George Williams. Photo: Courtesy of Williams family

George A. Williams, 89, passed away on Nov. 6, 2017, at his home in Berkeley surrounded by his beloved wife of 59 years and family.

George had a strong intellectual curiosity that led him to seek an extensive education and have a long urban planning career. Following his undergraduate work at the University of Utah in 1949, he earned an MBA in 1951 from Stanford Graduate School of Business, an LL.B. in 1956 from Harvard Law School, where he returned to earn an LL.M. with an emphasis in Urban Planning in 1963, while serving on the faculty as the administrator of oral advocacy and legal drafting projects.

George was called to Washington to coordinate the writing of President Johnson’s Model Cities Program. After the bill signing in the Oval Office, George implemented Baltimore’s Model Cities Program for Mayor D’Alessandro. He spent 20 years as the assistant director of the San Francisco Planning Department, and was the principal author of San Francisco’s renowned Downtown Plan that directed growth in the city center. George was an adjunct faculty member of UCB’s School of Environmental Design. Later, he served on the executive committee of the Housing Action Coalition, and as a SPUR board member and volunteer. A proponent of street beautification, he co-founded the San Francisco Friends of the Urban Forest.

Not content to retire, George became a consultant in 1992 for the United States Agency for International Development where he facilitated transition to self governance for cities in Slovakia and Kazakhstan. He moved to Berkeley in 1999, and was honored to serve on the Zoning Adjustments Board, Berkeley Design Review Committee and Berkeley Design Advocates.

George sang with the Berkeley Community Chorus, loved traveling the world and enjoyed skiing at Sugar Bowl  – free after age 80.

George is survived by his wife Sara (“Sally”); children Peter (Rebecca) Williams, Jennifer (Shawn) Peters, Maria (Mike Lough) Williams, Erica (Alan) Orcharton; grandchildren Peter, Jr., and Steven Williams; Ashley and Johnna Peters; and Georgia Orcharton. Marc and Claude Imbault are beloved family members, as are Eric and Michael Lough, his step-grandchildren. He also leaves his Zwolinski niece and nephew, and Sally’s siblings: Roger, Janet, and Chuck (Belinda) Wilson.

George’s extraordinary career and life is further detailed at

The family would be pleased if you wished to make a contribution in memory of George to Friends of the Urban Forest Tree Tribute. 

Freelance writers with story pitches can email