Correspondence, records, and research files collected by a San Francisco environmental activist and historic preservationist
Jean Lee Edmonds was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1928. She grew up in Oregon, and in 1950 earned a B.A. in journalism at
Pomona College, Claremont, CA. After a short stint at the Oakland Post-Enquirer, she was introduced to Karl Kortum at the
fledgling San Francisco Maritime Museum; the two married in 1951. She volunteered at the Museum, then was hired as executive
secretary, 1951-1955. With her husband and his brother, Bill Kortum, she helped defeat a Pacific Gas &Electric Co. proposal
to build a nuclear power plant at Bodega Head (year). In the late 1950s and 1960s, she worked for several political campaigns,
including John and Philip Burton, Willie Brown, Leo McCarthy, Jack Morrison, George Moscone, and later, Dianne Feinstein.
She briefed Assemblyman Art Agnos on environmental issues and was Willie Brown’s conservation chairman in his first Assembly
session. In 1966 Governor Pat Brown asked her to serve on his Conservation committee.
Jean Kortum was heavily involved with the citizen-led opposition in 1966 to plans for new freeways running through Golden
Gate Park and through the North Beach and Marina districts. She was heavily involved with Doyle Drive, ferryboat, Golden
Gate Bridge second deck and other Bridge issues. In the late 1960s she organized and led the International Market Center
opposition, halting the razing of historic buildings at the foot of Telegraph Hill. Speaking out about waterfront issues,
organizing citizens, and writing elected officials, she helped defeat the Ferry Port Plaza plan and plans for U.S. Steel buildings
Kortum was a founding member and Board member of San Francisco Tomorrow (1970s), San Francisco’s first environmental organization;
a member of Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage, and the Victorian Alliance. In 1976 Mayor Moscone appointed
her to the Landmarks Board. She was re-appointed by Mayors Feinstein and Agnos, where she succeeded in organizing community
members in establishing several historic districts. Kortum worked as a researcher for the Planning Department on Fisherman’s
Wharf uses. She directed the North Beach Historical Project, 1981-1982, and authored a dozen individual landmark designations;
she served as President of Landmarks Board August 1988-January 1990. Karl Kortum died in San Francisco, 1996, and Jean Kortum
died in Terra Linda in 2007.
The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk
hours. Collections that are stored offsite should be requested 48 hours in advance.