xi's moments

Late San Francisco mayor Ed Lee fondly remembered year later

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-12-14 00:24

Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown (at lectern) and current Mayor London Breed share memories of Ed Lee, the first Chinese-American mayor, at a ceremony in San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday. LIA ZHU / CHINA DAILY

San Francisco on Wednesday morning celebrated the life of the late Ed Lee, the city's first Chinese-American mayor, on the one-year anniversary of his sudden passing.

Lee's former colleagues, along with elected officials and community members packed the mayor's balcony inside San Francisco City Hall, where the ceremony was held. Lee's wife, two daughters and mother attended.

"Over the past year, we have celebrated so many major accomplishments that Mayor Lee helped to initiate during his time in office," said current Mayor London Breed.

She highlighted an affordable senior housing project in Chinatown as a "true legacy" of the late mayor.

As a tenants' rights attorney in 1981, Lee sued a bank for illegally evicting low-income seniors to build its headquarters. As part of the settlement, the bank built a replacement building on Ninth Avenue.

"This was one of the sites that he was able to help secure way back then. And now we are able to help Chinatown community development. We are going to purchase the property and protect those seniors," said Breed.

Lee led many business and trade delegations to China to facilitate collaboration in culture, high-tech and clean energy. Two months before his death, he had visited Shanghai, longtime sister city of San Francisco.

"As the first Chinese-American mayor, the city will always hold a place of pride in our hearts, but especially in the hearts of our Chinese and Asian and Pacific Islander communities," Breed said at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to rename the Chinese Education Center to the Edwin and Anita Lee Newcomer School. Ed Lee was inducted into the California Hall of Fame last week.

Born in Seattle to Chinese immigrant parents, Lee graduated from the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. He worked at the Asian Law Caucus for 13 years.

"Ed Lee would prefer to remain a lawyer suing the city and win every lawsuit," said former Mayor Willie Brown. Lee served as city administrator under Brown.

"He was so modest, so well-prepared and so unselfish in every way ... this city never, ever would be what it is without the standard established by Ed Lee," he said.

Lee became San Francisco's 43rd mayor in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Dec 12, 2017, at the age of 65.

His daughter Brianna Lee said "so many things about this past year have been so difficult", but at the same time, "the outpouring of love and support from family members, friends and the community at large here in San Francisco has been absolutely unforgettable".

Musical group Pure Ecstasy, one of the late mayor's favorite bands, performed a cappella renditions of Unforgettable, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I'll Be There in his honor at the ceremony.

Contact the writer at liazhu@chinadailyusa.com

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