Mourners Honor Late Senator Dianne Feinstein in San Francisco

Mourners paid their respects Wednesday to the late U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in San Francisco City Hall, where she launched her groundbreaking political career and where she spent a decade as the city’s first female mayor. 

Feinstein’s casket was carried into the City Hall rotunda, where it was draped with an American flag, with San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Feinstein’s daughter and granddaughter following. Former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also of San Francisco, was among the officials in attendance.

Feinstein died Thursday at her Washington, D.C., home after a series of illnesses. 

Feinstein was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969 and was board president in November 1978 when a former supervisor assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor, at City Hall. Feinstein became acting mayor, and she went on to serve as mayor until 1988. 

She steered the city through the HIV and AIDS crisis, and she also secured federal and private funding to save the city’s iconic cable cars from death by deterioration. 

Feinstein led the city as it played host to the Democratic National Convention in 1984. Another San Francisco tradition — “Fleet Week” — was started by Feinstein in 1981, and this year’s annual celebration of air shows, naval ships and military bands is dedicated to her. 

Beyond serving as San Francisco’s first female mayor, she joined Barbara Boxer as the first women to represent California in the U.S. Senate. They both won election in 1992, dubbed the ” Year of the Woman.”

An inspiration 

Feinstein inspired countless girls and women, including Breed, who is the first Black woman and only the second woman to lead the city. Breed recalled looking up to Feinstein when Feinstein was mayor and Breed played the French horn in the middle school band that played regularly at mayoral events. 

“She was so proud of us and she said so, and she took the time to talk to us, express how amazing we were and to remind us that we were her band,” Breed said at a press conference the day after the senator’s death. 

Cari Donovan placed a bouquet of lilies and daisies in red and pink before the casket. 

“I’m a San Francisco native. And I remember her being such a big public figure on my life. She championed and fought for the rights of so many people,” Donovan said, adding that she talked to her 28-year-old daughter about the battles Feinstein fought so that younger generations of women could dream bigger. 

“She was a powerhouse,” she said. “She was a lioness.” 

While Feinstein’s career sent her to Washington, she remained deeply involved in the affairs of San Francisco, the city where she was born and raised. She often called her successors — including then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, now the state’s governor — to complain about potholes or trash and to offer advice and encouragement. 

John Konstin, owner of John’s Grill, a favorite downtown tourist destination and watering hole for city politicians, recalled how Feinstein ordered that potholes be filled, trees be trimmed and ugly scaffolding be removed before San Francisco hosted the 1984 Democratic convention. 

“She asked, ‘How long has this scaffolding been up?’ And my dad said maybe 10 years. And the next day it came down,” said Konstin, 59. “It was half a block of scaffolding.” 

Feinstein’s favorite dish was the Petrale sole, he said. The restaurant, which celebrated its 115th anniversary Wednesday with a free lunch and appearances by Breed and other politicians, will have flowers by Feinstein’s portrait. 

A memorial service will be held Thursday outside City Hall. Speakers will include Pelosi, Breed, Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. President Joe Biden will deliver remarks by recorded video.

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