by JOEL B. POLLAK
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died early Tuesday morning at the age of 65. The cause of death has not been officially released.
A statement by the city read (via CBS San Francisco):
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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anita, his two daughters, Brianna and Tania, and his family.
SFGate.com notes: “Former Mayor Willie Brown said Lee suffered a heart attack. Supervisor Hillary Ronen said the mayor was grocery shopping when he was stricken.”
Lee had served as mayor since 2011, after Gavin Newsom left office to become California’s lieutenant governor. He won election later that year and won re-election in 2015.
Lee was the first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, a city with a deep Asian heritage, and came from humble origins, growing up in a public housing project in Seattle, the Los Angeles Times noted.
In six years in office, Lee had been somewhat controversial, championing the city’s $15-per-hour minimum wage law and trumpeting San Francisco’s status as a “sanctuary city” even after the killing of Kate Steinle by an illegal alien who had been deported five times already and had deliberately moved to the city to avoid deportation again.
Earlier this year, Lee cheered the suppression of free speech after a conservative group, Patriot Prayer, was denied a permit to hold a demonstration because of threats of violent left-wing counter-protest.
Lee also was known for his efforts to recruit tech companies from Silicon Valley into the city. Over the past several years, many have relocated to the city, restoring some ailing neighborhoods but also driving up real estate prices and pricing out lower-income residents and low-margin businesses, like restaurants.
The tech industry blog Techcrunch remembered him on Tuesday for his “many efforts to bring the city’s technology industry closer together with its civic life.” But it noted that Lee’s efforts also meant that “the city is overcrowded, and extremely expensive, and feeling increasingly stratified and stilted, and there are still a lot of questions over how and if that will be resolved.”
Lee was also accused of corruption by Chinese-American underworld figure Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, who was implicated in a major 2014 bust that brought down local State Senator Leland Yee, a rising Democratic star, on weapons trafficking charges. Three of Lee’s former fundraisers were implicated, but Lee denied any wrongdoing.
Mayor Lee is the most prominent mayor to die in office since Chicago’s Harold Washington died in 1987.
San Francisco Supervisor London Breed is now the acting mayor, the first black woman to serve as mayor in the city. She drew attention in early 2015 when, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, she told parents whose children were involved in crime and violence to “turn them in.”