sfcityidcard.jpgAfter overcoming some stiff opposition, the city’s controversial ID card program has proved wildly popular: so popular, in fact, that appointments at City Hall for an ID card are backlogged over four months in advance, according to City Administrator Ed Lee, whose office oversees the program.

And much like the wait-list at some popular SF eateries, if you have one of the 51 daily appointments and you don’t make it, you are out of luck: it’s back to the bottom of the waiting list, and the next available appointment is now sometime in September. But getting onto the list appears easy as can be – you can schedule a time slot with one of the two city clerks assigned to the ID card program via 311 – and you can do so 24/7/365, in multiple languages.

There are some kinks in the system to work out: about 20 percent of appointees don’t make it to their appointments, for whatever reason, and another 20 percent don’t have all the documentation together and are denied a card (as Ammiano himself was back in January, albeit briefly, when he didn’t immediately present a utility bill), according to County Clerk Karen Hong. But on the whole, the program appears to be working smoothly, Lee, Hong and others told the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee.

While they can’t be used to board a plane, the cards are “as good as US passport in terms of security,” Lee said, with high-tech encryption and safeguards against would be fake-ID-smiths equal to passports, and the “polycarbonate… like unbreakable glass” cards have some high-tech future potential: the cards could someday be encrypted to allow the bearer to use public transportation, to access public services like city clinics, and could even be programmed to carry money — or carry personal information like your DNA, fingerprint or other so-called biometric information.

That last bit could prove to be the stickiest: civil liberties activists strongly oppose using biometrics as a means of ID, even as the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies move towards using the technology. There are currently no time frame or solid plans to program the city ID cards to carry DNA or fingerprints in San Francisco, however.

UPDATE — For the wonkiest among you, see the breakdowns here, here, and here.

Thus far, 2,135 cards have been issued, though almost 3,500 people had scheduled appointments (about 20 percent each missed their appointment, or had their application shot down because of insufficient documents).

Demand for the cards seems to have dropped steadily from an initial peak: requests for appointments hit the 2,183 mark in February, but dropped almost 30 percent in March and dipped another 22 percent in April to 1,196 appointment requests.

Our favorite stat? That involving 311, of course: it is the city’s ubiquitous call service that schedules the lion’s share of appointments, according to this nifty graph. Muni, expect your bill in the morning.

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