San Francisco would look very different if Dianne Feinstein had not been its mayor: No more cable cars. No colorful street cars rumbling down Market Street. Perhaps no Pier 39, the kitschy spot on the northern waterfront that draws more tourists each year than any attraction in the city besides the Golden Gate Bridge.
That was the assessment of a host of San Francisco leaders on Friday as they grieved the loss of their first female mayor — one who, they said, cared about the details and about getting things done.
“You can’t talk about San Francisco without talking about Dianne Feinstein,” Mayor London Breed, the second woman to lead the city, told a bank of TV cameras in her City Hall office on Friday morning.
Ms. Breed stood between two large portraits: one of herself, and one of Ms. Feinstein. Portraits of the city’s former male leaders hang in less-prominent positions.
Neither woman was initially elected to the office. Although voters later elected them in their own right, both got the job because they were serving as the president of the Board of Supervisors when the previous mayor died. For Ms. Feinstein, it was George Moscone, who, along with Harvey Milk, was assassinated in 1978 — a traumatic moment that she led the city through. And for Ms. Breed, it was Ed Lee, who suffered a heart attack in 2017.
A statue of Senator Feinstein sits outside the mayor’s office, and someone left a bouquet of flowers in its hands on Friday morning. Another bouquet was left at the front gates of her brown brick mansion in Pacific Heights.
“She knew the city she wanted, which was a safe and clean and vibrant city,” said Rick Laubscher, who worked with Ms. Feinstein in his post with the Chamber of Commerce. “She focused on getting things done positively. She was relentless.”
Mayor Breed credited Ms. Feinstein with paying close attention to how the city was run — including raising federal money and rallying the business community to rebuild the crumbling cable car system.
Less well known is that Ms. Feinstein pushed for colorful streetcars to run on Market Street while the cable cars were out of commission. That idea later became the popular F-car line — though the myth that F stood for Feinstein isn’t true.
Ms. Breed also credited Ms. Feinstein with pushing for the opening of Pier 39, which was scoffed at by some city leaders who thought it was a cheesy idea.
Even from her perch in the Senate in Washington, Ms. Feinstein called Mayor Breed often to discuss the details of the city, even down to busted sidewalks and potholes.
“Dianne never stopped being mayor,” Ms. Breed said.