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Election

Is Board of Supervisors Candidate Vilaska Nguyen carpetbagging District 7?

Carpetbagging – Seeking political election in an area where one has no local connections

In a February 13, 2020 48hills piece, editor Tim Redmond wrote that Vilaska Nguyen, a “public defender who coaches girls’ basketball at a Catholic school and has lived in D7 (District 7) for ten years announced today that’s he’s running for supervisor.”

Nguyen has assembled a big election operation and key endorsements. Campaign staffers were already knocking on District 7 doors in early June. An Internet search shows that Nguyen and his wife Rhean Fajardo, an attorney for the Oakland Athletics, and their children resided in San Francisco on Otsego Avenue. That matches the 10-year residency period the 41-year-old Nguyen has described. As a city employee, Nguyen received his employee mail at the Otsego Avenue address.

The Otsego Avenue address Nguyen used is in the 94112 zip code. On August 28, 2018, Nguyen contributed to Jeff Adachi’s campaign for Public Defender listing he resided in the 94112 zip code. On January 30, 2019, Nguyen again listed 94112 as his residence zip code when he contributed to Chesa Boudin’s campaign for District Attorney.

There’s one problem: the Otsego Avenue address is in District 11, conflicting with the 10-year District 7 standing that Nguyen proudly touts.

After the November 2019 election, both Nguyen and Fajardo changed their voting addresses to Summit Way in District 7, which is in the 94132 zip code. The house shows up on real estate websites as being rented around that time.

On July 8th, I went to Otsego Avenue with a checkbook in hand. On the driveway, there were colored chalk sketches and political slogans apparently drawn by children. The resident told me “I am a friend of Nguyen’s. He doesn’t live here. You can donate to the campaign on his website. Give me your name and I’ll tell him you came by.” While speaking to the person answering the door, I could hear children’s voices in the background.

I subsequently went to the Summit Way address and when Nguyen answered the door, I apologized for ringing the wrong doorbell. Unlike the Otsego Avenue address, I heard a dog barking, but none of Nguyen’s children’s voices in the background, leading me to wonder whether the Nguyen family is actually residing at the Summit Way address or just marking time until the election.

So why does it matter how long Board of Supervisor candidates have lived in a district? Because San Francisco residents voted for district elections with the intent of empowering actual residents familiar with their neighborhood’s micro issues. The codification of district elections was also designed to weaken large, well-funded citywide campaigns that were dominating the Board of Supervisors’ races at the expense of community interests.

If Nguyen’s main selling point to District 7 is his 10-year residency there and that appears to be fiction, then what was the purpose of the recent move from District 11? Perhaps it is because John Avalos, who was termed out as District 11 supervisor in 2017 and is running again to reclaim his seat, is too formidable an opponent. Since Avalos and Nguyen see eye-to-eye on city issues, it would also be politically beneficial should they both be victorious. If indeed San Francisco has district elections to allow residents with a history in the neighborhood to represent those areas, perhaps the residency rule needs to be enhanced. Currently, a candidate only needs to live in a district six months prior to filing. It’s a stretch to say someone like Nguyen knows more about what District 7 needs after residing there (presumably) for six months than a candidate who has lived there for years or even decades.

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