Mar has worked as an associate professor at San Francisco State University since 1992. He teaches Asian American and Ethnic Studies. From 1993-97, Mar was the Assistant Dean for New College Law School in San Francisco, where he taught a course on critical race theory.
Mar is a graduate of the University of California, Davis; he received a law degree from New College of California and is an inactive member of the California State Bar. Mar served on the Human Rights Committee of the State Bar of California and the Civil Rights Committee of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Mar is a board member of the Chinese Progressive Association and a founding member of API-FORCE (Asians and Pacific Islanders for Community Empowerment) and the Institute for Multiracial Justice. He is a past executive board member of the Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. In 1999, Mar received the community service award from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). He is a former shop steward for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 790.
Mar was married for 25 years to Sandra Chin, a public school teacher. They divorced in 2012.
In 1998, Mar was elected to the San Francisco County Central Committee of the Democratic Party. Mar lived in the Richmond District for many years. His daughter, Jade Mar, attended McCoppin Elementary School in the Richmond District.
After his house burned down in April, 2000, Mar was ineligible to run for supervisor in District 1 as he had planned. Instead, he ran for the Board of Education, placing second. As a Commissioner for the Board of Education heCo-authored with Tom Ammiano and led the campaign to pass Proposition H in 2004, which spends up to $60 million per year for school programs;
Created the Parent Advisory Council to the SFUSD, which strengthened parent, student and community involvement in SFUSD policy-making;
Led the creation of a model "green building" facility at Argonne Child Development Center in the Richmond District;
Served on the Select Committee of the Board of Supervisors and Board of Education, which coordinates policy-making between the city government and school district.
In 2008 Mar ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for District 1 and won the election, defeating planning commissioner Sue Lee. Mar took office on January 8, 2009.
In 2012, Mar ran for reelection. His primary opponent was insurance salesman David Lee. Lee's campaign was notable for being the most expensive in San Francisco history, backed by realtor and business groups.
In his second term, Mar focused on transportation issues. In spring 2012, while working with community organizations San Francisco Safety Awareness for Everyone (SF SAFE) and the Bicycle Coalition, Mar put forward a plan to curb rampant bicycle thefts in the city. The plan included more consistent police procedures, additional bicycle parking, and a registration program. Mar also directed the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office to identify potential opportunities to increase funding for bicycle infrastructure
In July 2012, Mar introduced new regulations on chain stores to give neighborhoods more say about who can occupy retail space. The proposal expanded the definition of chain stores, or "formula retail", to include international chains and stores that are at least 50% owned by chains. The policy would also increase public notification standards and require applicants to prepare economic impact reports that measure the potential impact on surrounding stores.
Eric Mar was at the center of several controversies during his tenure on the San Francisco Board of Education. Mar was criticized by the Richmond Review for allowing local school children to be bussed across the city rather than to attend school in their neighborhoods like Mar's own child
AsianWeek newspaper criticized Mar for his support of eliminating the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps in San Francisco high schools.
In 2008, Mar introduced a controversial resolution that requested the state to drop charges against the San Francisco 8. The San Francisco Chronicle opined, “A police officer slain in the line of duty is a disgrace that needs an answer. Instead, the shotgun slaying of Sgt. John Young is getting the political treatment from four San Francisco supervisors more interested in rhetoric than healing justice.” The Chronicle also reported, “Quietly, even some of Mar's allies on the board have expressed dismay at the timing and substance of the measure.”
The San Francisco Chronicle blamed Mar and two other Board of Education members for the tense relationship the Board had with former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman:
What (Ackerman) doesn't need is sniping and second-guessing from elected officials whose job is to set broad policies, not micromanage the superintendent's daily conduct. Tensions between school board members and superintendents come with the territory. But in San Francisco, those tensions had gone far beyond the limits of acceptability. Three board members in particular—Eric Mar, Sarah Lipson and Mark Sanchez—need to start working with Ackerman, not fighting with her virtually on a daily basis.
Beyond Chron, however, had a different opinion, placing blame instead with Ackerman: At a September 2003 meeting of the Board of Education, Mar was among "three board members with whom Ackerman has locked horns said they remain steadfast in their objections to her management of the district, which they characterize as autocratic and unyielding to differing views."
The Examiner and Chronicle were supportive of Arlene Ackerman. Beyond Chron expressed an opposing view: "If Ackerman had any respect for what public votes mean she would have quit after the November 2004 election because that is what the voters were saying when they rejected the candidacies of Heather Hiles, David Weiner and Coach Kane. Instead she stuck around to complain about commissioners city voters chose to re-elect...[claiming] she represents the "silent majority."
In 2003, Mar, along with School Board members Sara Lipson and Mark Sanchez, floated a resolution to establish a district-wide antiwar rally in protest the pending U.S. invasion of Iraq and to create a peace curriculum. Ackerman and other board members objected to the resolution, calling it one-sided and enabling students to leave school to participate in the rally. "The proposal failed, but a watered-down version that passed the board called for a day of on-campus public discussion about the potential for a war in Iraq.".
Mar was criticized by members of the African-American community after he gave an interview to a Chinese-language newspaper in which he said Ackerman's attitude toward Asian-Americans should be considered in the board of education's yearly evaluation of her performance. Ackerman is an African-American. Cedric Jackson, president of the San Francisco Black Leadership Forum, condemned Mar's actions as "unacceptable, irresponsible, intolerable behavior."
Mar was the chief supporter of a law to ban restaurants from providing toys to customers unless the meals served were nutritious (ie, reduced sugar, fat and sodium content and included fruits and vegetables). Mar said the measure was intended to be an incentive for restaurants to offer healthier meal choices. The legislation was passed on an 8-3 vote despite Mayor Newsom's disapproval and veto.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart satirized Mar's ban on happy meal toys in a show broadcast on January 1, 2011.
Mar was criticized for complaining about Batkid, the five-year-old leukemia sufferer named Miles Scott, who was sent by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to "rescue" San Francisco. Mar wrote on Instagram: "Waiting for Miles the Batkid and wondering how many 1000s of SF kids living off SNAP/FoodStamps could have been fed from the $$." For his complaint, Townhall.com named Mar the "Jerk of the Week." "San Francisco city supervisor Eric Mar seems to have missed the heartwarming lesson behind the day, and instead decided to politicize the event," the publication wrote.
In the course of what Mayor Ed Lee called "Batkid Day," the pint-sized superhero "saved" San Francisco from the Riddler and the Penguin. In a headline, the San Francisco Chronicle declared Eric Mar "the extra villain" of the day. Wrote the Chronicle, "San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar — the man who pushed to take the toys out of Happy Meals — couldn't help but snip the fun from Friday's mega-community celebration of Batkid."