Ed Lee

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Ed Lee

Edwin Lee was Mayor of San Francisco until his death on December 12, 2017.


Prior to his employment with the City and County of San Francisco, Ed Lee was the Managing Attorney for the San Francisco Asian Law Caucus, for which he worked from 1979 to 1989. Mayor Lee was born in Seattle, Washington. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Bowdoin College in 1974 and from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, in 1978. Mayor Lee is married to his wife Anita Lee. [1]

"Chinese spy connection"

A suspected Chinese intelligence operative developed extensive ties with local and national politicians, including a U.S. congressman, in what U.S. officials believe was a political intelligence operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency between 2011 and 2015, Axios found in a yearlong investigation.

The woman at the center of the operation, a Chinese national named Fang Fang or Christine Fang, targeted up-and-coming local politicians in the Bay Area and across the country who had the potential to make it big on the national stage.

Through campaign fundraising, extensive networking, personal charisma, and romantic or sexual relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors, Fang was able to gain proximity to political power, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials and one former elected official.

Even though U.S. officials do not believe Fang received or passed on classified information, the case "was a big deal, because there were some really, really sensitive people that were caught up" in the intelligence network, a current senior U.S. intelligence official said.

Private but unclassified information about government officials — such as their habits, preferences, schedules, social networks, and even rumors about them — is a form of political intelligence. Collecting such information is a key part of what foreign intelligence agencies do.

Fang attended events in support of former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, according to an acquaintance present at the gatherings. (Lee, who began serving as mayor in 2011, passed away in 2017 while in office.) [2]


Inspired by the civil rights movement, Chinese-American activists, including then–lefty firebrand Ed Lee, began working for their long-marginalized community—inspiring young people like Rose Pak.[3]

According to Warren Mar:

Many former members of Communist Workers Party, Communist Party USA (Marxist-Leninist), Line of March, etc. ran and won local offices after the 1988 campaign or got jobs as legislative aids or took positions as municipal bureaucrats.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, an apprentice of Willie Brown was one such example. He played on his background as a lawyer for tenants in public housing but never acknowledged any claims to the Asian American radical left, where much of that struggle for tenants was incubated. Why would he? As a city functionary for three decades, and finally Mayor, he followed in Willie Brown’s foot-steps. In spite of its progressive imagery, San Francisco, under Lee’s leadership, continued policies of development-deals, fast tracking gentrification, tax-breaks for the newly minted billionaires in the tech sector, continued police violence against the Black and Brown communities, and street sweeps against the homeless. Ed Lee died suddenly, last year while in office, and some remnants of the left and progressives lined up with the Chamber of Commerce, developers, and tech giants to mourn his passing.[4]

Asian Law Caucus


Asian Law Caucus, 1980s, Front row Madge Bello, Don Tamaki, Nancy Wong, unidentified Back row Bobbie Camacho, Debbie Lim, Dennis Hayashi, Joyce Matsumori, Bill Tamayo, Ed Lee, Vicky Chin and Gene Lam.

The Asian Law Caucus began in Oakland in the early 1970s and later moved to San Francisco. It provided legal services to low income Asians.

Political career

The former City Administrator, Lee was appointed unanimously as successor mayor by the Board of Supervisors on January 11, 2011 to fill the remaining year of former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s term, who was sworn in as California’s Lieutenant Governor on January 10, 2011. Lee is the first Asian-American mayor in San Francisco history.

In 2010, Mayor Lee was appointed to a second term as City Administrator by Mayor Newsom and his appointment was confirmed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors. As City Administrator, Mayor Lee spearheaded government efficiency measures and reforms that reduced the size and cost of government, from reducing the vehicle fleet to consolidating departments and back office functions to save tax dollars. He implemented the City’s move to cleaner vehicles and an infrastructure to support electric vehicles and green City government. Mayor Lee also developed and oversaw implementation of the City’s first ever Ten Year Capital Plan to guide our capital priorities and infrastructure investment.

Working with the Department of Emergency Management, Mayor Lee has overseen the City’s disaster recovery and response planning efforts, bringing every department together to coordinate response and recovery for the next major earthquake or emergency. With the Fire Chief, Mayor Lee led efforts to work with PG&E to assess the City’s gas and electric infrastructure and ensure its safety and reliability. For the 2010 U.S. Census, Mayor Lee organized the outreach efforts to ensure our City continues to make progress on inclusion and cultural competency.

Mayor Lee first began working for the City and County of San Francisco in 1989 as the Investigator for the City’s first Whistle Blower Ordinance and has since served as the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission, Director of City Purchasing, and Director of the Department of Public Works before he was first appointed as City Administrator in 2005.[5]

Swearing in

After a unanimous vote by San Francisco’s newly installed Board of Supervisors on Jan. 11, 2011, City Administrator Edwin M. Lee was sworn in as interim mayor of San Francisco. The swearing-in was regal affair staged in the rotunda of City Hall. A host of prominent political figures, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, congregated to witness the changing of the guard.

Former Mayor Willie Brown served as master of ceremonies, standing behind a podium on the grand staircase with members the newly elected board to his right and former Mayor Gavin Newsom and Mayor-elect Ed Lee to his left.

Rose Pak, the powerful head of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, was seated near the front row for a close-up view of the ceremony. Speaking to the historic nature of the first Asian American holding the office of mayor in San Francisco, Lee singled out Pak, whom he called his good friend, saying, “Today, Rose, our struggle is here, and it’s succeeding.”

Newly anointed as mayor, Lee expressed gratitude to Brown, Newsom, Pak, and the members of the Board of Supervisors who supported him.

He also noted that several weeks ago, he hadn’t even anticipated such a momentous change. “It’s been a whirlwind for me,” he said.[6]

Opposing Proposition 54

Second generation Korean Americans have begun educational outreach work for the Korean community to oppose Proposition 54. Many civic organizations are voicing their opposition to Proposition 54 which prohibits classification of any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin.

Three young Korean Americans -- Roger Kim (San Francisco Foundation, Fellow), Ed Lee (Californians for Justice, Campaign Manager), Dong Suh (Asian Health Services, Policy Director) -- explained why they oppose Proposition 54 and urged Korean Americans voters to parcipate in the election.

Poposition 54 was initiated by Ward Connelly, chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, and prohibits public institutions and all organizations including schools and hospitals from classifying information about individuals according to race, ethnicity, color or national origin.

Ed Lee said, "We need demographic information to address particular experiences a racial group might have in areas of health, education and employment, and it's an important tool to stop racial discrimination and inequality." Lee explained, "If this proposition passes, racial discimination will become worse, and we won't be able to provide services that people of color need."

Dong Suh, who pointed out that the passage of the proposition will have negative consequences in areas of healthcare, said, "Demographic information has allowed us to develop special health policies for Koreans, Chinese and other Asians who are at a higher risk for Hepatitis B." He emphasized, "If this proposition passes, we will not have access to this kind of information and it will be difficult to prevent diseases for minority groups."

Roger Kim said, "We need basic data to figure out what policies are needed for Korean Americans, and we will do our best to educate Korean American voters about the facts of this proposition."

Korean American organizations who have voiced their opposition to Proposition 54 are the Korean Community Center of East Bay (KCCEB), and Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates (KIWA) and Korean Resource Center (KRC) of Los Angeles.

Proposition 54 was initially scheduled for the ballot next March, but was moved to October 7 because of the California governor recall election.

Reporter: Kyong-suk Lee Translated by: Judy Han.[7]

Asian Americans for Equality, 38th Anniversary

Ed Lee, grey jacket, right of center

Dignitaries such as U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Comptroller John Liu, State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Council member Margaret Chin came to Chinatown March 2012, to help Asian Americans for Equality celebrate its 38th anniversary. A fundraiser for more than one-thousand supporters was held at the Jing Fong restaurant on Elizabeth Street.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Yee Ling Poon, AAFE Executive Director Christopher Kui

AAFE honored San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who was elected last November as that city’s first Asian-American mayor. Other honorees included: Luis Garden Acosta (El Puente), Eileen Fitgerald (NeighborWorks America), Errol Louis (NY1) and Chanchanit Martorell (Thai Community Development Center).[8]

The following evening, a separate fundraiser was held benefiting Mayor Lee’s campaign at the Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers Street. This event was not sponsored by AAFE but many people with close ties to the organization were in attendance. Margaret Chin, the first Chinese-American to represent Manhattan’s Chinatown on the City Council, called Lee an inspiration. Lee said Asian-American politicians are now moving beyond representation of their own communities and recognizing that they must “serve every neighborhood” in their respective cities.

Fred Ross award campaign

In early 2013, mainly Democratic Socialists of America aligned activists, together with many elected officials across the United States came together to urge President Barack Obama to award posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the legendary organizer, Fred Ross, Sr.. The Saul Alinsky trained radical was the first to organize people through house meetings, a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and DSAer Dolores Huerta, and a pioneer in Latino voter outreach since 1949 when he helped elect Communist Party USA affiliate Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’s first Latino council member, "Ross’ influence on social change movements remains strong two decades after his death in 1992".

Endorsers of the proposal included Ed Lee.[9]

Hu Jintao dinner

In January 2011, Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Washington DC for a high-profile summit. He had a red carpet rolled out for him and was greeted by Vice President Joe Biden at the airport. Highlights of the visit included a private dinner with President Barack Obama one night and a big state dinner the next.

Among those of Chinese descent that were present at the dinner were the newly inaugurated Chinese-American mayors of San Francisco and Oakland, California — Ed Lee and Jean Quan — Energy Secretary Steven Chu, California Rep. Judy Chu, the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress. Other members of Obama's Cabinet with seats at the table included Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was the only top congressional leader to accept an invitation. [10]

Committee of 100 meeting

On May 11, 2013, Committee of 100 hosted San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, his wife, and two daughters at a private meeting and discussion on U.S.-China relations. Vice Chair of the Bay Area Jay Xu presided over the meeting and C-100 members joined the gathering:

Dan Chao, Kenneth Fong, George Koo, Bob Lee, Larry Low, Jenny Ming, Anna Mok, Tony Sun, Linda Tsao Yang, Stanley Wang, and Dennis Wu were present.[11]]


Charlotte Schultz (in green) watches as Rose Pak speaks.

Charlotte Shultz organized the largest welcome ceremony in the history of SF Airport for Rose Pak in 2016 after she received a kidney transplant surgery in China."[12]


"From the greeting by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and two former mayors to the Rolls-Royce ride — complete with police escort — it would be hard to imagine anyone from President Obama on down topping the welcome for Chinatown majordomo Rose Pak on her return to the city.
"The 300 greeters who took the drive out to the airport Monday for Pak’s welcome–home from China, where she underwent months of kidney treatment, included former Mayors Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown, Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Jane Kim, Norman Yee and David Campos, Public Defender Jeff Adachi and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
"Also there was Academy of Art University President Elisa Stephens — whom Herrera just sued, claiming the school has illegally converted 22 buildings in the city into student housing and other uses.
"Even acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin made the pilgrimage.
"Pak wasted little time tossing out barbs as she emerged from customs, with Herrera being the first target.
"“Are you going to serve me papers?” Pak mockingly asked, referring to the scrutiny she and her Chinatown allies have received in the past mostly from the district attorney’s office over their campaign tactics. “Or are you here to serve the mayor papers?”
"Pak also publicly chided Herrera for suing her pal Stephens. After such pleasantries, she joined Brown and Public Works chief Mohammed Nuru in a burgundy Rolls-Royce from the Academy of Art’s classic-car collection and headed to a Chinatown luncheon — escorted by SFPD motorcycle officers.
"“It was a Fellini movie — if it had been filmed for reality TV, nobody would have believed it,” said San Francisco PR agent Lee Houskeeper, who was among the spectators.
"“Every year, tens of millions come and go from San Francisco International, but this is the first time I’ve seen a civic event of these proportions at the airport,” Peskin said. “It was actually quite entertaining.”
"The entertainment continued at the Far East Cafe, where Pak was flanked at a luncheon banquet by Brown, Chaplin and police Deputy Chief Garret Tom, a longtime Pak protege who has been mentioned as a candidate for the chief’s job.
"Also at the head table were Campos, Kim and Peskin — who defeated Lee’s hand-picked candidate for his supervisor’s seat last year, with Pak’s help.
"As for the mayor, he missed the banquet — instead catching a flight to D.C. for a gun-safety conference at the White House. In doing so, he missed Pak’s expletive-laden remarks at the luncheon, laying in to Brown for persuading her to push Lee to run for mayor back in 2011.
"Pak got a new kidney as part of her treatment in China, and said her doctor told her she could expect to live another 40 years. She said she needed only 15 years, including 10 to get the Ping Yuen public housing complex in Chinatown rebuilt.
"And the other five years?
"“To get even with the people who wished me dead.”

Farewell party

Russell Lowe attended the farewell party in 2013 for China’s Consul General in San Francisco.


On March 12, Consul General and Mrs. Gao Zhansheng held a farewell reception in their residence. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, Supervisor Eric Ma and Katy Tang, Mayor of Piedmont John Chiang, Mayor of Daly City Raymond Buenaventura, Mayor of Alameda Marie Gilmore, Councilmember Lena Tam, Councilmember of San Jose Kansen Chu, former Speaker pro Tempore of California State Assembly Fiona Ma, Office Director of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein Russell Lowe, director of U.S. Department of State Office of Foreign Missions in San Francisco Patricia Hayes, representatives of foreign missions as well as Bay area friends from all works of life which amounted to over 300 people were present.

Consul General Gao delivered a touching farewell speech, in which he recalled quite a few historical moments in China and China-U.S. relations during his post in San Francisco, such as the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay, the 30th anniversary of San Francisco-Shanghai sister cityhood, the devastating earthquake in Sichuan and the 40th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy and President Nixon's visit to China. Gao said, "Over the past five years there has been an unprecedented expansion of interactions across the board between China and my consular district." What among he referred to were the visits of Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Wu Bangguo, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, State Councilor Liu Yandong, state Councilor & Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

In his remarks to Consul General Gao, Mayor Lee recalled when they got acquainted with each other and became friends and all the "historical and funny moments" they spent together. "China has changed a lot during the past five years, for the good. I look forward to more opportunities for he cooperation between San Francisco and China when I go to Beijing next month." Mayor Lee also announced that March 12 would be "Ambassador Gao Zhansheng Day of San Francisco".

Later on, Carmen Chu, Katy Tang, Marie Gilmore, Kansen Chu, Fiona Ma, Russell Lowe awarded proclamations in recognition of Consul General Gao's contributions to the friendly cooperation between China and Bay area cities.[13]

Sanctuary City

On Jan. 31, 2016, San Francisco’s City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit in federal court charging the administration is violating state’s rights by declaring that cities and counties upholding their sanctuary status and refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities will lose federal funding.

Herrera was joined at a City Hall news conference by Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, and deputy city attorneys.

Calling the president’s executive order “unconstitutional” and “un-American,” the city attorney told journalists, “It is necessary to defend the people of this city, this state and this country from the wild overreach of a president whose words and actions have thus far shown little respect for our Constitution or the rule of law.”

Saying “the fabric of our communities and billions of dollars are at stake,” Herrera charged that Trump fails to understand the Constitution’s limits on executive powers.

Mayor Lee told the media that his city is “ready to fight to keep our city safe, and today is a prime example.” He added, “Strong cities like San Francisco must continue to push the nation forward and remind America that we are a city that fights for what is right.”

The city’s lawsuit argues that the president’s executive order violates states’ rights as set forth in the Constitution’s 10th Amendment, and claims that “the Executive Branch may not commandeer state and local officials to enforce federal law.”[14]