UC Davis alumna named San Francisco’s interim mayor after Lee’s death

A visual look back at San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's tenure

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died suddenly early Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at age 65.
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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died suddenly early Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at age 65.

San Francisco’s new acting mayor is London Breed, a 43-year-old African American daughter of the city who grew up in poverty before ascending through the local government ranks.

Mayor Ed Lee, 65, died from a heart attack suffered Monday night while shopping for groceries at Safeway. Lee, who had served as mayor since 2011 after being appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors following Gavin Newsom’s election to lieutenant governor, was pronounced deceased about 1 a.m. Tuesday at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Breed is the second woman to serve as San Francisco’s mayor after current U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and the only African American aside from Willie Brown. She served as the Board of Supervisors’ president until Tuesday, and can be ousted if the majority of the 11-person board votes for another candidate.

Hundreds of workers gathered for a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday, where flags were lowered and the mood was somber.

“He fought many tough political battles, but they never dimmed his spirit,” Breed said. “Everyone agrees that our mayor was a good man with a good heart. He believed above all else in building bridges to solve problems.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg issued the following statement Tuesday morning:

“My heart and the hearts of the people of Sacramento go out to Mayor Lee’s family and the people of San Francisco. Ed was the rare politician who made real change while always keeping a genuine smile on his face. I especially appreciate what he did to launch San Francisco’s navigation centers for the homeless. His work models much of what we are starting to do in Sacramento. I’m deeply saddened with this loss, 65 is far too young and his light, laughter and leadership will be deeply missed.”

Lee’s death now will likely upend the race to replace him, which had been scheduled for 2019. Former state Sen. Mark Leno, a onetime member of the Board of Supervisors and longtime political figure, has already announced his candidacy. Breed was also expected to seek the office.

More about Breed:

  • She was was raised in a family of five getting by on $900 per month in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood, as described in a 2016 San Francisco Examiner op-ed she wrote about the struggles of living in public housing.
  • She attended Galileo High School (now Galileo Academy of Science and Technology) before earning a degree in political science and a minor in African American studies at UC Davis, following by a master’s in public administration at the University of San Francisco.
  • Her roots in politics trace back to an internship with the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services when Brown was mayor. She later worked on his campaign.
  • Before being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2012, Breed was the executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex in Western Addition for more than a decade as well as a redevelopment agency coordinator and fire commissioner.
  • Breed began serving as president of the Board of Supervisors in 2015 and was unanimously re-elected to another two-year term in January.
  • As a member of the Board of Supervisors, she passed legislation making it easier for financial penalties to be imposed on graffiti taggers, and enacting the strongest Styrofoam ban in the U.S.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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