By Michael Feliciano
It has been just over six weeks since Gordon Mar was sworn in as the newest member of the SF Board of Supervisors and he has been hard at work representing District 4, a sector that covers the Central Sunset, Outer Sunset, Parkside and Pine Lake neighborhoods.
Currently on his to-do list is the allocation of the unexpected windfall of funding from the state. Much of the revenue will go to budget reserves, public schools and various city agencies, but the remaining funds, amounting to more than $180 million, may be spent by the Supervisors along with Mayor London Breed.
“It’s a good problem to have” states Mar, who has dedicated his career to helping others since moving to San Francisco over three decades ago.
San Francisco’s history of political and social activism is what drew the young Berkeley graduate to live on this side of the bay upon completing his education. Since then, he has lived in various areas of the City including Polk-Gulch, Excelsior and the Richmond District before settling in the Sunset District in 2005.
Like many San Franciscans, Mar’s first ventures to the Sunset were initiated by trips to visit close friends, spending time at Ocean Beach and the world-class natural environment surrounding the area – including Golden Gate Park and Stern Grove – as well as enjoying the neighborhood’s diverse cuisine.
But when it came time to decide on the right place to raise his family, it was the neighborhood’s people that motivated him and his wife Cecilia to ultimately decide to make the Sunset their home.
“What I love most about the Sunset is the strong sense of community among the residents here. People feel very connected to the neighborhood and to each other,” he said.
Last fall, after living in the Sunset for 13 years, Mar found himself in the middle of a contentious political race that came about unexpectedly when the incumbent supervisor, Katy Tang, suddenly chose to forgo reelection at the last minute. It was so sudden, in fact, that the timeframe to submit the declaration of intent paperwork for anyone interested in running for the position was at the deadline. The City had to grant a five-day extension period.
“There was a short window of opportunity to make a decision. But, after consulting with my family and close friends, it was clear that pursuing this position would allow me to continue my work in labor advocacy.”
Before being elected to the Board of Supervisors, Mar most recently served as co-founder and executive director at Jobs with Justice San Francisco, a non-profit organization that aims to build and improve the living and working conditions of families, seniors, immigrants and students.
In continuing his community efforts and outreach, Mar looks forward to expanding opportunities for all members of the Sunset. His priorities include workforce labor and improving public transportation. But above all is the effort to increase housing development that is affordable for working-class families and seniors who have been priced out of the area.
While some have argued that the development of more housing could be detrimental and exacerbate the problems facing the city today, Mar asserts that strategic development is the key to address this complex issue.
“There are appropriate ways we can expand housing across the City and the Sunset District in particular, that would maintain the quality of life and character of our neighborhood.”
Some of the strategies he has laid out include creating financial incentives for home owners to add accessory dwelling units (apartments added to existing residential buildings) in single-family homes and increasing housing density along the commercial and retail corridors of the district.
Another key strategy Mar cited is identifying underutilized public sites where housing can be built, as is currently being done with the Educator Housing Project at 43rd Avenue and Judah Street. This plan aims to construct a new community that is expected to include more than 100 new apartments specifically for educators.
Mar maintained that a critical component in the quest to expand housing in the Sunset District is that it is done in a way which is supported by the residents of the community rather than outside forces.
“All of this would be done in a community-driven manner. It’s important that the community members get to decide how much housing to develop and where,” Mar said.
Other projects Mar intends to continue working on in his first term as supervisor include expanding free City College classes, as well as public safety in the Sunset District. In March, he’ll be convening a Board of Supervisors hearing to address public safety issues like theft and home burglary.
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