‘Free City’ architect joins college’s governing board

By David Mamaril Horowitz

dhorowitz@theguardsman.com

City College administrators, faculty and students as well as city officials gathered in the courtyard of the Diego Rivera Theatre on July 20 to support the appointment of Ivy Lee to the college’s board of trustees.

Lee, previously a legislative aide and the chief of staff to District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, was appointed to the position by Mayor London Breed. The three minority female leaders — Breed, Kim and Lee — respectively took to the podium.

Mayor London Breed appoints Ivy Lee, previously the chief of staff and a legislative aide to District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, to City College's Board of Trustees on July 20 in Diego Rivera Theatre's courtyard. (David Mamaril Horowitz / The Guardsman)
Mayor London Breed appoints Ivy Lee, previously the chief of staff and a legislative aide to District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, to City College’s Board of Trustees on July 20 in Diego Rivera Theatre’s courtyard. (David Mamaril Horowitz / The Guardsman)

“City College needs someone who’s a fighter — someone who’s going to take care of it for the long term,” Breed said.

Lee is known by trustees and city officials as a key architect of the Free City program, which grants San Francisco residents free City College tuition. She filled the board position vacated over the summer by Trustee-turned-Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

“Not only has [Lee] led the efforts of Free City with Supervisor Kim, but she has pushed for a number of equity programs and things that matter in bridging the gap in many of our communities,” Breed said.

Prior to working with Kim in 2013, Lee worked as a civil rights attorney directing the Immigrant Rights & Human Trafficking Project at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach in San Francisco. For more than a decade, Lee defended and advanced the rights of survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault, according to a City College press release. She never lost a case, Kim said.

As Kim’s chief of staff, Lee negotiated the Fair Chance Ordinance, which disallows some employers from requesting information about arrests or convictions on job applications. She also led negotiations for and drafted San Francisco’s minimum wage ordinance — the most progressive in the nation — which raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour on July 1.

“Ivy has been my chief advisor and shield,” Kim said. “While she will state her loyalty to me, it has always been clear that she answers to no one but the community,” Kim said.

Upon appointment to board, Lee expressed her gratitude to family, friends, colleagues and constituents. She credited San Diego Mesa College and Pasadena City College for allowing her to get her feet back on the ground when she initially hit a low point in college.

     “Without those institutions, I know that I would not have gotten myself to law school,” Lee said. “Because of that experience and others, I have no regrets about dedicating my life to trying to create opportunities and breaking down barriers for other people, especially those that have no safety net.”

The crowd held a standing ovation for Lee at the end of the appointment ceremony.

“She’s a real strong supporter of City College, and we look forward to working with her,” Chancellor Mark Rocha told The Guardsman. “I think it’s a great choice.”

“I’ve been looking and trying to get an Asian-American trustee on the board for about three years,” college board vice president Alex Randolph told The Guardsman. “I think it’s important of us to be representative of the student body, and I couldn’t think of anyone better than Ivy Lee to join that community and join the board.”

City College Trustee Ivy Lee, left, engages her colleagues in discussion at a board retreat as Trustee Thea Selby, right, listens in on Aug. 10 at the college’s Fort Mason Center. (David Mamaril Horowitz / The Guardsman)
City College Trustee Ivy Lee, left, engages her colleagues in discussion at a board retreat as Trustee Thea Selby, right, listens in on Aug. 10 at the college’s Fort Mason Center. (David Mamaril Horowitz / The Guardsman)

“She’s not only very focused person, but she’s really a smart person too,” District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee told The Guardsman. He added that Lee would catch on very quickly to college issues she is not yet familiar with.

Lee is set to serve the remainder of Mandelman’s term on the board until November 2019 election.

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