Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres on Transparency and Access to Public Records
The Office of the Assessor-Recorder continues to invest in critical upgrades and modernization efforts that identify and remove barriers to public records access and ensure transparency.
For Immediate Release
Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Contact: Adam S. Mehis, (415) 554-5502
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Today, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres announced a continued commitment to increase and simplify digital access to recorded documents and eliminate barriers to accessing recorded documents. The Office of the Assessor-Recorder will work with the Board of Supervisors to further develop technology opportunities, such as the office’s online document search portal, that increase the public’s ability to access public records. This commitment builds upon the recent improvements made by the office to upgrade and replace obsolete business processes and legacy systems.
“Having a simple path to access property records is the experience I seek to offer San Franciscans. The public should be able to easily search for their neighbor’s contact information during an emergency or gather information on large corporations purchasing buildings. This type of access to records at little to no cost allows for further transparency and supports communities by making recorded documents easily available,” said Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres. “By responding to consumer trends, we’ve tailored design improvements that enhance the customer service experience and expand access to information of public interest. Whether someone is trying to contact a building owner regarding persistent blight, seeking to contact property owners in an emergency, or gathering information on patterns of large corporate real estate acquisitions, we want to create an experience that is simple and easy to navigate and access. I look forward to partnering with the Board of Supervisors to continue my efforts to ensure my office provides ease and accessibility to recorded documents to serve public purpose.”
This commitment builds upon the following recent improvements made by the office to upgrade and replace obsolete business processes and legacy systems.
- In 2017, the Office modernized the mapping process to keep up-to-date, high-quality, and digitized maps for all blocks.
- In 2017, the Office digitized all vital real estate records and migrated them to a consolidated and secure platform for easy access.
- In 2018, the Office hit its goal to digitize the Assessor property files, resulting in close to 3 million images added into our new document management system, allowing staff to efficiently access property files, which include vital real estate records, maps, and ownership information.
- In 2020, the Office launched a new Recorder System to modernize the internal operations, including improved workflows, data validation and tracking. In addition, the system includes a new self-service Public Index Search tool which allows for purchase and instant download of recorded documents without visiting the office or mailing in requests.
- In 2021, the Office launched an online tool for faster and more cost-effective orders of public marriage certificates.
- In 2021, the first phase of the property tax system was established. This replaces 1980s infrastructure which improves transparency by reducing revenue at risk, creating critical audits, and reporting capabilities.
The Office will work through local laws to make documents immediately and remotely available and eliminate costs to the greatest possible degree. On March 29, 2022, Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a resolution supporting our office’s efforts to provide immediate and remote digital public access to deeds, liens, and other recorded public records, and eliminate costs for viewing these records to the maximum extent possible as allowed by law. Property ownership records serve multiple public purposes including when intervention is needed between building owners, documenting property ownership of private equity firms, and international billionaires who own or purchase property in San Francisco.
The Office of the Assessor-Recorder serves as the official public record keeper for the City and County of San Francisco. The office is responsible for recording documents, maintaining those public records, and providing access to records for the public. Every year, approximately 200,000 public documents such as property deeds, liens, trusts, and maps are recorded at the office and made part of the public record. The Office of the Assessor-Recorder understands that even though public records are indeed public, their accessibility is not always free, simple, or easy. While the office provides equal or greater access to records at lower cost than other recorder offices across the state, the office continues to make progress towards greater and greater access.
City Hall Office:
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place Room 190
San Francisco, CA 94102-4698
Tel: (415) 554-5502