SAN FRANCISCO — Mayor Ed Lee, who oversaw a technology-driven economic boom in the city that brought with it sky-high housing prices, died suddenly early Tuesday at age 65.
A statement from the Lee’s office said the city’s first Asian-American mayor died at 1:11 a.m. at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
“It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we confirm that Mayor Edwin M. Lee passed away,” the statement said. Lee was surrounded by family, friends and colleagues. No cause of death of reported.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed became acting mayor and planned a late morning news conference.
Supervisors and other public officials were stunned and saddened by his sudden death. They praised the low-key mustachioed mayor better known as a former civil rights lawyer and longtime city bureaucrat than a flashy politician.
Former Mayor Willie Brown and the late political power broker Rose Pak talked Lee into filling out the rest of Gavin Newsom’s term when he was elected California’s lieutenant governor in 2010.
“We won based on our political shenanigans and our political skill sets. He got elevated to our mayor-ship under our charter and got re-elected twice,” Brown said.
Brown said Lee will be known as the man who “stepped up and made it possible for Silicon Valley to almost re-locate to our city.
Lee was appointed mayor by the Board of Supervisors in 2011. He won a four-year term in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. He was an advocate for the needy, but in 2015, he ran against a slate of little-known candidates who criticized him as doing more for tech leaders than for poor people.
Detractors claimed he 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. Meanwhile, housing prices have surged in San Francisco with modest homes now topping $1.5 million.
Lee, who was married and had two daughters, was a civil rights lawyer who became the San Francisco city administrator before taking over as mayor.
He was a staunch supporter of San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy toward immigrants, 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.