UNFORESEEN PASSING. San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee, left, and
Oakland mayor Jean Quan, arrive at the White House in Washington
for a state dinner in honor of Chinese President Hu Jintao, in
this January 19, 2011 file photo. Mayor Lee, who oversaw a
technology-driven economic boom in San Francisco that brought
with it sky-high housing prices despite his lifelong commitment
to economic equality, died suddenly in December at the age of
65. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V28, #1 (January 1, 2018),
San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee dies suddenly at
By Janie Har
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Mayor Ed Lee, who oversaw a technology-driven
economic boom in San Francisco that brought with it sky-high
housing prices despite his commitment to economic equality, died
suddenly December 12 at age 65.
A statement from Lee’s office said the city’s first
Asian-American mayor died at 1:11am at Zuckerberg San Francisco
"It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we
confirm that mayor Edwin M. Lee passed away," the statement
said. Lee was surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues. No
cause of death was reported.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors president London Breed
became acting mayor.
Supervisors and other public officials were stunned and
saddened by his sudden death. They praised the low-key
mustachioed mayor who was better known as a former civil-rights
lawyer and longtime city bureaucrat than a flashy politician.
"I am floored. I can’t believe he’s gone. I just held a press
conference with mayor Lee yesterday ... He was his normal
friendly and jovial self," state senator Scott Wiener told
KTVU-TV. "He wasn’t the flashiest guy in the world, but he
worked hard and it was an honor to work with him."
Former mayor Willie Brown and the late political power broker
Rose Pak talked Lee into filling out the rest of Gavin Newsom’s
term when he was elected California’s lieutenant governor in
2010. He was appointed interim mayor by the Board of Supervisors
in 2011 after professing no interest in taking on the job
"We won based on our political shenanigans and our political
skill sets. He got elevated to our mayor-ship under our charter
and got re-elected twice," Brown said.
Brown said Lee will be known as the man who "stepped up and
made it possible for Silicon Valley to almost relocate to our
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who lives in San
Francisco, said Lee’s background as a community organizer and
civil-rights lawyer served the city well.
"He knew the rhythms and the workings of San Francisco at the
most granular level, and dedicated decades to improving the
lives of all San Franciscans," she said in a statement.
Lee changed his mind about taking the job permanently and won
a four-year term in 2011. He was re-elected in 2015. Lee was an
advocate for the needy, but in 2015, he ran against a slate of
little-known candidates who criticized him as doing more for
tech leaders than for poor people.
Detractors claimed he catered too much to Silicon Valley,
citing his brokering of a tax break in 2011 to benefit Twitter
as part of a remake of the city’s downtown. Meanwhile, housing
prices have surged in San Francisco with modest homes now
topping $1.5 million.
Lee, who is survived by his wife Anita and daughters Brianna
and Tania, was a civil-rights lawyer who became the San
Francisco city administrator before taking over as mayor.
He was a staunch supporter of San Francisco’s sanctuary city
policy toward immigrants, a stance he reiterated when a Mexican
man who had been repeatedly deported was acquitted of murder in
the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle.
The case became a flashpoint in the nation’s immigration
debate, with then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly referencing
it as an example of the need for stricter immigration policies
and a wall along the Mexican border.
Flags were lowered at City Hall. The last mayor to die in
office was George Moscone, who was murdered by a disgruntled
former Board of Supervisors member in 1978, leading to the
ascension of then-Board of Supervisors president Dianne
Feinstein to mayor. Feinstein is now California’s senior U.S.
Lee’s death now will likely upend the race to replace him,
which had been scheduled for 2019. Former state senator Mark
Leno, a one-time member of the Board of Supervisors and longtime
political figure, has already announced his candidacy.