited live performance, etc.)  You must also include the permit application number. 

4.  When reporting contacts, do I need to report contacts with the Department of Building Inspection, the Entertainment Commission, the Planning Department, or the Department of Public Works for clients who do not have “major projects” or “minor projects”?

No. Only report contacts for those clients with major projects or minor projects.

5.  Do I need to report contacts made at a public hearing?

No. 

6.  My colleague and I work for the same employer on behalf of the same client.  Do we each have to report payments received by our employer from the client?

No.  You have two options.  Option 1: only one of you may report the client’s payments, but the other must disclose “Reported by ______,” followed by the name of your colleague, in the compensation box on the quarterly report.  Option 2: you may split the payments between you.

7.  When reporting compensation, how do I report contingency fee arrangements?

Report contingency fees when they are earned or paid.  

8.  When reporting compensation, do I have to disclose all payments receive from a client by me or my employer?

No. Only report those payments related to your contacts with the Department of Building Inspection, the Entertainment Commission, the Planning Department, or the Department of Public Works to help a permit applicant obtain a permit, including preparations for such contacts. 

9.  I qualify as both a lobbyist and a permit consultant by virtue of contacting a high-ranking City official to help a client obtain a permit.  Do I need to register as both?

Yes, you must register as both.  After registering, you may choose to report your permit consulting contacts only on your lobbyist report (and not file a quarterly permit consulting report); however, lobbyist reporting obligations are generally more extensive. 

10.  Do attorneys have to disclose client information regarding payments received, permits sought/obtained, and contacts made?

Yes. However, attorneys do not need to report contacts or compensation for time that would be considered the practice of law (i.e., providing legal services that a layperson may not perform).

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