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Who makes the City Hall lights call?

Three people must agree in order to change the light scheme of our beloved City Hall

City Hall lit up blue and yellow in honor of the Golden State Warriors. Photo by torbakhopper

“It’s almost become a game to try to figure out the significance of the color combinations illuminating the grand building all the way up to the dome,” former San Francisco Mayor turned SF Chronicle columnist Willie Brown said in 2014. And he’s not wrong: While sometimes the color combinations are obvious (see February’s trans-flag display) other times it’s less clear.

The building’s exterior lighting, which became significantly easier to swap out when its old system was replaced for its centennial celebration in June of 2015, has also drawn fire, like when it was lit in a Christmassy red and green just a few months later, during Hanukah. It’s also regularly rented out for events, during which the lights are the color requested by the temporary tenant—for example, Fitbit’s blue takeover in January 2016. But barring the whims of those paying to dine and dance under the dome, who makes the colored light call?


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KQED reports this week that the decision makers are a holy trinity. There’s City Administrator Naomi Kelly, of course, but joining her at the table are Martha Cohen, who’s currently known as “the mayor’s director of special events” and has a long history in city business, first as then-mayor Frank Jordan’s neighborhood liaison and then head of the SF Film Commission.

Rounding out the team is SF’s chief of protocol, society maven Charlotte Shultz, who City Hall says “has served in eight mayoral administrations, helped to present San Francisco to distinguished and notable guests from around the world, arranged for its largest civic celebrations, and facilitated diplomatic relations with the San Francisco Consular Corps.”

Who better to decide if City Hall should go blue and yellow for the Warriors or whatever colors represent the flag of the country most recently beset by terror?