Are San Franciscans Being Gaslit?

Joel Engardio
3 min readNov 14, 2021


By Joel P. Engardio
Are you familiar with the term gaslighting? It’s when someone with more power dismisses your concerns by saying the truth is the opposite of what you actually see. Good gaslighters can make you question your own reality.

Are San Franciscans being gaslit?

Ask parents who watched their kids suffer from learning loss and anxiety after a year of Zoom school that lasted many months longer than necessary. School board commissioners insisted there wasn’t learning loss, because students were just having “different learning experiences.”

Ask crime victims who are constantly told “crime is down” but have given up reporting crimes because it feels futile when even the most egregious cases are not prosecuted. As anti-Asian violence surged this year, the district attorney said the killing of an 84-year-old Asian grandfather wasn’t racially motivated because the suspect was having “some sort of temper tantrum” before the attack.

Ask anyone who can’t find housing when city supervisors rejected the construction of 500 units (including 100 affordable) on an empty downtown lot that Nordstrom shoppers use for valet parking. Thousands of new housing units are thwarted by supervisors who claim they want to keep families in San Francisco.

A turning point
Residents are finally pushing back on elected officials who say things are fine when schools, public safety, and housing are in crisis.

For example, here’s the point-by-point case for recalling the school board.

The turning point was when recalls for the school board and district attorney qualified for the ballot. Both recalls gathered more than 320,000 signatures. That’s 83,000 for the district attorney and about 80,000 for each of the three school board commissioners eligible for recall.

Those are significant numbers considering it takes about 50,000 signatures to trigger a recall. And it’s been nearly 40 years since any local recall gathered enough signatures to go before voters.

The supervisors who rejected 500 units of new housing on a downtown parking lot aren’t facing recall, but they are targets of widespread outrage. More San Franciscans expressed regret for this defeated housing project than any other in recent memory.

Who supports the recalls?
Are the recalls being led by out-of-towners, Republicans, and billionaires as recall opponents claim?

Here’s a reality check on the district attorney recall:

  • More than 80 percent of donors are from San Francisco.
  • Nearly 80 percent of donors are Democrats or have no party preference.
  • Of 600 total donors, nearly 500 have given $250 or less.

A San Francisco Chronicle analysis of donations to the district attorney recall shows that the total amount raised is dominated by a few large donors. But the 500 small donors are noteworthy because they indicate potential voter support and more diversity than “out-of-town, Republican, billionaire.”

When KQED looked at donors of the school board recall, it found that 76% are from San Francisco.

It’s also important to note there are only 33,000 registered Republicans in San Francisco, according to the Department of Elections.

Yet 83,000 voters signed the petition to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin — more than double the first choice votes he received when elected in 2019.

The Boudin recall is led by the former chair of the local Democratic Party.

For the school board recall, about 80,000 voters signed each petition to oust the three commissioners eligible for recall.

That means many local Democrats support both recalls.

Mayor London Breed supports recalling all three school board commissioners eligible for recall — including Faauuga Moliga, who she appointed to the job in 2018. Moliga voted with Alison Collins and Gabriella Lopez on every disastrous policy decision that led to the current crisis of enrollment decline, fiscal insolvency, and learning loss.

State Senator Scott Wiener also supports the recall of all three commissioners.

Mad as hell
Gaslit residents are putting local politicians on notice that it’s time for a change. Voters wanting to fix their city will heed Peter Finch’s call in the Oscar-winning film Network. The famous scene is from 1976, but couldn’t be more prescient or relevant.

When ballots arrive for the local recalls and other elected offices, today’s San Franciscans will yell: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Originally published at on November 14, 2021.



Joel Engardio

Forward-thinking + pragmatic Democrat, civil liberties advocate, award-winning journalist, Westside SF homeowner. My local views at