In Memory

Buck Delventhal

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11/01/19 06:07 PM #1    

Bruce Degen


 Bucks passing  came out of the blue as we had dinner 3weeks ago and he showed no signs of cognative imparement. But last week he went to the ER and they discovered a massive  aggressive brain tumor. He never recovered. He was in such phenomenal physical shape . He would get up each weekday  at 4am in the upper Market area of SF and cycle to Aquatic park swim for 30+ minutes in the 50F water  of the Bay and cycle back to  the civic center to his City Attorneys job and in the Fall he would teach a class at Hastings  Law School.  He was going to retire in 2020 when he had completed 50 years in the city atttorneys office  but he loved his job and didn't want to retire earlier. He had an incredible knowledge of SF and California history and had endless stories to share. He even used his cycling time to listen to books while he rode. I will miss my weekend Bolinas neighbor  a great friend. I wish to extend my deep sorrow to his wife Monica and all his kids and grandkids. He will be missed.


11/13/19 10:08 AM #2    

Hughes Crumpler

I HAVE COPIBED FROM THE PIEDMONTER THE OBIT'S - I FELT SHOULD BE POSTED HERE.  They are wonderful reflections of Buck's public lifebut nothing can come close to saying anything about the personal loss to friends and family.  My heart is broken and my stomach wrenching at the loss of a close friend I cared for and loved for so many years.  Myself and a small number of others have stayed close since Jr.High, growing up together, sticking together and sharing our lives with each other.  There will be a big hole in our lives now but Buck will live on in us and all the many he touched through having known him and passing to others a bit of Buck along - he lives forever.

Hugo, Crump -proudly Buck's friend!


24 Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Buck Delventhal, the longtime Deputy City Attorney of San Francisco and a man who shaped San Francisco politics without being a politician, died unexpectedly in San Francisco surrounded by his family, on Saturday, October 26, 2019.  Born Burk Edward Delventhal on November 12, 1942 in Oakland, he was the eldest son of Leo and Eleanor Delventhal. He was known affectionately as Buck.  He was raised in Piedmont, graduating from Piedmont High School in 1960.  He attended UC Davis, graduating in 1965, followed by UC Hastings College of the Law, where he earned his J.D. in 1969. In June 1970, he joined the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, embarking on what would become a nearly 50-year career as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco.  Buck took pride in working at his beloved City Hall, where he was regarded by all as a beacon of integrity, dedication and unparalleled legal brilliance.  He helped pursue groundbreaking work on behalf of all San Franciscans and played a role in nearly every civic and legal issue facing San Francisco during his years as a public servant.  Buck, who led the City Attorney’s Office Government Team since its inception in the late 1970s, served under four City Attorneys, and provided counsel to 10
Mayors, countless Supervisors and numerous Department Heads.  He argued landmark cases in the California Supreme Court, California Courts of Appeal and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was frequently heard to say how much he looked forward to coming to work each day, not knowing what interesting new issue might find its way to him. For Buck, it was not a job – it was a calling. He was a lifelong learner and teacher, whose insatiable curiosity and fascination with languages, history, science, and the natural world were infectious and endearing. “Buck became interested in learning foreign languages when he lived at the International House at UC Davis,” recalled high school classmate and lifelong friend Hughes Crumpler. “He absorbed knowledge and retained everything and was able to think in different languages. Buck was a stunning person and had a gift for making people feel comfortable. His physical endurance was amazing. He would ride his bike to his place in Bolinas and think nothing of it.” In recent years, he served as an Adjunct Professor at UC Hastings, where he taught a course on State and Local Government Law.  He took great joy in inspiring the next generation of attorneys to pursue careers in public service and was a mentor to many of them.  
Buck was truly a teacher to all who knew him, and his most profound lessons were imparted by his example of empathy, humility and boundless optimism.  He lived his life fully, and with a deep understanding of the priceless gift that each new day represents. Buck was an athlete, whose pursuits included running, bicycling and early morning swims in the Bay. He was a passionate and revered member of the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco.  His exploits as a member of the South End included countless pre-dawn swims with his fellow Southenders, numerous Golden Gate and Alcatraz swims, surviving a near-death brush with hypothermia in December 1987, and coaxing many unsuspecting souls over the years into joining him for a morning dip in Aquatic Park’s bracing waters. Over the last 15 years, Buck spent most weekends with his wife, Monica Martin, at their home in Bolinas overlooking Duxbury Reef, where the two spent days tending the gar
den, working on an endless stream of small construction projects dreamed up to deplete his equally endless supply of energy, enjoying time with family and friends, and basking in the raw, natural splendor of the land and sea. Buck is survived by his wife Monica of San Francisco, his brother, Mark Delventhal of Piedmont, his son Ivan Delventhal and daughter in law Giscela Delventhal-Wong of Piedmont, and daughter Juliette Delventhal and Pawel Kruk of Bolinas. He is also survived by four grandchildren, Diego, Zoë, Lucas and Theo, who were the light of his life.  He is predeceased by his first wife, Claude Delventhal, and brother younger brother Kent Delventhal. A memorial and celebration of Buck’s life will be held on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, at 11 a.m., at San Francisco City Hall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the UC Hastings Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP), created to make legal education accessible to students from adverse backgrounds.


By Joe Eskenazi Forty-one years ago, City Attorney George Agnost had a nightmare. “George tells me, ‘Jim, I had a dream last night,’” recalls Jim Lazarus, then a fledgling city attorney. And a terrible dream it was: Burk E. “Buck” Delventhal embarrassed Agnost in front of Gov. Jerry Brown by repeatedly interrupting him and talking out of turn. “I had to fire him!” Agnost told Lazarus, still shaken from the horrible dream. “I had to fire Buck Delventhal! It was a nightmare!” It was the summer of 1978 and, soon, San Francisco would be beset by a series of nightmares — real nightmares. Delventhal was a youngish city attorney; he had in 1970 listed his prior occupations on his resume — driving a tractor, working as a bookstore manager, working in a Safeway warehouse — but was hired by the city anyway. Was hired, in fact, before he even left the room because it was clear how smart he was — and how decent he was. Agnost’s dream “shows the strength Buck had in that office,” Lazarus says, even four decades ago. “He was the heart and soul of the governmental side of the city.”   As he would remain until last week, when City Attorney Dennis Herrera had a nightmare of his own. And there was no waking up from this one: On Oct. 24, Herrera penned a sad letter to his staff that, after 49 years and four months on the job, Delventhal would be retiring immediately to deal with a previously undiagnosed medical condition. Just two days later, Herrera shocked the staff by informing them that Delventhal was dead, one month short of his 77th birthday and eight months shy of half a century on the job. The best way to be a wise and smart old person is to start out as a wise and smart young person. Buck Delventhal was a prodigy from Day One, and then he amassed 49 years and four months of institutional memory. And this matters, because Delventhal didn’t apply himself to amassing profit or power. He worked for you. Do you like equality? Delventhal did: He played a major role in this city’s groundbreaking equal benefits legislation and, subsequently, its fight for marriage rights. Do you like keeping kids from smoking? Delventhal did: He successfully defended the city’s then-novel ordinance banning cigarette machines (younger readers: This is a cigarette machine). Do you like the Giants? Delventhal did: In 1992, City Attorney Louise Renne tasked him and Jack Bair to scour the team’s lease after the club announced a potential move to Tampa Bay — and, surely enough, the attorneys found a clause that required notice be given by a certain date, which had passed. During the delay, local buyers came forward and the team was saved. In fact, Delventhal helped save the Giants twice. He helped win the injunction that prevented the team being sold to Toronto-based owners in 1975, staving off the unthinkable scenario of Gary Maddox patrolling center field with a blackand-orange “T” on his hat. An article in UC Hastings’ newsletter, where Delventhal earned his law degree in 1969 and taught as an adjunct professor, sums up his area of influence thusly: Delventhal’s successful litigation and legislative works have resulted in environmental protections; increases in public health and safety; support for minority businesses; a stronger, more equitable educational system; additional revenues for the City in the post-Proposition 13 era, and myriad other large and small impacts on the lives of the people of San Francisco. So that’s … everything. He had a hand in everything. By the way, the legal memo justifying last year’s Proposition C, which may yet open up $300 million a year in homeless and housing funding — that was Buck, too. When the City Attorney’s office expresses supreme confidence in the city’s ultimate court victory and the access to that money, now you know why.
A regurgitation of Delventhal’s legislative highlights, however, obscures his true and deep role in this city. He was, until virtually his dying day, “the go-to lawyer for the city’s toughest questions,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who broke into city government at around the same time as Delventhal. “I relied on him almost daily during my 18 years in San Francisco government.” And we really do mean until virtually his dying day; he was reviewing legal briefs written by his governmental team in his hospital bed at CPMC Davies up until he lost consciousness. Delventhal was a human computer and a human encyclopedia; his younger brother, Mark, recalls him telling a colleague exactly what page to consult in the City Charter. “He had a photographic memory,” Mark Delventhal says. “His memory recall was unparalleled,” adds Supervisor Aaron Peskin. So there’s that. But very few people praised Dizzy Gillespie for remembering all the notes or Daniel Day-Lewis for remembering all his lines. Delventhal remembered everything, and then he refined it with his stellar legal mind. And he would offer the same analysis to Feinstein or Art Agnos or Gavin Newsom or London Breed or any of the 10 mayors he served — because the law was the law. We are told, in fact, there was a mayor known for saying “Don’t send Buck,” when proposing new ideas. Some people, it seems, would rather not be informed their plans are dodgy, impractical — or illegal. Our sources asked us not to reveal who this mayor was. But do we even need to? Mark Delventhal attempted, on multiple occasions, to get his big brother to run for office. He never bit. “He told me he had no desire to stand up and tell people how great he is and how they should vote for him,” recalls Mark Delventhal. “He said he already had the best job in the world. He told me that many times.” Buck Delventhal was “A legal genius with no ego and no entitlement — but he was a genius,” continued his brother. “So he helped guide the path and see San Francisco did things properly and sensitively and within the law. It was a marriage made in heaven.” And this happened, as Feinstein said, every day. Her successor, Agnos, confesses that “I used his office as a sanctuary to get away from the huckledebuck of the mayor’s office. I would slip out the back door into his office without anyone knowing, simply to be in the presence of his warmth, good humor, and dazzling smile.” Matt Dorsey, the former longtime communications director for the city attorney’s office, said that, earlier this month, he found himself grappling with an arcane issue involving overlapping state and local regulations — and the situation altered depending upon whether a referendum or initiative was involved. He called Delventhal, who answered his question in two minutes, and additionally explained the history behind it. “I tried not to overuse him when I was press secretary,” Dorsey said. “I tried to save him for the hard questions.” Peskin notes that, “I’ve been in and out of this building for 20 years and I do know what deputy city attorney to call over what issue — but if it was some lofty, super-complicated ‘how-do-I-dissectthis-thing-and-put-it-backtogether?’ issue, I called Buck.” And, yes, Buck had no problem telling Peskin his idea might be dodgy, impractical — or illegal. “Oh, absolutely,” Peskin says. “But he’d give me that little smile and say ‘No way.’” Mayor London Breed ordered the flags lowered to half-staff at City Hall following the death of Buck Delventhal — an extraordinary move that was much appreciated by his survivors. At a Tuesday memorial for Delventhal at City Hall, Dennis Herrera read from an essay by Delventhal about City Hall. It’s rare to watch the physical and the metaphysical collide like this. But it went further than that. Delventhal’s 1996 essay was about the real and symbolic role City Hall plays in San Francisco— roles Delventhal was both keenly aware of and helped to shape for the past 49 years and four months. At the time this essay was penned in ’96, Delventhal had been forced out of the building so it could undergo needed seismic upgrades. And while he longed to walk through its doors again, “it will not be the same. … A building needs aging before ghosts and eccentrics can find a place. Even though City Hall will not reopen for nearly four years, I await that day with a quiet sense of joy that I will be going home.” City Hall is a building. It is a great building. But it is only a vehicle for the thoughts and hopes and ideas of those who pass through it. Delventhal spent his life guiding this vehicle. In the hospital, before the end, he had time to converse in fluent Spanish with one of his nurses — one of seven or eight languages he spoke — gently correct the grammar of another — he was a grammar nut — and then lock eyes with his brother and his wife and say: “Hey, I had a great run.” So, he knew. Buck Delventhal pretty much always knew. And, as he lay in a coma, his family let it be known that now was the time to come and say goodbye. “And they started coming, and coming, and coming,” says Mark Delventhal. Perhaps 300 people filed through that room at CPMC Davies. Mayors. City attorneys. Supervisors. Secretaries. Everyone. They held his hand. They kissed him. They cried. That outpouring of love will provide joy to his survivors for the rest of their lives. This article is reprinted with permission of Mission Local, where it appeared on October 30, 2019. Joe Eskenazi is a Piedmont High school graduate, class of 1994..

12/06/19 10:39 AM #3    

Hughes Crumpler

We who attended the service heard much of this from the speakers.
It looked like the entire service was being recorded (vedioed) and hopefully will be available later.
Type into your search engine:
Buck Delventhal Memorial Service
More may follow later, now there are mostly reflections by those he worked with.
The service itself was beyond compare to even Presidents.

12/06/19 11:10 AM #4    

James A. (Jim) Stehr

Wow.  What a spectaculal testimony and account of his life.  I had no idea of its many facets and his huge achievements!  I wish I had known him better.  -Jim

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