SF Prepares For Public Memorials Honoring Late Mayor Ed Lee

Lee was San Francisco's 43rd mayor and its first Asian-American mayor

City officials announced plans for two public memorials for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who died suddenly Tuesday. On Friday, Lee will lie in repose for a day of public mourning.

Lee will lie in state at the City Hall rotunda from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thousands are expected to be there to say their final goodbyes.

The Fire Department will display a flag outside City Hall. The Police Department will provide a motorcade. Chief Bill Scott says while there is a lot to plan, Lee's passing is personal.

"My whole family met him extensively," Scott said. "He welcomed us to the city when we first got here. It's tough for everybody."

A public "Celebration of Life" will be held at City Hall on Sunday.

A memorial packed with flowers and candles continued to grow Thursday for Lee following his untimely death early Tuesday. City worker Robert Rosales stood outside City Hall crying. He said he will miss Lee's warmth and the respect he gave to people around him.

"Every now and then, he would pat me on the back, thank me for polishing his passage way to the basement," Rosales said.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said Lee, 65, died of an apparent heart attack, but the exact cause of death has yet to be confirmed by medical officials. 

News of Lee's passing left San Francisco city officials shaken, but they are now tasked with getting back on track with acting Mayor London Breed at the helm.

[BAY MC] Life and Times of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

At a media appearance at City Hall, outside which a flag had been lowered to half-staff, Breed called Tuesday a "mournful day." Lee, the first Asian-American mayor to lead San Francisco, "lived a life of service,"she said, but it was "cut short far too soon."

Breed said Lee grew up in public housing and was the son of working-class immigrants. His father, who died when Lee was a teenage, was a veteran. His mother, a seamstress.

Lee’s background as the son of working-class immigrants shaped him and crystalized his determination to be a dogged "advocate for the powerless, a voice for the overlooked, someone who fought for those in need before himself," according to Breed.

[BAY JG] Procession Held For Late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

Breed credited Lee with adding affordable homes to San Francisco’s otherwise exorbitant housing supply, challenging discrimination, and being a champion for people who struggle with homelessness, mental health issues and substance abuse. He left behind an “"immeasurable legacy" for the city by the day," she said.

Rather than being a quintessential politician who provided reporters with "good sound bites" and was focused on "flash," Breed said, "Our mayor was a good man with a good heart."

News of Lee's death prompted colleagues and politicians across the city and country to pen heartfelt tributes

[BAY JG] Mayor Ed Lee Remembered at San Francisco City Hall

Lee was San Francisco's 43rd mayor, taking office in January 2011 to serve out Gavin Newsom's term after Newsom was elected lieutenant governor of California. He had been San Francisco's city administrator.

He won an election for mayor in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015.

It is the first time since 1978, when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated, that a successor is taking over the office of San Francisco mayor. Supervisor Dianne Feinstein became mayor, the first woman to hold the office, and is now California's senior U.S. senator.

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Lee was born in Seattle and attended Bowdoin College and Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a housing activist and civil rights attorney.

The city's website credits him with overseeing San Francisco's "most successful economic expansion in city history," having added 140,000 jobs and more homes to the housing market than any other mayor in the city's history.

Still, under Lee's tenure the city has grappled with the high cost of living amid San Francisco's tech boom.

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Lee, the child of immigrants, was a staunch supporter of San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy toward people who are in the country illegally, a stance he reiterated last month when a Mexican man who had been repeatedly deported was acquitted of murder in the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle.

The case became a flashpoint in the nation’s immigration debate, with then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly referencing it as an example of the need for stricter immigration policies and a wall along the Mexican border. Lee shot back that San Francisco was a city of tolerance and love and acceptance.

Detractors claimed Lee catered too much to Silicon Valley, citing his brokering of a tax break in 2011 to benefit Twitter as part of a remake of the city’s downtown. When Lee took office in January 2011, Zillow reports the median home value in San Francisco was more than $656,000. Today, it is more than $1.2 million.

In 2015, he ran against a slate of little-known candidates who criticized him as doing more for tech leaders than for poor people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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