The National Japanese American Historical Society mourns the sudden loss of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who passed away December 12, 2017. He was 65. We extend our sincere condolences to his wife Anita, two daughters and the entire Lee Family. Condolences also to all San Franciscans who stand together in gratitude that a good man spent his life serving our city and its people.
Lee was elected the 43rd mayor of San Francisco, in November 2011 becoming the first Asian American mayor in the City’s history. He was first appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, after then Mayor Gavin Newsom became California’s Lieutenant Governor in January 2011. He won his first full term that same year, and won re-election in 2015. From 1991 to 1996, he served as director of the City’s Human Rights Commission. In 2000, he was appointed Director of Public Works, and in 2005 was appointed by Mayor Newsom to a five-year term as city administrator, to which he was reappointed in 2010. As city administrator, Lee helped city government run more efficiently and implemented the city’s first ever ten-year capital plan.
Throughout his career, Mayor Lee was a staunch advocate for immigrant rights and affordable housing, having served as the Asian Law Caucus’ managing attorney and represented multitudes of Asian immigrants, seniors and the City’s most vulnerable. As Mayor, he declared San Francisco to be a sanctuary city to protect all immigrants. He looked to creative ways to deal with the affordable housing crisis that resulted from the tech boom. He created the Affordable Housing Trust to build and maintain the City’s affordable housing stock and look to ways to alleviate the City’s homelessness.
Mayor Lee recently spoke at the signing of the Community Benefit District for San Francisco’s Japantown at the historic Japantown Peace Plaza, thus establishing a funding mechanism to revitalize one of the last remaining Japantowns in the US.
A number of staff and board of NJAHS have known and worked with Mayor Lee back in the 1980’s during his days at the Asian Law Caucus. It was during those days that the coram nobis legal petitions of Fred Korematsu, Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi were being prepared and presented before the U.S. District Courts. They recall that he never changed his humble, gracious and yet tenacious manner to fight for others less advantaged.
“Mayor Ed Lee’s life’s work exemplified his principles to make San Francisco an inclusive and tolerant city. His dedication to community will be his legacy and an inspiration to us all.