The governing body of South San Francisco is the City Council which establishes local law and policies through enactment of ordinances and resolutions. The Council also determines how the City shall obtain and spend funds, appoints members to all advisory municipal activities, and represents the City by serving on Regional and County committees/boards whose policies may impact South San Francisco (i.e. ABAG, MTC). The Council provides direction for the City Manager. The Council positions are salaried.
Five members are elected to four-year terms. Elections are held in odd numbered years: three members at one election and two members at the next election. During non-election years the Council selects members of its body to be Mayor and Vice Mayor at the first Council meeting in November. During election years, the Mayor and the Vice-Mayor are selected, by the body, after the election results have been tabulated.