Oct 27, 2022 - News

Supervisor showdown in San Francisco's District 4

Photo illustration of Joel Engardio and Gordon Mar.

Joel Engardio (left) and Gordon Mar. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals; Photos: Courtesy of both campaigns

Housing is a central issue across San Francisco, and in the District 4 Supervisor race, it's taking a front seat as well.

State of play: Incumbent Gordon Mar, in a recent conversation with Axios, touted two affordable housing projects moving forward in the Sunset District, and said that in general, he wants to see "more balanced development" across the city, believing that San Francisco has over-indexed in recent years on building luxury condos.

Meanwhile, Joel Engardio, a former journalist for the SF Weekly who currently works in PR for tech firms, said he supports more housing at all price points, "from the tiny home, so we can house the unhoused, up to market rate."

Why it matters: The District 4 race, laden with controversy from the start, now serves as a barometer for whether westside voters are ready to support a build-everything candidate in Engardio, or will stick with a more measured Mar.

  • Both candidates have raised roughly $420,000 and landed notable endorsements, with the San Francisco Democratic Party backing Mar and the SF Chronicle editorial board recommending Engardio.

Of note: Engardio has been critical of Mar's vote last year against the 495-unit downtown building that would've included some 100 affordable homes.

  • "They kill affordable housing because they don't believe in market rate housing," Engardio said of Mar and the other supervisors who voted down the Stevenson Street project.
  • Mar said that, at the time, he wasn't satisfied with the project's environmental report, especially around seismic concerns, but would be open to supporting it in the future.
Public safety

The candidates agree that public safety is a top concern for residents of District 4, where burglaries rose significantly during the pandemic.

  • Engardio, who supported the successful recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, is backing Brooke Jenkins in the race for the office, while Mar said: "None of the candidates have really convinced me that I should publicly endorse them."
  • Engardio said his focus is on "putting the victim first" and approves of Jenkins' vow to prosecute drug dealers and cut down on Asian hate crimes.
  • Mar said his approach over the last four years has centered on community-based programs, including the deployment of community safety ambassadors who walk the district's retail corridors, and helping pass legislation that requires police stations across the city to outline their plans for foot and bike patrols.
Downtown

As for how San Francisco revitalizes its struggling downtown area, Engardio said, "We need to do whatever we can to encourage people to come to San Francisco and create things."

  • "We can't just stop giving incentives [to businesses] because one might have been miscalibrated," Engardio said, referring to the so-called "Twitter tax break" of the early 2010s, which Mar described as a "failure."
  • Mar said he would be open to incentives if they applied to a "more diverse range of businesses … and nonprofit organizations" so that the city wasn't as reliant on the tech industry.
  • He's also recently called for the budget and legislative analyst office to complete a study to help better understand how commercial properties throughout the city could be converted into residential housing — an idea Engardio has supported as well.
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