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Politics & Policy

See what San Francisco’s top officials get paid

A composite image shows San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson, left; Mayor London Breed, center; and Director of Health Grant Colfax, right. | Source: The Standard

Sixteen employees of the City of San Francisco took home over $500,000 in fiscal year 2023, newly released data shows. The city’s payroll climbed 8% in the recently ended fiscal year, topping a total of $4.56 billion, according to data from the Controller’s Office. 

San Franciscans may be surprised by some of the findings. For example, Mayor London Breed, who is the highest paid mayor in California, ranked No. 241 in pay, earning about $357,000 during the 2023 fiscal year (July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023). And the pay of City Librarian Michael Lambert, at about $298,000, topped that of several of the city’s legal executives, including City Attorney David Chiu, who received $295,000.

Meanwhile, a major spike in overtime hours gave the police department’s payroll a 12% increase, the largest climb of any of the city’s major units.

The median total pay among city employees who worked full-time was about $133,000. 

In the public sector, as is true in the private sector, the money managers enjoyed the rewards of their lucrative field.

Retirement Services Chief Executive Alison Romano, who shepherds billions in public investments for San Francisco, was the top paid employee during this time period, earning $644,000. One of her lieutenants, Retirement Services Managing Director Kurt Braitberg, was the city’s second-highest earner, with a total take home of about $598,000.

Massive overtime payouts carried two law enforcement officers—Police Sgt. Frank Harrell and Senior Deputy Sheriff Richie Owyang—into third and fourth place. Assistant Fire Chief Ken Yee was also buoyed by overtime to rank No. 7, the highest earner in the fire department.

The Sheriff’s Department is impacted by short staffing and requires overtime work to fill its assignments, spokesperson Tara Moriarty told The Standard, adding that the department has escalated recruitment efforts it hopes will cut back on overtime hours.

The police department, mayor’s office, fire department and retirement services department did not reply to a request for comment by publication time.

Search a name in the table below to see the total pay of any San Francisco employee who earned at least $100,000 during the 2023 fiscal year.

The amount the city pays out to employees has steadily increased in recent years. The fiscal year 2023 $4.56 billion payroll total represents a 27% increase over the $3.60 billion San Francisco workers took home in the 2018 fiscal year. That trend may continue into the future as the city is staged for record spending in the coming year despite facing fiscal headwinds brought on by the hollowing-out of the business core and subsequent sliding commercial real estate values that will eat away at the tax base.

San Francisco’s total employee count was 36,490 during the 2023 fiscal year, according to the Department of Human Resources. That’s an increase from the city’s 34,473 employees during the 2022 fiscal year, though still lower than the employment peak in 2019 at 36,520.

Among workers who put in a full work year—an average of 40-hour weeks—pay ranged from Romano’s $644,000 down to the $41,000 earned by Public Works service aides. 

Pay varied dramatically among the city’s most powerful officials. Director of Health Grant Colfax, a medical doctor, was the only other department head to join Romano in earning over $500,000. Other top-paid executives included Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson at $427,000, Public Utilities Commission General Manager Dennis Herrera at $416,697 and Chief Medical Examiner Christopher Liverman at $404,000.

Meanwhile, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins was paid about $307,000, substantially out-earning Public Defender Manohar Raju’s $271,000.

Public health, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and police had the largest payrolls of any city departments by far in the 2023 fiscal year, continuing previous years’ trend. Those three departments paid out nearly half of the city’s entire employee spending total during the time period.

From fiscal year 2022 to 2023, public health’s payroll saw the largest total climb: A $71 million increase between the two years. 

But it was police personnel whose pay jumped by the highest rate among the major departments from 2022 to 2023: A $55 million spike in police employee spending represented a 12% increase over the previous year. Overtime pay accounted for most of the increase, with the department’s nearly $118 million in overtime payments representing a 45% bump from the previous year. Meanwhile, police personnel worked 6% fewer regular hours in fiscal year 2023, illustrating the department’s increasing reliance on overtime work to fill in staffing gaps.