Although much has been said about the passing of Mayor Lee, I thought I would add a few memories of my own.
Ed Lee’s great passion was the City of San Francisco, and he understood that one of the City’s strengths is the diversity of its people, be it gender, race, ethnicity or income. That diversity adds to the City’s vitality, warmth, culture, openness and humanity, and could not be possible without the essential ingredients of jobs, services and housing that we all need.
He was a tireless worker and a regular guy who placed good common sense and a desire to get things done above feuding or political grandstanding. Sure, he understood politics and he understood how to form coalitions to get results. But first and foremost, he saw himself as a true servant leader. He was in it not for himself, but for the good of the order. I am grateful that he was a good friend and tireless champion for vulnerable people and tenants’ rights, who promoted service programs and the creation of affordable housing.
The Mayor’s ambitious launch of the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program in San Francisco transformed the way public housing was operated by turning over the ownership to affordable nonprofits like BRIDGE and Mercy Housing. It infused millions of dollars into the rehabilitation of those homes and beefed up resident services that will enrich the lives of the very low-income people for generations to come. His ambitious goal to speed up the production of affordable housing–creating 30,000 new units over five years–is on track for 2020, matching dollars with permitting and process improvements to make his goal a reality.
“The general livability of our City is greatly enhanced when teachers, first responders, artists, restaurant workers and all others can build their homes and communities close to their workplaces,” he said, in his September 2017 Executive Directive. “We must continue to prioritize the production of housing in a smart, thoughtful manner that adds homes for residents of all economic levels.”
I couldn’t agree more. At BRIDGE, we know how important the revitalization of Potrero and other HOPE SF sites is, and it is clear that the ambitious RAD conversions of public housing have already made life better for thousands of San Franciscans. As we and our partners have learned, this work is challenging, years in the making and not for the faint of heart. Mayor Lee knew that, too, and I was continually encouraged and inspired by his insistence that San Francisco be an inclusive and compassionate city for all.
Mayor Lee will be missed every day, but he left behind an incredible legacy for San Francisco, and his memory, indeed, is a blessing.