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Ed Lee

Headshot of Ed Lee wearing a suit and tie.
Courtesy of City of San Francisco.
Public Servant

(1952 – 2017)

California Connection

  • Dedicated his entire career to San Francisco, served as Mayor 2011-2017.


Biography current as of induction in 2018

San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor, Ed Lee presided over the greatest economic recovery and investment in housing in the city’s history. Born in Seattle, Wash., to Chinese immigrant parents and raised in public housing, Lee came to California to pursue his education, graduating from UC Berkeley School of Law in 1978. He started his career as a civil rights attorney, championing immigrants and low-income tenants. In 1991, he became director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and went on to serve two decades in city government as purchasing manager, public works director and ultimately city administrator.

In January 2011, Lee accepted an interim appointment as San Francisco’s mayor when former Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected Lieutenant Governor. With ardent support from the Chinese American community and civic leaders across the city, he successfully ran for a full term in November 2011, and in 2015 was re-elected with only token opposition. As mayor, he helped spur tremendous economic growth, revitalizing the Mid-Market district and investing heavily in small business and neighborhood commercial corridors. A new arena that will bring the Golden State Warriors back to San Francisco was another achievement. While backing the businesses that fueled the city’s booming economy, Lee never forgot the less fortunate, focusing on raising the minimum wage, creating affordable housing and helping the homeless. Lee’s true passion as Mayor was building affordable housing: creating the largest affordable housing fund in San Francisco history, completely transforming of all of San Francisco’s 3,500 units of public housing, and spurring housing development in all neighborhoods.

At the time of his unexpected passing, he was opening support shelters and had created a dedicated department to centralize the city’s efforts in its fight against homelessness. Lee also is remembered for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with San Francisco’s immigrant communities in defense of the Sanctuary City policy and for pursuing innovative environmental policies that led to a 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the city during his tenure.

View more inductees from the 12th class, inducted in 2018.