Dogs walk on the lawn in Civic Center Plaza in front of City Hall San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, July 13, 2021. (Harika Maddala/ Bay City News)

Remote public comment at weekly San Francisco Board of Supervisors meetings will continue to be available for all residents, regardless of disability status, supervisors voted on Tuesday.

Last week, supervisors decided to hold off on voting on an ordinance that would discontinue remote public comment, except on request for people with disabilities. On Tuesday, supervisors approved an amendment introduced by Matt Dorsey, which preserves the current policy of allowing unlimited remote public comment at board and committee meetings.

The only supervisor who dissented was Rafael Mandelman, the author of the original ordinance. He argued that as COVID-19 restrictions loosened, remote public comment for all was no longer necessary and sometimes caused delays at meetings.

City Hall first permitted public comment submissions via Zoom and phone in response to mass shutdowns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorsey’s amendment rescinds the interim policy, but changes meeting rules to allow public comment for all, regardless of disability status.

The amendment also mentions that only providing remote comment on request creates a problematic two-tiered system in which people with disabilities are both forced to disclose having a disability and may also have more access to public comment, while people attending meetings in person may have their time capped.

Dorsey added that though he’s seen remote comment being misused or weaponized, the “only thing worse” is having a government trying to stifle people’s abilities to partake in the democratic process.

“Having a system like that may tend to exclude the voices also of those who can’t attend board meetings in person for any number of legitimate reasons, which could include childcare or eldercare responsibilities, work schedules, lack of resources or illness,” Dorsey said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Remote public comment has afforded San Franciscans with broad access to their government.”

Dorsey said he plans to submit an official amendment to the Rules of Order in the coming weeks, which will be voted on once again.

Mandelman clarified that his ordinance was never meant to rid public comment for people with disabilities, or even return to pre-pandemic accommodations. He said that there is just a “difference of opinion” on the best usage of public servants’ time.

“I tend to think that the hours that get used on unlimited remote public comment could be better used, in other ways serving the public,” Mandelman said.