San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee dies in office
December 12, 2017 12:15 PM   Subscribe

At the age of 65, the Mayor of San Francisco died unexpectedly Tuesday morning. Ed Lee was a tireless advocate for San Francisco values, and was a huge supporter of the city's Sanctuary policies. He was the first mayor of Chinese descent, a huge deal in a city with a large Asian population that has not always reckoned with its racist past. He will be missed. He is replaced until a special election by London Breed.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (52 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by greermahoney at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by b1tr0t at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by jim in austin at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by suelac at 12:30 PM on December 12, 2017


The replacement mayor, London Breed was the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. To quote her:

"I am life-long renter, living in a rent-controlled apartment with a roommate. Our landlady recently passed away, and our building just sold. To this day — as president of the Board of Supervisors — my housing future is uncertain," she wrote.


So interesting times ahead for San Francisco.

RIP Mayor Lee. You were 2 legit 2 quit.
posted by GuyZero at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


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posted by AlSweigart at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by lalochezia at 12:37 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by Lynsey at 12:42 PM on December 12, 2017


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As I said to a friend this morning, "Ed Lee seemed like a decent man. He could be corporate, but he was also very much a San Franciscan, and I saw him as an excellent representative of the city. He was a good administrator who assembled a competent staff, and those are both things I’ve come to appreciate much more of late."
posted by mosk at 12:46 PM on December 12, 2017 [15 favorites]


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posted by grumpybear69 at 12:47 PM on December 12, 2017


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I'm stunned. In the Age of Trump it seems so quaint and pointless to say that I often disagreed with Lee on policy. I didn't vote for him in 2015. I wrote a letter to him the day after the 2016 election thanking him for vowing that San Francisco would remain a sanctuary city. I respected him and wanted to see him enjoy a long and happy retirement with his family. Ultimately I felt about him the way I feel about most San Francisco politicians - I'll dig in and criticize and fight about everything, but in the end, he was one of our own. Damn. Damn.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:49 PM on December 12, 2017 [23 favorites]


I don't relish his death.

Let's also remember how he, as most mayors do, facilitated and protected a murderous, racist police department. Lots of other issues, too, of course. Asians4BlackLives has some posts about that. Yes, I know nobody is pure, but he could have done better, too.

On preview: I'd also like to echo some of sunset in snow country's sentiments.
posted by moink at 12:51 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


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posted by one teak forest at 1:05 PM on December 12, 2017


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I disagreed with him on plenty of things, and even if it often wasn't my way, I knew he cared deeply for this city and was fighting for it in his own way.

It's going to be an ugly six months until the special election.
posted by zachlipton at 1:09 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


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posted by gyusan at 1:11 PM on December 12, 2017


I know nothing of SF politics, but I just dropped in to say I LOVE the name London Breed.

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posted by Samizdata at 1:17 PM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 1:21 PM on December 12, 2017


The replacement mayor, London Breed was the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. To quote her:

"I am life-long renter, living in a rent-controlled apartment with a roommate. Our landlady recently passed away, and our building just sold. To this day — as president of the Board of Supervisors — my housing future is uncertain," she wrote.

So interesting times ahead for San Francisco.


Yep, this is great. My sense is that SF's housing problems are a lot more difficult than just "the rich centrists in power only care about making developers richer, keeping property taxes low, and seeing the resale value of their houses increase."

Having someone like London Breed in office is win-win -- either she'll start to effect change that others haven't, or her education will elevate the current tedious yimby/nimby discourse.
posted by mrmurbles at 1:30 PM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


He was the current mayor? When I read he was the city's first Asian mayor I assumed he was in office years ago.
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posted by Bee'sWing at 1:31 PM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


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posted by wym at 1:41 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:51 PM on December 12, 2017


Yeah, that’s one of the reasons his appointment and then election was so important bee’swing, considering how during the Gold Rush Chinese immigrants basically built San Francisco, only to face horrible racism in return, the fact that it took til 2011 to have a Chinese mayor is shameful.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:52 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]



posted by bz at 2:01 PM on December 12, 2017


Heather Knight, Chronicle political columnist, had a column this weekend on Mayor Lee joining the "Fix-It Team" to clean the sidewalks of the Tenderloin. The ending is certainly fitting:
During his first four-year term, Lee focused almost entirely on improving the city’s economy and was remarkably successful, some would say too successful considering the sky-high cost of living. He said his second term would center on tackling homelessness and other concerns of the street. He’s got two years left to fulfill that promise.

“When the end comes and that’s it, I’m going to feel OK — that I did everything I could to help the city,” he said.
We've got a lot more to do.
posted by zachlipton at 2:05 PM on December 12, 2017 [9 favorites]


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posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:14 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by ghharr at 2:24 PM on December 12, 2017


I keep thinking how weird it is that more politicians don't die or have serious health crises while in office. Politicians tend to be old. Look at how many senators are in their 70s or 80s. Lee was really young compared to a lot of folks in politics. (Not sure if he was young compared to other mayors.)
posted by latkes at 2:28 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


He was the current mayor? When I read he was the city's first Asian mayor I assumed he was in office years ago.

Ha. Until recently, it was white men all the way down. Remember that California is the land of Reagan and Nixon; after the gold rush, San Francisco was (reasonably enough) a banking and insurance town. As a west coast port, it became a military town in WWII. SF was never reliably liberal before the summer of love.

Ed Lee died shopping for groceries at 10pm on a weeknight. He was practically my neighbor; I have shopped at that same Safeway. I once randomly encountered him taking out his own trash as I walked home from work. I don't mean to overplay the "man of the people" thing, but he was a humble city administrator, a civil rights lawyer reluctantly drawn into the mayoral race who was clearly tickled by the whole phenomenon once he won.

Like any SF politician, he leaves a complicated legacy. He was an advocate of affordable housing in his early career, but presided over the period of greatest rent increase, possibly in national history, but definitely in this city. He was an adamant supporter of the LGBT community and the sanctuary city policy. He was a "moderate" rather than a "progressive" (though still a Democrat of course), but he fought against Ross Mirkarimi, the domestic-abusing sheriff of SF county and progressive darling - a juxtaposition that was merely baffling at the time, but has come to seem more sinister in the last 18 months.

His successor as SF Mayor, London Breed, takes office as the city's first black woman mayor about 40 years after Dianne Feinstein took office as SF's first female mayor upon the death of the incumbent George Moscone. History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:37 PM on December 12, 2017 [28 favorites]


More details about succession: https://48hills.org/2017/12/12/lees-death-shocks-city/

We have some very interesting Bd of Supes votes ahead. If Breed is voted in, and D5 is in play, it's going to be an exciting election in June.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2017


Using wikipedia's list of largest US cities by population, the 10 largest cities have a mayor with an average age of 52.9. The youngest was Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio at 40 and the oldest was a tie at 63 (Mike Rawlings of Dallas & Sylvester Turner of Houston).
posted by mmascolino at 2:43 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]




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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:10 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by doctor_negative at 3:12 PM on December 12, 2017


Lee was a nice guy and a lousy mayor when we needed a good one. He got into office on broken promises, corruption, and tech investor money. Much like our previous mayor, most of what good he did was other people's work and ideas.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:16 PM on December 12, 2017 [9 favorites]


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posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 5:43 PM on December 12, 2017


Lee was a nice guy and a lousy mayor when we needed a good one.

Not trying to be contrarian or anything, but when was the last time SF had a "good one"? And I'm thinking back at least to the 1990s, if not further.
posted by blucevalo at 5:55 PM on December 12, 2017


Art Agnos was the last SF Mayor who was not either Frank Jordan (while maybe not an actual Republican, close to it), Willie Brown, or a protégé of Willie Brown (Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee.) Agnos only lasted one term. IMHO, he was the last good mayor, and he was mayor just before my time in SF started in 1992, 25 years ago.
posted by larrybob at 6:02 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm no longer a SF resident but I remember when he was elected. The intern at my company at the time went to school with his daughters.

He had his strengths and weaknesses, but I never felt he was corrupt or making choices out of self-interest. I felt he was acting in the service of the public, even if I didn't always disagree with him. And I loved how normal and human he seemed.

You'll be missed.

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posted by samthemander at 6:04 PM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


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posted by mistersquid at 6:17 PM on December 12, 2017


I agree with larrybob — Agnos was the last half-way good one. Also the one who has been good at playing an elder statesman role in SF politics, unlike, say, Willie Brown.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:30 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


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posted by honey badger at 8:19 PM on December 12, 2017


I don't think there's any way this Board of Supervisors would do it, but if they were going to find someone to serve as acting mayor who absolutely, positively wouldn't turn around and run for the job, Art Agnos as caretaker mayor would make a lot of sense (also not sure if that's compatible with the term limits law).
posted by zachlipton at 9:17 PM on December 12, 2017


I feel sorry that he died in this way and young too (65 is young these days). I feel like the city ate him up, when all he wanted to be was a public servant.
posted by Toddles at 9:49 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


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posted by jasper411 at 10:33 PM on December 12, 2017


> I don't think there's any way this Board of Supervisors would do it, but if they were going to find someone to serve as acting mayor who absolutely, positively wouldn't turn around and run for the job, Art Agnos as caretaker mayor would make a lot of sense (also not sure if that's compatible with the term limits law).

Well, the last person who swore they absolutely, positively wouldn't run for mayor didn't stick to his promise, so I don't think we can trust anyone with that. He only served one term, though, so he should be eligible.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:42 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by Standard Orange at 10:50 PM on December 12, 2017


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posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 2:34 AM on December 13, 2017


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posted by filtergik at 4:10 AM on December 13, 2017


Gay former Supervisor and state legislator Mark Leno announces he's running in the June 2018 special election.
posted by larrybob at 11:18 AM on December 13, 2017


Two pieces by astute political writer Joe Eskenazi : The Legacy of Ed Lee in Mission Local and How Mayor Ed Lee remade San Francisco in Big Tech’s image in The Verge.
posted by larrybob at 11:33 AM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


Curbed SF, Ed Lee, the builder, by Chris Roberts: "The city’s 43rd mayor leaves behind an indelible impression on San Francisco’s skyline and its population. Only part of the credit—and part of the blame—is his."
How much of this is Ed Lee’s legacy? All of it, since these are things that happened when he was mayor, and ergo nominally in charge of it all. In the Lee era, the city became richer, taller, and more crowded. It is harsher, wholly unaffordable, and racially and economically segregated.

How much of these successes and failures can you pin squarely on him, on the man and his policies? Much less, and perhaps even very little.
posted by zachlipton at 10:41 PM on December 13, 2017


Apparently it's no longer Too Soon. Ed Lee Sold Out San Francisco, by Zoë Beery in The Outline.
posted by larrybob at 12:44 PM on December 14, 2017


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