Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan killed by motorist

An Asian American woman with bangs and glasses poses for photo in front of American flag
Wilma Chan.

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. 

an intersection where flowers are laid on the concrete
Thursday, November 4, 2021. People laid flowers at the intersection of where Wilma Chan was struck by a car. Photo by Momo Chang.

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.

“A legend and champion of the people has transitioned. Supervisor Wilma Chan was the first elected leader who was willing to risk her political career to support me and my family in advocating for my parole when I was serving a life sentence at San Quentin State Prison. Her belief in rehabilitation and transformation of impacted individuals allowed me and others to reunite with our families, as well as being contributing members of society. I feel honored to have been touched by her presence and generosity.” – Eddy Zheng, President & Founder of New Breath Foundation

“Supervisor Wilma Chan was the personification of leadership, courage, and impact without ego. Her tenacity and humane values were the constants that were woven through all she touched — her relationships, her legislation, and her initiatives. She was our champion — yes she valiantly represented our AAPI community but also all communities of color and vulnerable people. And with all her heart and soul: she fought for community health centers, health care for all, and she advocated so effectively for children, and access to healthy food. She did not hesitate for even a second when called upon to stand up for and with controversial or unpopular issues, be they immigrant rights or language and cultural access, and so much more. It will take some time to even process this great loss to our collective community in the East Bay. Supervisor Wilma Chan’s legacy as a stateswoman and pioneer will be felt for generations to come. We offer our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the Supervisor’s family.” – Sherry Hirota, CEO, Asian Health Services

“Sending a personal prayer to my Alameda County District 3 Supervisor Chan’s family. My heart is broken and saddened to hear of the news of her passing. She has been a champion for many of our causes. When I was facing deportation and in need of support for my pardon, Supervisor Chan stepped up and supported my fight for my liberation. Looking back at the support letter, it was signed and sent to me on my birthday, March 3rd. Thank you Supervisor Chan for fighting for our immigrant and refugee communities. May you Rest in Power.” – Somdeng “Danny” Thongsy, immigrant rights & community advocate

About Momo Chang

Momo Chang is a freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Oakland Voices Alumni Coordinator. Her work focuses on healthcare, immigration, education, Asian American communities, food and culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Momo has received journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting and the Asian American Journalists Association, among others. Her work has appeared in the East Bay Express, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, and The New York Times. Momo is primarily a print journalist who also produces audio and visual stories for documentary film and radio. She is a Senior Contributing Editor for Hyphen and formerly the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). View all posts by Momo Chang →

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