National News

Ed lee, san francisco mayor, dies at 65

Posted December 12, 2017 4:39 p.m. EST
Updated December 12, 2017 4:44 p.m. EST

Edwin M. Lee, an affordable housing advocate and technocrat who became the first Asian-American to be elected as mayor of San Francisco, died early Tuesday of undisclosed causes, his office said. He was 65.

“It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we confirm that Mayor Edwin M. Lee passed away on Tuesday, December 12, at 1:11 a.m. at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Family, friends and colleagues were at his side,” his office said in a statement.

Lee arrived at the hospital by ambulance in critical condition shortly after 10 p.m. Monday, according to Dr. Susan P. Ehrlich, the hospital’s chief executive. Lee’s family asked that further medical details not be released, Ehrlich said. Local news accounts said Lee collapsed while shopping at a supermarket.

Under the city’s rules, London Breed, president of the Board of Supervisors, became the acting mayor. Dennis Herrera, the city’s attorney, said the board can decide whether it wants to choose a replacement mayor before June, when an election will determine who will finish out Lee’s term.

As mayor, Lee presided over a tremendous shift in wealth in the city driven by the technology boom that put San Francisco at the center of global innovation.

Rents soared past levels only the wealthiest could afford, an ironic development for Lee, who began his career fighting for affordable housing.

Lee became mayor in January 2011 when the Board of Supervisors elected him by a 10-1 vote as the city’s interim leader to fill out the term of Gavin Newsom, who had resigned after being elected lieutenant governor of California.

After consistently expressing a reluctance to hold the job on a permanent basis, Lee entered the electoral race in August 2011 and was elected in November, a time of tremendous change for the city as the technology industry became increasingly influential.

Lee easily won re-election in 2015. This year, the housing issues are again weighing on the city, and residents have projected their frustrations onto the mayor.

But Lee could still be forceful on issues that mattered to him, and he retained his passion for immigrant rights. In January, in his State of the City address, he insisted that San Francisco would remain a sanctuary city “now, tomorrow, forever.”