Bruce Lilienthal, well-known small business advocate and CCSF professor, dies at 70 

click to enlarge Bruce Lilienthal was the first president of the Small Business Advisory Commission. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Bruce Lilienthal was the first president of the Small Business Advisory Commission.

San Francisco's small-business world has lost a longtime leader.

Bruce W. Lilienthal, known as "the voice of small businesses" in The City since the 1980s and who most recently taught at City College of San Francisco, died Tuesday at Kaiser Permanente Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was 70.

Lilienthal established himself as an advocate for San Francisco small businesses in the early 1980s when he became involved in the Council of District Merchants. In 1984, Lilienthal co-founded the Small Business Network with Elliot Hoffman, owner of Just Desserts.

Lilienthal in 1986 became the first president of The City's Small Business Advisory Commission. In the late 1980s, he helped draft the original rent board laws for San Francisco. Lilienthal also ran unsuccessfully for supervisor in 1988.

Born in Floral Park, N.Y., Lilienthal moved to San Francisco in 1973 after graduating from Duke University School of Law earlier that year. He married his wife, Kathleen, in 1980 and the two lived in San Francisco until 2012, when they moved to Daly City.

Kathleen Lilienthal remembers her husband as an honest, hard-working man who loved technology and helping people whenever possible.

"He was a kind and generous person," she said. "He was very social. He could make you feel comfortable when you talked to him."

Lilienthal's generosity touched one of San Francisco's most devastating events of the 20th century. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Lilienthal and several other attorneys set up tables in the Marina -- one of the hardest-hit areas of The City, where dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed -- for four days to offer free legal advice to landlords and tenants.

"He truly cared about people and he truly cared about small business," said Scott Hauge, a longtime friend and colleague.

Lilienthal began teaching international business at CCSF's downtown campus in 1996, and taught an online course through this spring despite battling kidney disease since 2010.

Lilienthal is survived by his wife, brother John Lilienthal of Seattle and brother-in-law Russ Henry of Pittsburg.

A memorial service will be held Sept. 6 from 2-4 p.m. at Peninsula Del Ray, located at 165 Pierce St. in Daly City.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Gulf of Guinea Islands Biodiversity Project at the California Academy of Sciences, Dr. Robert Drewes, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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