Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, a longtime champion for families, immigrants, housing, and healthcare, died Wednesday morning when a motorist struck the lawmaker with their vehicle. She was 72.
Chan was walking her dog in the South Shore area of Alameda. Shortly after 8 a.m, Alameda Police reported responding to a collision involving a vehicle and a pedestrian at Grand Street and Shoreline Drive. Chan was unresponsive and taken to a Highland Hospital where she died, according to police, who are conducting an investigation.
Chan was born in Massachusetts and later moved to the Bay Area. In 1994, she was the first Asian American person elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. She ran unopposed in 1998 and was later elected President of the board. She was elected to the California State Assembly in 2000 and served six years, three terms, before being termed out of office. She unsuccessfully ran for State Senate in 2008.
She ran for her District 3 Board of Supervisors seat again in 2010 and was reelected twice in 2014 and 2018. Chan represents District 3, which comprises much of Oakland, from downtown Oakland and Chinatown, and east from the Lake through San Antonio and Fruitvale—as well as the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, and unincorporated San Lorenzo, Hayward Acres, and Ashland. She lived in Oakland for 20 years before moving to Alameda.
She is widely regarded as an advocate for the underserved over the course of her political career, including for children and families, affordable housing, immigrants, and healthcare.
Chan’s office released a statement on behalf of her family yesterday: “The family thanks the first responders and medical staff that provided wonderful care to Supervisor Chan, and they request privacy at this time.”
Numerous elected officials and community leaders have posted tributes to her online.
Alameda County Board of Supervisors Vice President Nate Miley, who also represents parts of Oakland, said, “The tragic passing of Supervisor Wilma Chan has shocked and saddened us all. Out of respect for her family, we are reflecting on this loss and in grief.”
Oakland City Council President and District 2 Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas tweeted, “Rest in peace + power Wilma Chan. Sending love to her children, grandchildren, family. She was a champion for working families, affordable housing, quality healthcare; a mentor to AAPI women. She will be missed + her legacy will continue.”
Oakland District 4 Councilwoman Sheng Thao posted on Instagram, “As an Asian woman in office, Supervisor Chan represented a community that has often not had a seat at the table. Her dedication to her constituents was second to none, and she was a fierce defender of justice and empathy.”
Chan’s death occurred at a high injury intersection at a time of ongoing concern about traffic safety in Alameda. The City of Alameda released its draft Vision Zero plan earlier this year, which identifies the intersection of Grand and Shoreline as one of the high injury locations where crashes occur. Chan’s death also follows a high profile incident in September where home surveillance footage of a driver running a stop sign made news headlines. Shoreline Drive is also the location of the 2008 intentional hit and run killing of a popular Oakland Raiders fan. The intersection is by Alameda beach, adjacent to Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach. In 1973, Assemblyman Crown was hit and killed by a car on a morning walk.
Chan’s death will also lead to a political process to appoint a successor or conduct a special election to complete her term. In 2012, the Board appointed Richard Valle to succeed Nadia Lockyer after her resignation.
Chan is survived by her two children and grandchildren.
Community Voices Tributes:
Oakland Voices will be adding additional community voices below. If you would like to share your remembrance, please email it to mchang[at]mije.org.