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Lowell High School neighborhood was key to the school board recall’s smashing success

Tuesday’s school board vote was a blowout success for recall organizers: overwhelming support for removing three school board members spanned the entire city, with all but two of the city’s 337 precincts voting to recall Alison Collins.

The Standard looked at the voting precincts that supported the recall most heavily – some of them topping 95% of voters in support – to uncover the center of the recall movement: Lowell High School.

The Lowell area, including the Lakeshore and Merced Manor neighborhoods in the southwest corner of San Francisco, accounted for seven of the 10 precincts with the highest percentage of votes to recall Alison Collins.

Precincts surrounding Lowell High School had the highest percentage of votes to recall Alison Collins

The future of the elite public school was one of the most galvanizing forces among recall supporters after the Board of Education moved to change the school’s admission policy from merit-based to lottery.

Demographic data on the top precincts who voted to recall Alison Collins 

Apart from the Lowell High area, the other top recall precincts were in Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow, which are majority white and have average per-capita incomes of almost $200,000–indicating that the wealthy were also keen recall supporters. 

Another common thread among top recall precincts were higher than average Asian populations.

Turnout rates in the precincts that heavily favored the recalled were far higher than the overall citywide turnout of  26 percent of registered voters. Turnout in the areas surrounding Lowell was around 40%, with some precincts even exceeding 50%, or twice the average turnout.

In low-turnout elections like the one on Tuesday, where no national offices are on the ballot, it’s usually a question of whether campaigns can drum up support from their most passionate supporters, said Nick Warshaw, an election law expert at Loeb & Loeb.

And the passionate supporters of the school board recall were near Lowell. “The neighborhood has been a center place for the movement,” said Joel Engardio, a recall campaign activist who lives in the neighborhood. He organized drive-through signature gathering events and volunteer training events in front of Lowell during the early phase of the recall movement.

Engardio said the drive-through was “a safe and efficient way to gather signatures in a pandemic” and they had 500 cars show up in April 2021, despite the shelter-in-place order that was in effect then.

Recall supporters signing for the petition during the drive-through event in front of Lowell High School in April 2021. | Courtesy of Joel Engardio

He also said his active engagement with neighbors on the Nextdoor app helped him convince nearby voters to vote yes.

Residents in the area say they are now eager to get to work on their educational priorities.

Emily Murase, a former San Francisco school board president, told The Standard that “now the hard work begins.” Murase, a Japanese American parent, is also a resident of the Lakeshore and Merced Manor area.

“The only comment I have is that the results speak for themselves,” Murase said. She emphasized the school board now should refocus on student achievement and student mental health, “both of which suffered tremendously these past two years.”

About the Data

The Standard took data from Department of Election Preliminary Reports 1 & 3. Demographic data is from Census Reporter. The Standard looked up addresses of polling locations in each precinct to determine which census tract the precinct was in (some precincts may be part of multiple census tracts, which will not be addressed in this data). Finally, The Standard looked up the polling location addresses in Zillow to determine which neighborhood a precinct is in.

Han Li can be reached at