San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe celebrated the 16th anniversary of their Sister City agreement by renewing the pact at City Hall and pledging to continue cooperating on economic, technological and cultural initiatives.

San Francisco, which has sister city relationships with 17 other cities, started the partnership with Paris in 1996 under then-Mayor Willie Brown.

Lee said that it had been “too long” since Delanoe’s last visit six years ago, when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was mayor, and that the Parisian mayor has invited Lee to make his official visit to Paris sometime next year.

The city’s relationship with Paris emphasizes sensitivity to the environment, finding ways for urban cities to create jobs and an “on-going conversation” about human rights, Lee said.

“We are always thinking about how we can help each other and help other regions improve,” he said before he and Mayor Delanoe signed a memorandum of understanding in Lee’s office. “This reflects how our city becomes a better city.”

Delanoe, who spoke in French with a simultaneous translation, described the cities’ sister city agreement as “a way of saying it is wonderful to live in both Paris and San Francisco.”

San Francisco is “one of American’s great cities,” and both cities stand for “freedom, democracy and dignity to all people” and “the link that exists between American and French people,” Delanoe said.

“There is a style of living [in San Francisco] by living together, by being different,” he said.

Delanoe added that the benefits Paris has enjoyed from ties to San Francisco include “building economic development based on new technology,” such as innovations in energy conservation in public buildings, and cultural exchanges of music, theater and painting.

“In San Francisco, there is so much talent and so much serious culture that I want to open my doors to them,” he said.

The city presented Delanoe with a set of large color photographs of various sections of the Golden Gate Bridge in recognition of its 75th anniversary this year.

“I love the Golden Gate Bridge,” Delanoe replied, in English.

The Sister City International program was started by President Eisenhower in 1956 to create bonds between people of international cities through cultural, trade and educational exchanges and form close personal ties via “citizen diplomacy,” according to the program’s website.

Also at the ceremony, Thomas Horn, chairman of the San Francisco Paris Sister City Committee, praised the cultural exchanges between the two cites, such as the San Francisco Symphony, which visits Paris each year, and the San Francisco-based Chanticleer men’s chorus that has performed there.

Horn said that thanks to the partnership, French director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota of the Th????tre de la Ville-Paris is presenting “Rhinoceros,” a play by Romanian-French playwright Eugene Ionesco, across the bay at the University of California at Berkeley.

Dignitaries at the ceremony included Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, president of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, and Gina Moscone, wife of the late Mayor George Moscone, who was slain in the mayor’s office in 1978.

Jeff Burbank, Bay City News

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