Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco who worked closely with leaders in the city’s tech industry, has died after a heart attack aged 65. A statement issued by his office confirmed his passing after multiple media outlets reported the news (via CBS).
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.
Board of Supervisors President London Breed is taking over the role, effective immediately, on an acting basis, as set out by the City Charter.
Lee had been in office since 2011, first taking over the mayor role in the middle of Gavin Newsom’s tenure, when Newsom left to take on a new position as the Lieutenant Governor of California.
Lee was then re-elected to the role in 2015. In a city with a long and strong Asian heritage, he was actually San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor.
As mayor of San Francisco, Lee made many efforts to bring the city’s technology industry closer together with its civic life, both through initiatives of his own, and through partnerships with the likes of investor Ron Conway, with whom he was closely associated and appeared many times on our Disrupt stage.
Early on, Lee positioned himself as an advocate to attract and keep tech companies in the city, luring them away from Silicon Valley in the South and also choosing San Francisco as their starting point.
“I want tech companies to start here in San Francisco, and I want them to stay and to grow,” he said back in 2011. He once told us that he visited a different tech company each week.
It was a prescient ambition, but also a double-edged sword. San Francisco has indeed filled out Lee’s vision: it has most definitely taken up the torch as the capital of the Valley’s startup world (and, you might argue, tech world), with hundreds of founders choosing the city to start and grow their businesses.
But it’s come at a price: 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.
Through all of that, Lee tried to forge a path forward, with a view not just to the economic boost the city gets from the tech world, but how to leverage the wealth of that industry to try to address the city’s problems.
Lee’s efforts ranged wide and included tech-focused tax proposals, housing plans, and supporting startups like HandUp, which had created a gift card program specifically to address homelessness, a particularly acute problem in San Francisco.
In the rough-and-tumble world of civic politics, his work was not always celebrated and even caused controversy at times. But on the other hand, it also showed that he was committed to being involved and committed to trying to find solutions.
Our thoughts go out to Lee’s family and loved ones.