Commission Remembers Will Travis

The Commission sadly marks the passing of former Executive Director Will Travis (known to his friends and colleagues as “Trav”) in April at the age of 81.

Will Travis was born and raised in Pennsylvania and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture and regional planning from Pennsylvania State University.  He moved to the Bay Area in 1970 and joined BCDC as its first Bay Design Analyst.  In 1972, he was a consultant on the first master plan for the East Bay Regional Park District, and a year later joined the newly established Coastal Commission along with Executive Director Joe Bodovitz and Chair Mel Lane.  In 1985, Trav returned to BCDC as its Deputy Director, and in 1995 he became BCDC’s Executive Director.

Travis was a force to be reckoned with – he knew what was right but he listened to others.  He could also be courteous and kind, and had a mischievous sense of humor.  Among his many notable professional achievements, he helped establish California’s coastal management program soon after the federal Coastal Zone Management Act was enacted.  (In typical Travis fashion, he communicated with the federal agencies on stationery emblazoned with the heading “Joint Secretariat for Federal Affairs, Integrated California Coastal Management Program,” although no such state entity existed.)  He chaired the Shell Oil Settlement Committee that disbursed over $15M to restore natural resources after the oil spill.  Trav also helped calm officials’ fears about possible difficulties associated with obtaining permits to replace the East Span of the Bay Bridge after the Loma Prieta earthquake; Trav worked hard to ensure that it could be replaced rather than retrofitting it.  He was instrumental in fending off a 1995 proposal by the Wilson Administration to defund BCDC and merge it with the Coastal Commission.  In the late 1990s, Travis was pivotal in enabling the public acquisition of 10,000 acres of privately-owned salt ponds along the northern shoreline of the San Francisco Bay.

His greatest contribution to Bay policy was his early recognition that we need to adapt to rising sea levels.  He presented PowerPoint slides to anyone who would listen, oversaw preparation of the Living With a Rising Bay staff report and its rising sea level maps, and led the charge to draft and approve the Bay Plan climate change policies adopted by the Commission in 2011; BCDC became the nation’s first state coastal management agency to adopt development regulations to address sea level rise.

After Trav retired as BCDC Executive Director in 2011, for several years he helped staff the Joint Policy Committee, which improved collaboration and coordination among the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Association of Bay Area Governments, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and BCDC (now renamed as the Bay Area Regional Collaborative).  Trav served on the boards of numerous professional and civic organizations, including the Planning Commission of the City of Berkeley.  And he never relinquished his role as a thought leader – white papers, emails, and other thoughts flew off of his computer keys.

BCDC Chair Zack Wasserman will request that the Commission’s May 2, 2024 public meeting be adjourned in Trav’s memory.

For more information about Trav’s career, please visit the website of the library of the University of California, Berkeley: Protecting the California Coast: New Interviews with Joe Bodovitz and Will Travis – UC Berkeley Library Update; and, Trav’s oral history at