SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, a champion for the technology sector and former civil rights attorney who sued the city on behalf of tenants and would go on to lead as its first Chinese American mayor, died early on Tuesday, officials said.
Lee, 65, died of a heart attack, the San Francisco Examiner said.
“He was a true champion for the people,” U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, whose district includes San Francisco, said on Twitter.
Lee was appointed mayor in 2011 to fill the remainder of Gavin Newsom’s term when he was elected lieutenant governor. Lee became the 43rd mayor of San Francisco, which is steeped in Chinese American history, won his first full term later that year, and was re-elected in 2015.
“It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we confirm that Mayor Edwin M. Lee passed away,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anita, his two daughters, Brianna and Tania, and his family.”
Lee arrived at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital by ambulance shortly after 10 p.m. on Monday, hospital Chief Executive Dr. Susan Ehrlich told a news conference.
He died at 1:11 a.m. on Tuesday, surrounded by family, friends and colleagues, said Ehrlich and London Breed, who is serving as acting mayor of the city of more than 850,000 people.
Ehrlich said the medical examiner will determine the cause of death and declined to release further information, citing privacy laws and family wishes.
Lee was born on May 5, 1952 in Seattle to immigrant parents from China. He graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1974 and from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1978.
Lee was the fourth of six children and grew up in housing projects, the San Francisco Chronicle said. He became head of the city’s Human Rights Committee in 1991 after a career as a civil rights attorney, during which he filed litigation on behalf of low-income tenants against San Francisco, the Mercury News reported.
As a law student, Lee represented residents of a public housing complex who sued San Francisco over unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the first tenants’ rent strike against the city’s housing authority, according to the Chronicle.
Lee helped establish the technology industry in San Francisco. Most famously using tax incentives to convince Twitter Inc to create a grand headquarters in the city, Lee added a business-friendly note to a city known for its liberal progressive policies.
Breed is serving as both acting mayor and board of supervisors president, city officials said. She will have those duties until the board votes on a successor although that is not required, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.
The next mayoral election is set for June 5, 2018, and the successful candidate will fulfill Lee’s term, which ends Jan. 8, 2020, Herrera said.
Reporting by Heather Somerville; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Andrew Hay and Richard Chang