San Francisco lawmakers and city department heads took time early Wednesday morning to remember and honor the late Mayor Ed Lee, who died suddenly from a heart attack one year ago on Dec. 12, on Tuesday morning.

Officials and family members at a City Hall ceremony said it was hard to believe it had already been one year since the death of the mayor many remembered as a community activist, a friend, a father and a person who was humble and generous.

Mayor London Breed said she knew that the one-year anniversary death of Lee would be hard for so many who worked side-by-side with the mayor:

“We are a testament to his legacy. The work we will continue to do to honor many of the commitments that he has made to the residents of San Francisco.”

Breed also announced that The City is preserving affordable senior housing in the Richmond District — a building that Lee helped negotiate to construct when he was an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus.

The City was able to purchase the property through the Small Sites program and in partnership with the Chinatown Community Development Center.

Former Mayor Willie Brown said he thinks Lee would have preferred to stay as a lawyer suing The City and winning very every case instead of entering the realm of politics.

Brown called Lee modest and unselfish:

“He was the only city official I know who rode around with a broom and shovel in the trunk of his car.”

Brown said that The City is not mourning the loss of Lee but instead celebrating his life.

City Administrator Naomi Kelly said Lee had a good sense of humor and recalled a story when she and other city officials wanted to change the lighting outside of City Hall to the color purple to honor Prince who had died in 2016.

Kelly said the problem was that the Warriors were playing that night and Lee refused to change the lighting and wanted to keep City Hall lighted blue and gold in hopes the Warriors would win that night.

Kelly said later that night, she made the decision to change the lights from blue and gold to purple:

“Well, that night the Warriors lost. It just so happened my first meeting at 8 a.m. in the morning was with Mayor Lee.”

She said she met Lee at Sam’s Diner — Lee’s favorite breakfast joint — with his arms crossed and said to Kelly:

“Naomi, someone lied to me yesterday.”

Kelly was shortly later forgiven by the mayor, she said:

“That was the Ed Lee we all knew and loved.”

At the end of ceremony, Lee’s favorite local group, Pure Ecstasy, performed a medley of songs honoring the mayor.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to jerold@sfbay.ca.

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