The race to represent the Sunset District at City Hall is in full sprint mode, with incumbent Gordon Mar hoping to fend off challenger Joel Engardio in the Nov. 8 election.
The questions facing Sunset District residents are important: Do they feel safe? What kind of housing does the district want? Should affordable housing be built, and in what form, including the project planned for Outer Irving Street? Should the closed Upper Great Highway and Golden Gate Park roads be reopened to vehicle traffic as they were pre-pandemic? How can transportation be improved, including between the Sunset and Richmond districts?
Incumbent District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar has been working hard his first term, and has some notable achievements, including the development of the Five-Point Sunset District Community Safety Plan, which includes community safety ambassadors, escorts and free video doorbell installations for seniors, and the creation of the Sunset Safety Squad and Sunset Safety Network.
He also expanded free City College, provided money to Sunset District schools for STEAM programs and helped get the Sunset and Richmond districts water from Lake Merced for firefighting after a major catastrophe. (The SF Public Utilities Commission is responsible for the plan.) Mar supports keeping admissions to Lowell High School based on academic achievement, and not a general lottery system like other city schools.
The District 4 supervisor initiated legislation to create the Sunset Chinese Cultural District and helped develop the Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile on 37th Avenue.
“I’m running to continue creating a safer, more vibrant and sustainable Sunset District,” Mar said.
But he is also a die-hard progressive Democrat who has shown little ability to bend to the will of his constituents.
When the pandemic hit, Mar proposed closing the Upper Great Highway to vehicle traffic to allow more space for people to recreate outside. The roadway was closed for more than a year and was reopened for vehicle traffic on weekdays, until Friday at noon, but remained closed to vehicles over the weekend.
Many Sunset residents did not like the Upper Great Highway closure because it sent up to 20,000 vehicles a day through residential streets. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency blocked access to many streets off Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard, sending locals on roundabout routes to their destinations.
Mar recently submitted legislation at the SF Board of Supervisors to keep the Upper Great Highway arrangement in place until 2025, but he kept the provision closing the Upper Great Highway at noon on Fridays, a provision that doesn’t make any logical sense at all.
The District 4 supervisor also supports the permanent closure of the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, a position a majority of Sunset residents do not support.
Mar was out of touch with his constituents when he supported D.A. Chesa Boudin, who lost a contentious recall campaign. More than two-thirds of Sunset voters called for the D.A.’s ouster.
Mar also opposed the removal of three school board members who were recalled in February. Sunset residents voted by more than 70% to send the rogue members packing.
As well, some Sunset residents oppose the planned affordable housing development at 26th Avenue and Irving Street, a high-rise development that Mar supports.
Mar’s record is a mixed bag. It will be up to Sunset District residents to decide if Mar’s record warrants another term.
For more information about Mar’s campaign, go to www.gordonmar.com.
Joel Engardio has been a working journalist in the City for the past 20 years, mostly with the now-defunct SF Weekly and then the SF Examiner. He also produces an online blog.
Engardio was a leader in the effort to recall three school board members earlier this year and he worked to recall SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
“We need new leadership. I’m a forward-thinking and sensible Democrat,” Engardio said. “I will always listen to your concerns and fight for common-sense solutions to your problems. I embrace innovation and I’m focused on results.”
Engardio would maintain Lowell High School’s “permanent merit-based admissions.”
He would keep the roads closed in Golden Gate Park as they are now, and he would close the Upper Great Highway to vehicle traffic on the weekends.
Two years ago, Engardio barely lost the District 7 supervisor race to Myrna Melgar. He had the most first place votes in the election, but lost after ranked choice voting “exhausted,” or eliminated, the votes of thousands of District 7 voters.
Due to the City’s recent redistricting for political apportionment, Engardio’s home near Stern Grove was moved into District 4.
Engardio has been going door to door in District 4 soliciting support. He hopes to visit every home before voters start casting ballots.
For more information about Engardio, go to https://engardio.com.
As of press time, Leanna Louie, a third candidate in the District 4 supervisors’ race, was determined ineligible for the ballot by City Attorney David Chiu. Barring a last-minute reprieve from a Superior Court judge, she is being removed from the Nov. 8 ballot because she cannot prove she lived in the district for 30 days before the SF Department of Elections deadline.
Sunset voters have a lot to contemplate when choosing a district leader for the next four years. Do they like the direction we’re heading, or do they want to change course? We’ll find out in November.
Paul Kozakiewicz is an editor, and former publisher, of the Sunset Beacon newspaper.