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Initiative Process

A guideline prepared by the Office of the City Clerk

The following information is provided as a general guideline to the initiative process in the City of San Diego.

For legal provisions, see SDMC, Chapter 2, Article 7, Division 10 (PDF).

ANY PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE ACT, OR PROPOSED AMENDMENT OR REPEAL OF AN EXISTING LEGISLATIVE ACT, MAY BE SUBMITTED TO THE COUNCIL BY AN INITIATIVE PETITION FILED IN THE OFFICE OF THE CITY CLERK.

For information regarding amending the City Charter by initiative petition, see "AMENDING THE CITY CHARTER," Office of the City Clerk.

SIGNATURE REQUIREMENTS

REQUIREMENTS FOR SUBMITTAL
OF PETITION TO:
NUMBER OF SIGNATURES

Percentage
of Voters
Number

COUNCIL 3% *

VOTERS 10% *

* Based on the number of registered voters of the City at the last District or City-wide General Election. Please contact the Clerk's Office at (619) 533-4000 for the current signature requirement, or see Current Signature Requirements (PDF).

LANGUAGE OF PROPOSAL

The first step in the initiative process is to develop the precise language of your proposed legislation.

You are advised to seek legal counsel in this matter to ensure that the intended outcome is accurately and comprehensively reflected in the language of your proposal. NOTE: THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO DOES NOT PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES. PROPONENTS SHALL RETAIN THEIR OWN ATTORNEYS AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE.

NOTICE OF INTENTION TO CIRCULATE A PETITION

The proponents of an initiative action shall publish a notice of intention to circulate an initiative petition. The notice shall be published at least once in a daily newspaper of general circulation published in the City of San Diego. The notice of intention shall:

  1. Contain the proposed legislative act in full. (It is important that the printing be accurate -- proofreading is a responsibility of the proponent. Errors, omissions, etc. could be cause for re-publication.)
  2. A statement containing, in 300 words or less, the reasons for the petition. The statement must be printed in clear, readable type no smaller than 10-point in size. The statement must be signed by the individual proposing the petition, or in the case of an organization, by two (2) officers of the organization. The individual or officers signing must also affix the date of signing, and a residence, business or mailing address at which the proponent may be reached.

A sample format for such notice is given below:

NOTICE OF INTENT TO CIRCULATE PETITION

Notice is hereby given of the intention of the person(s) whose name(s)
appear(s) hereon to circulate a petition within the City of San Diego
for the purpose of __________________________________________.


[Copy of full text of proposed legislative act]

A statement of the reasons for the proposed action as contemplated in
said petition is as follows:


[Statement not to exceed 300 words]



Signature(s) of Proponent; Date of Signing; Proponent's Address

AFFIDAVIT OF PUBLICATION

Within ten (10) calendar days after the date of publication of the notice of intention and statement of reasons, the proponent shall file with the City Clerk a copy of the notice and statement as published, and the originally signed statement, together with an affidavit made by a representative of the newspaper in which the notice was published, certifying to the fact of publication.

THE PETITION

The petition signed by voters proposing an initiative shall set forth in full the text of the proposed amendment and the statement containing the reasons for the petition, in no less than 10-point type.

Proponents shall supply their own petition forms.

The petition may be circulated in sections but each section shall contain a correct copy of the full text of the proposed amendment. Also, each section of the petition shall bear a copy of the statement of reasons, and the circulator's affidavit of authenticity.

Each petition section shall consist of sheets of white paper uniform in size with dimensions no smaller than 8-1/2 by 11 inches nor greater than 8-1/2 by 14 inches.

The petition shall be in substantially the following form:

INITIATIVE PETITION

To the Honorable City Council of The City of San Diego:

We, the undersigned registered voters of The City of San Diego, California, by this petition hereby respectfully propose the following legislative act be adopted by the City Council or submitted to the registered voters of The City of San Diego for their adoption or rejection:

(NOTE: Here insert a copy of the published notice of intention containing the proposed legislative act in full, the statement of reasons, the voter signature sheet(s) and the circulator's affidavit of authenticity.)





(Format of Signature Solicitation Portion of Petition)
NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC

THIS PETITION MAY BE CIRCULATED BY A PAID
SIGNATURE GATHERER OR BY A VOLUNTEER.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK.

Name Residence Date Clerk's Use Only
Sign
1-------------------------------------------------
Print
     
Sign
2-------------------------------------------------
Print
     
Sign
3-------------------------------------------------
Print
     
Sign
4-------------------------------------------------
Print
     

The Notice to the Public must appear in clear, readable type no smaller than 12-point in size.

A space at least one (1) inch wide shall be left blank along the right-hand side of the voter signature portion of the petition for the City Clerk's use in verifying the petition.

Each section shall have attached thereto the affidavit of authenticity of the person soliciting the signatures (the circulator). The affidavit of the circulator shall be in the following form:

AFFIDAVIT OF AUTHENTICITY

COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO )
) SS.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA )


Under penalty of perjury I, _________________________________________,
(Printed name of circulator)
declare:


That all of the signatures on the voter signature sheets of this petition section were made in my presence and were observed by me; that all of the sheets constituting this petition section were fastened together at the time such signatures were made; that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, such signatures are the genuine signatures of the individuals who signed the petition; and that the signatures were obtained between



_______________________________
(Beginning date of circulation)
and ________________________________.
(Final date of circulation)
_______________________________
(Circulator's Printed Name)
________________________________
(Circulator's Signature)
_______________________________
(Circulator's Residence)
________________________________
(Date Signed by Circulator)

If the circulator's affidavit of authenticity is unsigned, the signatures on that petition section are not valid.

CIRCULATING THE PETITION

Twenty-one (21) days after the publication of the notice of intention and statement of reasons, the petition may be circulated among the voters of the City for signatures providing that a copy of the notice of intention, the originally signed statement of reasons, and the affidavit of publication have been filed in the Office of the City Clerk as required.

An initiative petition may be circulated by a paid signature gatherer or a volunteer who must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old.

SIGNING THE PETITION

Each signer of the petition shall sign it in the manner prescribed below:

  1. Signature;
  2. Printed name;
  3. Residence address, giving street and number, or if no street or number exists, adequate designation of residence so that the location may be readily ascertained (Post Office box numbers, business addresses, or mailing addresses are not permitted); and
  4. Date signed.

Only a person who is a qualified registered voter at the time of signing the petition is entitled to sign it.

The number of signatures attached to each section shall be at the pleasure of the person soliciting the signature.

FILING THE PETITION

An initiative petition shall be submitted for filing with the City Clerk by the proponent, or by any individual authorized in writing by the proponent. All sections of the petition shall be submitted for filing at one time and no petition section submitted subsequently shall be accepted by the Clerk. The proponent must also provide the City Clerk with six (6) copies of the petition with unsigned voter signature sheets and unsigned circulator's affidavits of authenticity. (The unsigned copies will be for the use of the public and the media.)

The petition shall be filed not more than 180 days after the date on which the notice of intention to circulate was published.

The petition must contain the required number of signatures prima facie ("on its face") to be accepted by the Clerk for filing.

VERIFICATION OF SIGNATURES

Within 30 calendar days from the date the petition is filed, the signatures on the petition shall be verified by the Clerk. The signatures may be verified by means of the random sampling method as provided for in California Elections Code Section 9115.

The random sample of signatures to be verified shall be drawn in such a manner that every signature filed with the Clerk shall be given an equal opportunity to be included in such a sample. Such a random sampling shall include an examination of at least three percent (3%) of the signatures.

If the statistical sampling shows that the number of valid signatures is within 95 to 110 percent of the number of signatures of qualified voters needed to declare the petition sufficient, the Clerk shall examine and verify each signature filed.

Results of past petition examinations have indicated that the percentage of valid signatures obtained is in the 75 to 80 percent range. Therefore, circulators should exercise diligence in obtaining signatures from qualified registered voters only, and should consider obtaining signatures over and above the number required to validate the petition.

CLERK'S CERTIFICATION

The City Clerk shall certify the results of the signature verification and send a notice of sufficiency (or insufficiency) to the proponent or a representative of the proponent.

For a sufficient petition, the Clerk shall present the petition with certification attached to the Council at the next regular Council meeting at which the matter can be placed on the docket.

LEGISLATIVE ACTION

After an initiative petition has been qualified and presented to the City Council, the following actions may occur:

3% Petition

If the initiative petition contains the signatures of at least three percent (3%) but less than ten percent (10%) of the voters, the Council must within ten (10) business days of the date of presentation approve or reject the legislative act as presented but may not amend it. The Council may submit the matter to the voters, but it is not required to do so.

10% Petition

If the initiative petition contains the signatures of ten percent (10%) or more of the voters, the Council must within ten (10) business days of the date of presentation approve or reject the proposed legislative act as presented but may not amend it. If the Council rejects the proposed legislative act or fails to act within the time prescribed, then the Council has ten (10) business days to call a special election at which the act, without alteration, shall be submitted to the people. The special election may be consolidated with the next City-wide Primary or City-wide General Election, or a separate special election my be called.

If a proposed legislative act is approved by the voters, the act shall be deemed adopted. The act shall be effective at the time indicated in the proposed legislative act or thirty (30) days after the election, whichever is later.

For legal provisions, see SDMC, Chapter 2, Article 7, Division 10 (PDF).

Revised September, 2000