SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 26, 2019) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement today on the passing away of Burk “Buck” Delventhal. Delventhal was a civic giant, working for nearly 50 years in the City Attorney’s Office serving the people of San Francisco:
“San Francisco lost a piece of its heart today. Buck Delventhal was not just the oracle of the City Charter, a highly accomplished courtroom attorney, and the go-to person for tough legal questions. Buck was a beacon. He was a beacon of inspiration, trust, and boundless optimism. He was a legal lion and an even better person. Over nearly 50 years at the City Attorney’s Office, he quietly helped millions of San Franciscans in countless ways, even though they probably didn’t know he was the one to thank. Buck wouldn’t have had it any other way. City Hall – and San Francisco – will never be the same without him.”
Delventhal shaped both history and the future through groundbreaking work over nearly 50 years at the City Attorney’s Office, where he played a role in nearly every civic and legal issue facing San Francisco during that time. Here is the message that City Attorney Herrera sent to his staff to let them know their beloved colleague had passed away:
My heart breaks to tell you that our beloved mentor, colleague, and friend Buck Delventhal has passed away.
Buck passed peacefully this morning, surrounded by his family.
City Hall – and San Francisco – will never be the same without him.
Buck was not just the oracle of the City Charter, a highly accomplished courtroom attorney, and the go-to person for tough legal questions.
Buck was a beacon.
He motivated a seemingly unending number of aspiring lawyers to devote themselves to public service, teaching generations of legal minds the important role that public sector lawyers play in our democracy through his classes at UC Hastings.
He was a mentor to countless attorneys, young and old, in our office and across the country, who hailed him as their ethical and intellectual muse.
He was also a trusted counselor to mayors and many public leaders.
He regaled us with little-known stories of California’s history, which he eagerly shared with everyone he could.
He brought colleagues to join him for early morning swims in San Francisco Bay to invigorate the spirit and get a fresh perspective.
And he quietly helped millions of San Franciscans over the years in myriad ways, even though they probably didn’t know he was the one to thank. Whether it was successfully arguing that cities had the power to ban cigarette vending machines, or writing the Healthy San Francisco ordinance that provided universal health care, or co-authoring the legal opinion on voter-initiated tax measures that has allowed millions of dollars to be collected for homeless services, early childhood education, and teacher salaries, behind them all was Buck.
How do you replace Buck Delventhal? That is the wrong question, because you can’t.
What we can do is try to follow his example every day. Demonstrate grace and respect for all, be generous in deed and spirit, strive to learn something new whenever possible, share it when you do, and serve the public in the best way we can.
Most of all, embrace his enthusiasm and joy.
Buck would want that.
I, like many others, am grateful to have had the privilege to know Buck and to work alongside him.
I know many of you will want to support Buck’s family in this difficult time. More information on how to help will be forthcoming.
We will share details about services when they become available.
Yours in sorrow,
Dennis J. Herrera
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