City of San Francisco promises to "open its data" with

San Franscisco Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the beta launch of, a website designed as a clearinghouse for the City of San Francisco's public data. TechCrunch has this launch statement from the mayor. Here's a snip:
The new web site will provide a clearinghouse of structured, raw and machine-readable government data to the public in an easily downloadable format. For example, there will be updated crime incident data from the police department and restaurant inspection data from the Department of Public Health. The initial phase of the web site includes more than 100 datasets, from a range of city departments, including Police, Public Works, and the Municipal Transportation Agency.

We imagine creative developers taking apartment listings and city crime data and mashing it up to help renters find their next home or an iPhone application that shows restaurant ratings based on health code violations.

And here's a related item on a Gov 2.0, an O'Reilly/Techweb event/website devoted to topics of government IT.

It's a great idea, but I'm not clear on how much of this is a PR stunt, and how much is actually more open access than citizens had before the site launched. Perhaps those who've examined the actual data being offered can weigh in, in the BB comments.

I live in Los Angeles, and I hope the powers-that-be down here are watching. I'd love to see our city open data to more public access, and scrutiny. For instance, the LAPD crime maps website is great in concept, but poorly executed (not to mention the horrible data omissions). I can think of many services I'd like to see built with city data here in my home town. (via @laughingsquid)


  1. This is a great start, but ultimately a giant fail.

    All they are doing is linking files which look like they have already been public for some time. What we need is a way to get to the raw data without being encumbered by proprietary data formats.

    Check out the City of Nanaimo (BC, Canada)’s Property Search Data Catalog for an example of this being done the right way (RESTful access to the raw data in standard text-based formats):

    This will enable developers to write cool applications. Linking to an Excel file on an ftp site will not.

  2. This looks like a fairly standard GIS data clearinghouse. Some of the data, such as police calls for service, hasn’t been available before.

    Some of the data access is RESTful.

  3. Speaking as someone who needs to access government records professionally, let me say this loudly.


  4. The LAPD crime map’s location icon looks very similar to the icon for homicide. Hilariously poor design.

  5. The GIS data has been around for a while — but SF traditionally held it close to the vest while trying to find a way to productize it. I spent a fruitless couple of evenings, geez, I guess 7 years ago trying to find anything useful and freely accessible as part of the attempt by a coalition of newspaper publishers to keep from having the Clear Channel pedmounts shoved down our collective throats. In the end, a handful of us spent the next few days mapping out the Tenderloin, Union Square, the Financial District, and eight to ten blocks of Market Street with graph paper and tape measures….

  6. I am not sure about CA Public Records Laws, but in NM using public records data for commercial/solicitation use is prohibited.

  7. There is only one entity handling open data the “right” way from what I’ve seen. All others give you datasets and then you have to figure out what to do with them. This one not only gives you the datasets, but a very cool web-based toolset to instantly work with them… this looks to be the wave of the future-

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